Two strategies for supporting students with compare and contrast questions

Students are often asked to compare and contrast, distinguish, or pick out the similarities and differences between two or more items. Frequently, I have observed students attempting to respond by describing each of the items separately, in turn, without forming a comparison or contrasting statement, which is what this type of question prompt calls for.

Two ways that we can support students with responding to compare and contrast questions are as follows:

1.Use a Venn Diagram. Such diagrams are great visual organisers for students to focus on what is similar, or shared, between two items and what is unique to each, or that one has and the other does not.

See the source image

2. Use connectives. Once the similarities and differences are plain to see, next comes the support with the response, whether it be verbal or written. Connectives are a great way to give students a cue for making a response to the question command term. Examples of connectives that can be used in these responses are provided below but I am sure you could add some more of your own.

Connectives to contrast one item from another Connective to make compare what two items have in common
…whereas…

…as opposed to…

…in contrast to…

…compared with…

…while…

…however…

…conversely…

…are different…

…are similar…

…in the same way…

…are comparable…

…are alike…

…akin to…

…are identical in that…

photo credit: chrisjtaylor.ca 62/365 – The odd one via photopin (license)

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