September 2006, Volume 6, Issue 7

Compare and Contrast with Technology

I consistently hear the need for students to make sound decisions as consumers. Comparing and contrasting are essential skills in life and valuable skills to apply on the essay test.

While teaching college writing, I had an old timer (like me, now!) tell me, "Just tell them to compare or contrast the prompt to something else. They only need to know one type of essay to pass the test: compare and contrast." When I tried it with my students, I found the trick very helpful.


Take a prompt like "Discuss your views on home-schooling." The student's thesis statement would be, "Home-schooling is like a good car (a Mexican meal, a community hospital, anything they know something about)." Take a prompt like, "Discuss your opinions about the rise of gas prices in your area." The student's thesis statement would be, "Gas prices are like a river (bananas, toys, trees in a jungle)." It's worth considering, but regardless of how you feel about the advice, comparing and contrasting are essential skills.

Once students know how to build tables (easy in Word) or other graphic devices, they can then go to Google and fill in the columns or blanks as they get the information. There are also sites that compare the items for you. For example, enter "compare XXX" and watch the list appear. Once students have the information, which they can share with others, they are ready to write. Be sure to have them practice transitions, similes, and sentence structures that work for comparing and contrasting. Help them develop graphic organizers to help organize their thoughts.


Graphic Organizers (Copy and paste those you like or create them in Power Point or Word with ready-made templates!)

Then get students online to practice.

Pre-GED/ESL Activities

GED Lessons

For lesson plans (probably GED) around consumer issues, enjoy the site below. - What a treat!

Finally, help students develop the critical thinking they need to make decisions. If students at any level have difficulty finding common aspects between items, have them write or discuss answers to questions like the following:

  • How is friendship like a tree?
  • What do men and women have in common? How are they different?
  • How are the planets like a bowl of floating apples (a mobile, fish in an aquarium?)
  • How is English different from Spanish?
  • How is a dog like a cat?
  • How is the GED like a good breakfast?
  • How is a doctor like a mechanic?
  • What do humans and beasts have in common?

Does it stretch the imagination? Absolutely, and that's what we want, is it not? How often have you heard, "When students are laughing, they are learning." Probably largely true! Be outrageous, and watch the results as your students laugh their way toward critical thinking!

Computer Skill and Resources

I'm here. Distance-learning technology has advanced so much that you can acquire skills with mentoring on a weekly basis without leaving your home or workplace. For example, in less than an hour, I can show you how to create graphic organizers in Power Point! It's your call or email: or 970-562-4418.