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A Lesson Plan Suggestion to Teach Academic Comparison and Contrast

In this article, I want to share a lesson plan that worked for my college-level English for Academic Purpose course. I hope to get feedback.

Topic: Comparison and contrast essay for academic purposes
Level: First-year college students
Time: Six hours

• Students will be able to write a quality essay that compares and contrasts two or more things relevant to their main academic studies.
Objectives: Students will be able to
• analyze a comparison and contrast essay and distinguish the difference between the two;
• identify purpose, and audience as well as style and structure from a comparison and contrast essay;
• use invention strategies to generate and organize their ideas for a comparison and contrast essay;
• develop an outline, introductory paragraph with a thesis statement, body paragraphs with topic and clincher sentences and a conclusion;
• write a unified, coherent, and well-developed comparison and contrast essay;
• recognize the value of process writing, self-correction, peer feedback and instructor’s feedback to write a unified, coherent, and well-developed essay; and
• appreciate how this pattern of writing is related to their every day and academic writings.

Material Selection: I have used the materials selected by my department to teach the comparison and contrast essay. As an alternative, I have also selected and graded a reading text for analyses in consultation with the students’ mainstream professors.

Activities: a Process approach to writing will be emphasized in presenting the comparison and contrast essay.

• Introduction: A comprehensive introduction about comparison and contrast essay was presented. This part presented a definition and a paragraph- length example to discuss and explain the particular writing strategies and applications associated with comparison and contrast essay.
• Analyzing a comparison and contrast text: An analysis of a text is carried out to show how comparison and contrast essays can be used in their academic writing. Then students read a selected text and analyzed it in groups. The groups are composed of different ability groups and there was a secretary in each group to report the group ’s discussion results to the whole group. The questions which focused their analysis and discussions in the groups helped them comprehend the passage’s content, and of the writer’s purpose and audience; to recognize the stylistic, structural techniques and organization used to shape the essay.

• Pre-writing: Students selected a topic that was relevant to the patterns of writing under focus and narrow down the topic and engaged in invention strategies such as focused freewriting, brainstorming or/and using a graphic organizer to think about their topics.
• Developing an outline and thesis statement: Students were asked to develop an outline by referring to their invention notes for their essays . Using their outline, they were also asked to develop a thesis statement.
• Topic sentences: Students were advised to break down their thesis statements in to topic sentences for their body paragraphs.
• Developing the body paragraphs: Students were engaged to develop topic sentences by producing unified and coherent sentences under each one of them
• Draft essay: Students produced a draft introductory paragraph by refining the thesis statements they produced earlier. Then they wrote a draft concluding paragraph which restated the thesis or summarized the gist of the essay.
• Revision: Students revised their own essays by focusing on unity, coherence, and development.
• Editing: Students edited their essay for grammar, spelling, and mechanics ;
• Working on a different topic: Those students who were not happy to write on the topic they choose were encouraged to write on another topic but they were monitored to go through the invention strategies again.
• Feedback: Students exchanged their essays for peer editing. They used a checklist to help them structure their feedback. They were also encouraged to have a conference with their peers if there were commented areas to which they disagreed.
• Working on the second draft: Students revised and edited their essays using the feedback they got from their peers and submitted the final copy to me.
• Instructor’s feedback: I gave them feedback in our next class and discussed the common mistakes identified from the essays. To encourage deep learning, I used standard symbols in giving feedback and students should, then, correct their own errors by using the symbols as clues to the type of errors they made.
• Extra Support: I planned and conducted individualized instruction based on the needs identified from the process and the product of the writings. I exploited ‘my comp lab’ and other relevant resources to provide extra support.
• Portfolio: I informed students to rewrite the essays considering the feedback they received from me and asked them to file both the drafts and the improved versions of their essays in their portfolios. The portfolios were used to monitor the progress students have made in the course and to help them reflect on their writing experiences.
• Blog: Students posted their edited and revised essays in their blog created for this course. They were also encouraged to invite their classmates, other friends, family members to read their blogs to give them comments in the blogs.
• Follow up: As a follow up writing, students produced a reflection essay that relates to the issues raised in the reading passage with their own experiences (Journal Entry).

Instructor’s Roles:
I was expected to have the following roles in my class: planner, model, coach, facilitator, consultant, and assessor. The focus of my roles might have varied depending on the needs of my classroom situations and they may also be played simultaneously.

Students’ Roles:
The roles of students in this unit included idea inventor, planner, organizer, writer, editor and active participants.
Technology: The internet was used as an important resource in the unit. Blackboard was exploited extensively. Email and scheduled chat were also used as additional means to consult students. We also exploited google drive when students prepare their draft essays and edit peers’ essays. Comments to the essays were also given using the comment function in google drive. A blog was also used to include the authentic audience in the students’ writing.

Language skills integration:
The comparison and contrast essay practice was integrated with the other language skills as students were required to do tasks from audiovisual and reading materials. They also engaged themselves in group discussions while they were working on the analysis of the selected reading text, producing invention strategies as well as feedback their peers’ essays. As this is an EAP course, the content and the technicality of the comparison and contrast essay considered were integrated with the relevant academic courses students take in my college. Besides, the materials selected was authentic but in some cases, it was adapted for pedagogical reasons.

Closure and informal Assessment:
I required students to watch a selected film that compares and contrasts two objects/ situations and they did tasks that recycled and assessed the major skills covered. I did this by directing their attention to and facilitating discussions about the comparison and contrast made in the film that was uploaded in the blackboard. Following this, I further exploited the film to introduce the next unit (Descriptive Essay) by focusing their attention to the images created about the described objects/situations.

Since the students had varied abilities, styles and preferences of learning, their needs, and wants were instrumental in motivating them to pass through the different processes of writing. Thus, their diversity was accommodated. For example, if some students got stuck with or they were no more interested with the topic they were working on in the invention strategies, I had encouraged them to try another topic by engaging them again with another invention strategy like brainstorming, free writing, or/and clustering etc. If some students are underachievers and need extra help, I will help them by focusing on their needs which may include assistance with spelling, grammar, and sentence development. If some high achieving students want to increase their pace of learning, their needs will also be accommodated by engaging them with related demanding tasks. All students will be encouraged to have conferences with me about the course in my consultation office hours and using the internet at any time.

Materials dealing with the following issues were used in the appropriate stages of the unit.
• Definition of comparison and contrast essay;
• Planning a comparison and contrast Essay;
• Recognizing Comparison and contrast essay;
• Establishing a basis for comparison;
• Developing an outline, thesis statement, topic and clincher sentences; and body, introductory and concluding paragraphs,
• Unity, coherence, development, and diction;
• Structuring a comparison and contrast essay with a focus on using subject by subject and point by point organization;
• Using useful transitions for comparison and contrast;
• Revising and editing a comparison and contrast Essay;
• List of comparison and contrast topics;
• Graphic organizers; and
• Checklist for self- and peer correction and feedback.

Written by Aytaged Zeleke for TEFL.net September 2018
Aytaged is an ESL instructor at Delaware Technical Community College . He has M.A in TEFL and M.Phil in Comparative and International Education. He is a doctoral student at the University of Delaware.

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TEFL.net : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Writing : A Lesson Plan Suggestion to Teach Academic Comparison and Contrast