Compare and Contrast

March 3, 2015

One of the staple in teaching reading comprehension is the emphasis on comparing and contrasting specific elements of the text. Most often two characters are subjected to this treatment.  How are they alike?  How are they different?

In the past,  I used “Compare and Contrast” chart with Robert to compare  two simple objects: an apple and an orange, the fish and a turtle, or a stove and a refrigerator. I have never, however, used such chart in connection with a read text.

Today, Robert read a text, two pages long, which  compared alligators and crocodiles. It seemed very well suited, almost self-explanatory, to be used with Compare and Contrast Chart.

I gave Robert three highlighters of different colors.  The green one should be used with the information that related to both reptiles.  The yellow one was assigned to alligators and the pink one to crocodiles. After reading each sentence, Robert was to decide which color had to be used.  Robert was not used to stopping after every sentence and tried to accelerate the process by often taking what was in the closest proximity of his hand.  Slowing him down was the most difficult part.  I covered the highlighters with my hand and asked, ” Did you read about alligators, crocodiles, or both?”

Well, when the sentence was about both kinds of reptiles, Robert didn’t know what to answer.  Clearly the concept of “both” in this context seemed not fully developed yet.  As I was working with Robert, I realized that it would make much more sense to use two highlighters – for instance blue and yellow for such sentences.  That would add the third color –  green to the mixture and might result in better understanding of the concept of “both”  But, of course, I couldn’t make changes in the middle of the task and confuse Robert even more.   Luckily coloring the sentences that informed about only one of the reptiles wasn’t difficult for Robert.  When the sentence informed about both, I led Robert through the procedure.

Later, Robert use this color coding to fill the Compare and Contrast Chart.

I am not really sure what he understood about the whole process.  I think, I will write a couple of simple texts that would give him opportunity for more practice.  I think I might even introduce two people – young and old, tall and short, happy and angry.  After all, comparing and contrasting could be most valuable if it helped Robert find a tool to understand others.

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