Strategy 6: Compare and Contrast

Like storyboarding, this strategy can be used either as pre-writing, or throughout a lesson, or at the end of a lesson, as a way for students to develop big ideas and concepts. Students collect information about two or more concepts (like equality and diversity), two or more systems (like human body systems) or two or more examples (like rectangles and parallelograms), then record key elements in a Venn diagram to clarify similarities and differences. This is an effective pre-writing/brainstorming activity for developing a compare and contrast paper. It is also a good way to keep track of new ideas during a lesson.

The Venn diagram structure is a good aide for remembering characteristics of concepts, systems and examples. It helps students organize and classify information and look for commonalities.

Other types of charts are useful for comparing and contrasting, depending on the content. The “Compare/Contrast Retrieval Chart” (see handout) is useful for drawing conclusions about the content being compared. To introduce students to this type of chart, use a chart like the wind power/coal handout, but leave the “Similarities – Differences – Generalizations” sections blank so students can practice. For any particular assignment, you might provide a blank Venn diagram, a blank matrix, and a blank Retrieval Chart, and let students choose which one they prefer to use – an easy way to differentiate.

Compare and contrast structures are also good for developing persuasive arguments that are based on reasons and evidence, by clarifying counterpoint arguments. Sentence starters that can be used for this purpose include “On the other hand…” or “Opponents would say…” or “Some critics have argued that…”

Handout: MDE Science Writing Across the Curriculum document, p. 12 and 13.

Homework: Try the strategy with your students, then write a few short comments in the discussion tab about how it worked and what changes you might suggest, if any.