Compare & Contrast Essays

Hi Friends! This weekend I’m going to share with you our newest writing skills – Compare and Contrast Essays! My first graders have embraced and internalized my differentiated color-coding posters so much, that I knew they were ready for something more advanced. 

We read the following books – two of my *favorite* wordless picture books! Have you read Journey yet with your kids?! If not, get ready for some fabulous discussion. My kids just There was so much to talk about – it took us two days of read aloud time to finish the book.  These two books have a lot of aspects about them that are the same – but they are also very different! 

I made a BIG deal about hanging up our latest writing anchor chart. 3/4 of my kiddos ooooh’d and ahhhh’d. The other 1/4 kind of had their mouths hanging open as if they were thinking: You have GOT to be kidding me! I’m NOT writing that!  Of course, after I explained that we would break it down paragraph by paragraph, those fears went away and they were soon on a roll!!!

The first paragraph was easy – just tell me about book #1! They wrote micro-essays about each book. Here are some examples from various students.

Paragraph #3 is a comparison paragraph.  They simply came up with a topic sentence (green) and then wrote three reasons why these books are similar (blue).  The ended with a conclusion sentence.  Next week, we’re working on ways to spice up our topic sentences and conclusion sentences! 

Paragraph 4 was a contrasting paragraph.  They came up with three ways the books were different. 

The writing below are some pages from an IEP student’s compare and contrast essay.  I’m sharing it because I want this blog to be real. I don’t share just my top kids’ writing with you. I share it all. This little fellow’s writing may look like a hott mess at first glance. But if you take the time to read the content – his compare and contrast points are spot on. Does he need handwriting development? Yes. Is he still working on phonics skills and fine motor skills? Yes. But look how capable he is of writing a four paragraph essay after lots of modeling and our differentiated color-coding experience! 

Here is what I’ve learned from this whole writing process this year.  My students are amazing writers because they feel CONFIDENT about writing.  They have the tools and the knowledge to write paragraph after paragraph because I first focused on format and content and NOT conventions and details.  

Are they the most spectacular, interesting topic sentences you’ve ever read? NO. But that is to come.  So often, I think as teachers, we try to push a ton of writing concepts into their heads at one time. “Write in complete sentences.” “Remember your capitals and periods.” “Don’t forget to use adjectives – I need lots of describing words!” “Make your topic sentence really snazzy!”  Well, people, I’ve found that cramming all of those writing concepts into our kids at once only causes our kids to be self-conscious about their writing skills.  Give them the basic understanding of an essay first.  It will then be EASY CHEESY lemon-squeezy (Sorry…I teach first grade. Can’t help it.) to get them to add interesting words and descriptive details into their writing because they already understand how the format of a paper works

This last month, that is what we will be focusing on – details and descriptions. And my prediction is my kiddos will pick this up quickly.  It’s just like in Daily 5 –
 we move slow….to eventually move FAST.  🙂

Stop back this week for a Compare and Contrast FREEBIE!  This past week, my kids each chose their own topics for a compare and contrast essay. They are turning out to be awesome!! 🙂  

As always – 

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  1. Thank you so much for showing this format for compare and contrast. It is a great idea to color code the sentences so the kids really see what they are doing. I can't wait to try it with my kids!

  2. I am impressed! I had some second graders unable to follow my compare/contrast 'recipe'! (As in here is the start of your sentence and then plug in your idea here.) Amazing!

  3. AMEN Christina! Content, content, content! I totally agree. Let's get our kids writing and loving it! Another fabulous post- so inspiring for all of us. I LOVE how you color coordinated everything. You are giving your students such a great foundations for organizing their writing. I swear, I didn't pick this skill up until high school. LOL! Thank you for sharing your great work Christina!

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