Prepare students to compare and contrast

What can be learned by comparing these?

photos of apartment and house
What can be learned by comparing a home to an apartment?

Middle and high school students are routinely required to write “compare and contrast” essays without being shown any reason they’d need to know that information. Because most jobs require skill at comparing and contrasting, I developed a writing prompt that makes students focus on the purpose of comparing and contrasting.

What can be learned by comparing these two cooling devices?

What I do is give students several sets images of two items and ask them what can be learned by comparing the two items. Or, to put it another way, why might someone need to compare the two? And who might need to compare the two items? (This work can be done by small groups that share their conclusions with the entire class after five to 10 minute’s discussion.)

two different truck bodies
What can be learned by comparing these two types of trucks?

With that background, give all students a writing assignment.

Here’s the writing prompt

In no more than 650 words, explain why the ability to compare and contrast is an essential skill in today’s workplace. To support your thesis statement, give two to five examples of essential business functions that require comparing and contrasting. Your examples must clearly depict information that can only be gleaned by doing both comparing and contrasting.

If you choose visuals that appeal to students with a variety of interests from art to zoology and including items associated with jobs that don’t require college degrees, you’ll find students will readily grasp the idea that compare/contrast writing is not “just some dumb English teacher thing.” It actually has some real life relevance.

©2021 Linda Aragoni