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Lesson Plan

Comparing and Contrasting: Picturing an Organizational Pattern

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Comparing and Contrasting: Picturing an Organizational Pattern

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Deborah Dean

Deborah Dean

Provo, Utah


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students investigate picture books organized in comparison/contrast structures to discover methods of organization (usually a combination of the point-by-point, whole-to-whole, or similarities-to-differences patterns) and the ways authors use transitions to guide readers. Students can then decide what organizational patterns and transitional words work best to accomplish their individual purposes in writing and apply those to their papers.

This lesson is designed to be used during a unit when students are writing a comparison/contrast paper. It will be most helpful prior to drafting, but it could also be useful during revision.

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Comparison and Contrast Rubric: Use this rubric to evaluate the purpose and supporting details; organization; transitions; and conventions of students' comparison and contrast papers.

Comparison and Contrast Guide: This online tool provides students with information about and resources for using comparison and contrast structures in their writing.

Interactive Venn Diagram: Students use this online tool to compare and contrast the details of two books. The tool can also be used to organize ideas for a compare and contrast essay.

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In Strategic Writing, Dean makes an argument and provides strategies for using model texts to help students develop structures for writing. Research into reading-writing connections supports that argument and those strategies: "reading like a writer allows one to actually become a writer" (Langer and Flihan, 118). In fact, in the conclusion to Children Reading and Writing, Judith Langer maintains that "models of more complex forms need to permeate the children's environment" (139). Teaching students how to access models to acquire writing strategies is an important part of learning to read and write effectively. Such strategic instruction can stay with students well beyond a specific assignment. Although many prose texts use comparison/contrast structures in passages, picture books are often perceived as more accessible to students, and therefore function better as mentor texts, as Carr et al. note: "Often students who are struggling with the length and complexity of an assigned novel miss the subtleties of the author's craft" (148).

Further Reading

Carr, Kathryn S., et al.  "Not Just for the Primary Grades: A Bibliography of Picture Books for Secondary Content Teachers." Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 45.2 (October 2001): 146-153.


Dean, Deborah.  Strategic Writing: The Writing Process and Beyond in the Secondary English Classroom.  Urbana, IL: NCTE 2006.

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Langer, Judith A. 1986. Children Reading and Writing: Structures and Strategies. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.


Langer, Judith A. and Sheila Flihan. 2000. "Writing and Reading Relationships: Constructive Tasks." in Perspectives on Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice. Roselmina Indrisano and James R. Squire, Eds. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

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