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Download PDF How to Write a Comparison Essay (A Learning Booklet)

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Consider the alternating method if you are able to identify clearly related points between A and B. Otherwise, if you attempt to impose the alternating method, you will probably find it counterproductive. For example, a comparative essay using the block method on the French and Russian revolutions would address the French Revolution in the first half of the essay and the Russian Revolution in the second half.

If you choose the block method, however, do not simply append two disconnected essays to an introductory thesis. The B block, or second half of your essay, should refer to the A block, or first half, and make clear points of comparison whenever comparisons are relevant. A Paragraphs 1—3 in body How the French Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation B Paragraphs 4—6 in body How the Russian Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation When do I use the block method?

The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:. Search for. In short, you are expected to come up with an interesting comparative analysis. Both of these novels contain a "coming of age" theme since both have characters who grow a new awareness through tough lessons. Some comparisons you could make:. To craft an essay about these two novels and their similar themes, you would create your own list of similarities like those above, using a list, chart, or a Venn diagram. Sum up your overall theory about how these themes are comparable to create your thesis statement.

You will use your common characteristic list to guide you as you create body paragraphs. If your assignment is to compare the characters of these novels, you would make a list or Venn diagram to make more comparisons:. Comparing two novels is not as difficult as it sounds at first. Once you generate a list of traits, you can easily see an outline emerging! Share Flipboard Email. Grace Fleming has a master's degree in education and is an academic advisor and college enrollment counselor. Second, the students did not have a great deal of background knowledge about either of the two things spiders and insects that were being compared and contrasted.

Third, the students in this group, like many students in Jennifer's second-grade class, were English-language learners ELLs , and had gaps in their English vocabulary- they literally may not have had the necessary vocabulary at their disposal in English to understand or express what they were reading or thinking during the lesson. In this article, we will explore ways to address these three issues when using the compare-contrast text structure with ELL students in the primary grades. Specifically, we will explain the following:. We begin with a brief discussion of the unique needs of ELL students, describing how they can benefit from understanding text structures, and explaining why we have selected the compare-contrast text structure for use with ELL students.

We then describe ways in which teachers can teach ELL students to identify and use the compare-contrast text structure to aid their comprehension. In response to the discrepancy between monolingual English-speaking students and ELL students' reading comprehension, several researchers have developed programs with the goal of boosting ELL students' reading comprehension achievement Echevarria et al.

Although these programs focus on numerous important skills and strategies to help facilitate English reading comprehension for ELL students, they do not emphasize an essential element of comprehending English text: the structure of the text. Why is it so important for young learners to understand the specific structures of informational texts? When students do not have these early experiences with informational text, they may be more likely to struggle when they encounter such texts in the later grades.

Unfortunately, many children in the early grades are exposed to very little informational text. Duke found that first-grade students attending schools that served low-income families received even less exposure to informational texts than those in higher-income areas. In fact, in half of the classrooms in low-income schools that Duke visited, no informational texts were used at all. Several different types of rhetorical structures are used in informational texts, such as cause-effect, problem-solution, and compare-contrast. These structures are significantly different from the rhetorical structure that is generally used in narrative texts.

The number and variety of the rhetorical structures used in informational texts can create challenges for readers, particularly if they have not received explicit instruction in how to recognize and learn from these different structures. Although we believe that young ELL students would benefit from instruction related to many different expository text structures, we have chosen to focus on the compare-contrast structure for two reasons. First, research has suggested that, of the most common expository text structures, the compare-contrast structure may be one of the more difficult for students to navigate e.

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Second, after young learners have a basic understanding of the compare-contrast text structure, teachers can use compare-contrast texts to help bridge the gap between what students already know their background knowledge, their previous experiences with texts, and their cultural and linguistic backgrounds and the new content teachers are presenting.

We will describe what this type of lesson might look like, and how texts might be selected for such lessons. First, however, we will describe how to provide explicit instruction in the identification and use of the compare-contrast structure for ELL students in the primary grades.


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As we have described, one of the issues that young students often face when attempting to comprehend compare-contrast texts is that they are unfamiliar with this type of structure itself-they do not understand that they are being asked to recognize the similarities or differences between two or more things. Explicit instruction and teacher modeling are needed to show students how these texts work, and to demonstrate strategies that they can use as they interact with these texts on their own. One way to provide this kind of explicit instruction and modeling is to conduct a series of carefully organized lessons.

The Comparative Essay

For example, Singer and Donlan have explicated a method of providing instruction in reading strategies in which teachers model or demonstrate a strategy or process, then provide students with opportunities for guided practice, and finally allow students to practice the strategy or process on their own. Using this type of organization for instruction, a lesson introducing students to the compare-contrast structure might contain the following steps:. A good book for conducting this type of explicit lesson is What's the Difference?

This book provides 10 simple, compare-contrast passages about pairs of animals that are similar in appearance such as alligators and crocodiles. A sample of what a compare-contrast lesson using this book might look like is included in the following vignette. Teacher: [placing the chart in Figure 1 on the overhead projector or other projection device, and holding up What's the Difference?

As we read, we are going to keep track of the ways that the animals are alike, and the ways that they are different. We are going to compare and contrast the two types of animals as we read. We will use charts like this [teacher points to Figure 1] to help us compare and contrast these animals. For the first part of this lesson, your job is to watch and listen very carefully. I am going to show you what I do and what I think about when I compare and contrast.

Make sure you know the basis for comparison

I've just learned that both crocodiles and alligators have short legs, sharp teeth, and scaly skin. I am going to write these three ways that alligators and crocodiles are alike on my chart, right here where it says "both. Now I am going to keep reading. As I read, I am going to see if I can learn more ways that alligators and crocodiles are alike, and ways that they are different. Teacher: I learned a lot about alligators and crocodiles from that passage. I noticed that the way the passage compared and contrasted alligators and crocodiles really helped me understand the ways that alligators and crocodiles are the same, and the ways that they are different.

I also noticed that there were certain words and phrases that I saw as I was reading that let me know that this was a compare and contrast passage. Let's go back to the passage now and see if we can find any words or phrases that let us know that the passage is comparing and contrasting two types of animals.

Teacher: Excellent work! We will keep adding compare-contrast words and phrases to this list as we read today. Let's turn to another passage now, and see if we can find any compare-contrast words or phrases. They add the phrase instead of to their list. We are going to use the chart to help us keep track of the ways in which butterflies and moths are similar, and the ways that they are different.

Teacher: Now it is time for you to practice on your own. I am going to give each of your groups another compare-contrast passage. First, you will look through the passage to see if you can find any compare-contrast words and phrases. If you find any that are not already on our list, we will add them!

Next, you will read the passage.

What is a comparative essay?

As you read, you will use this Venn diagram [teacher places Figure 3 on the projector] to help you to keep track of the ways in which the two types of animals in the passage are the same, and the ways that they are different. Finally, your group will share what you have learned about the two types of animals with the class. Teacher: Now, let's review what we have learned today. What does it mean to compare and contrast something?

What words or phrases can we look for when we read to help us know that we are reading a compare- contrast text? How can comparing and contrasting two different things help us to understand both of those things better? Once students have a basic understanding of compare- contrast text structures, teachers can select compare-contrast books that help students make connections between their background knowledge and experiences and the new content they are learning.

These connections are particularly important for ELL students, who may bring different "funds of knowledge" Moll et al. Helping all students make connections between their own knowledge, interests, and experiences not only allows them to gain a deeper understanding of the new content, but also increases students' engagement and motivation Jacobs, Two books that could be used to help young students make these kinds of connections are Are Trees Alive?

In each of these books, students are asked to make connections between new content information the structure of trees and the bodies of fish, respectively and a familiar subject: their own bodies. In Are Trees Alive? For example, one page compares the sap in a tree to the blood in the human body, and asks students to look at the veins on the back of a leaf and then on the back of their own hands.

In this way, students have the opportunity to make an immediate and concrete connection between what they are learning and themselves. A third compare-contrast book that may be used to help students make connections between new content and their own experiences is The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain by Lisa Westberg Peters In this book, Peters explains the difficult concept of the formation of a mountain by comparing and contrasting its formation with the building of a sand mountain by a young girl on the beach.

Depending on students' prior experiences, this comparison may help them to make concrete connections between their own experiences building with sand and the formation of an actual mountain. The three texts we have just described are all excellent resources for using the compare-contrast structure with young learners. Table 1 provides additional information about these texts, along with a detailed list of other compare-contrast books. Cummins, J. Country Kid, City Kid. New York: Henry Holt. This upbeat book follows two children as they engage in everyday activities, comparing and contrasting their experiences and surroundings.


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The relatively simple language, the use of illustrations that support students' understanding of the text, and straightforward compare-contrast text structure make this book a great choice for teaching the compare-contrast structure to ELL students in the primary grades. Diehl, J. What's the Difference? Toronto: Annick. This book contains 10 compare-contrast passages about animals that are similar in appearance such as tortoises and turtles. These passages are brief, clear examples of compare-contrast text structure, and lend themselves well to use in teacher modeling and guided practice with ELL students in the primary grades and beyond.

Each passage is accompanied by colorful, detailed illustrations of the animal pairs that serve as an additional support for students as they compare and contrast the animal look-alikes. Miller, D. Are Trees Alive? This beautifully illustrated book explains how trees live and grow by drawing comparisons between trees and human beings, such as comparing a tree's bark to the reader's skin.

These types of comparisons make this book a good choice for helping young ELL students to use the compare-contrast structure to make connections between themselves and the topic about which they are reading. Peters, L. The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain. This book compares the formation and destruction of a mountain over millions of years to the building and rebuilding of a sand "mountain" by a child during a day at the beach. The book uses a very consistent, explicit compare-contrast text structure. At each stage of the development and destruction of the real mountain and the building of the sand mountain, the book presents side-by-side comparisons of the two mountains and the effect that time and weather have on each.

This book could be used as a read-aloud to demonstrate compare-contrast text structure for very young ELL students, or as a guided reading text with ELL students in the upperprimary grades. Thomas, I. Lion vs. Tiger: Animals Head to Head. Chicago: Raintree. Lions and tigers "do battle" in this book, which compares and contrasts the two animals' strength, agility, andother attributes in order to determine which animal would "win" if they were to compete with one another.

Compare and contrast essay structure

Theattention-grabbing illustrations, paw-shaped text boxes with fun facts, and relatively simple language make thisbook a great choice for reluctant ELL students in the primary grades. This book is part of the Animals Head toHead series, which includes other animal match-ups such as Alligator vs. Crocodile and Polar Bear vs.