This post about preparing for Common Core assessments offers new material developed by Sarah Tantillo, the author of Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action (Jossey-Bass, 2014) and The Literacy Cookbook (Jossey-Bass, 2012). Be sure to browse her links to other PARCC Prep articles at the end of this post. And check out her website, The Literacy Cookbook, and her TLC Blog.
by Sarah Tantillo
In the PARCC literary analysis task, students must closely analyze two literary texts—often focusing on their themes or points of view—and compare and contrast these texts.
In previous posts, I’ve proposed a lesson series to tackle this task and a tool for teaching students how to infer theme, which is a common requirement since Common Core Reading Anchor Standard #2 is “Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.”
This post deals with the challenge of how to organize a compare-and-contrast essay. Many students struggle with this task, I believe, for two reasons:
(1) Teachers often rely on Venn diagrams to teach the concept of “compare and contrast,” and Venn diagrams are not a useful way to organize writing. They were meant for discussions around set theory, not for essay writing. Seriously. Could you write an essay from notes inserted into this?
(2) Teachers tend to assume that students can transfer their “understandings” from Venn diagrams into full-blown essays, so they don’t spend enough time explaining how to outline and develop the evidence and explanation needed.
Use charts, not Venns
As I’ve noted previously (here and here), instead of trying to fill in Venn diagrams, students should annotate texts with charts that have either two or three columns, depending on the number of texts. For literary analysis, it’s two; for research writing, it’s two texts and a video. Students then put checkmarks next to items that the texts have in common. What remains unchecked should be dealt with in the “contrast” paragraphs.
But you can’t easily write an essay from those notes. You have to organize your ideas.
Here is a simple graphic organizer to help students turn those notes into an outline for writing (click on the image to download a student-friendly PDF version).
As always, students will need lots of modeling and practice to master this step.
Editor’s note: Sarah Tantillo has agreed to share her other PARCC Prep materials with our readers. Just click to access these various posts at her blog. Visit her TLC “PARCC Prep” page to stay up to date with her Common Core assessment materials.
PARCC Prep READING RESOURCES:
PARCC Prep WRITING RESOURCES:
Research Writing Tasks:
Narrative Writing Tasks:
Literary Analysis Writing Tasks:
Sarah Tantillo writes frequently for MiddleWeb about literacy and the Common Core. She is the author of Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action and The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction. Sarah consults with schools on literacy instruction, curriculum development, data-driven instruction, and school culture-building. Sarah has taught high school English and Humanities in both suburban and urban public schools, including the high-performing North Star Academy Charter School of Newark. Visit her website.
In our daily life, we often compare things to make a right decision. However, most school children and college students feel puzzled when assigned to develop an essay. The stumbling block in an essay writing is a need to choose among compare and contrast essay topics. The more interesting topic you'll pick, the more chances you have to pass with flying colors. Writing a really good essay may be a piece of cake if you feel inspired.
In many spheres of human activity, there arises a need for an optimal choice. This compare and contrast essay method takes into account characteristics of the studied objects using the necessary criteria. The basic approach is quite simple: the definition and estimation of individual social, economic, political, or other phenomena with the aim of discovering distinctive features.
After that, a student is supposed to make a conclusion about a justified or supposed nature of the homogeneity of phenomena, the similarity of their content, the general orientation, etc. This makes it possible to use data from one object while studying the other. If, in the course of the research, some discrepancies were found, this allows one to point out the peculiarity, specificity, and uniqueness of one phenomenon or object in relation to another one.
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Compared to other types, this type of work is considered a difficult task as it is not just a narration. It usually takes much time since you cannot write a decent paper without any prior research. Moreover, put your thinking cap on when analyzing two objects from one category as sometimes distinctive aspects aren’t so obvious.
Recommendations to Follow when Choosing Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- When choosing an essay topic, learn more about the target audience beforehand. Look through actual topics which have a chance to hook your readers’ attention. After brainstorming ideas, find things for the effective comparison.
- Remember to choose objects belonging to one sphere. Use all pieces of advice you can find when choosing compare and contrast essay topics: first of all, analyze objects that look the same, but have at least one difference. For example, a homemade face mask and a mask produced somewhere, or foods cooked by mom and semi-finished ones found in a supermarket.
- The methods of the comparative approach lead to the fact that already established views on certain phenomena and facts can be reconsidered. Your essay should help discover features that are specific to a particular object or phenomenon. Thus, it promotes a deeper study of objects and phenomena. Also, remember to search for distinctive features at different levels of research.
- The leading principle of picking a good topic is finding some characteristic feature similar to both objects.
Have no ideas what to compare wondering “What are some good compare and contrast essay topics?” Get inspired by checking out compare and contrast essay topics below for different levels of education.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
IT technologies and gadgets:
- iOS vs. Android.
- E-mail vs. usual post.
- Buying things online vs. shopping at malls.
- Skype vs. phone communication.
- Smart house vs. usual home.
- Samsung vs. Apple.
Easy as a Piece of Cake Topics:
- American vs. Chinese concepts of beauty.
- Rock vs. rap music.
- Flat vs. private house.
- School teacher and university professor: benefits/disadvantages.
Easy Compare and Contrast Essay Topics:
Topics for beginners:
- Fruit vs. vegetables.
- Linux vs. Windows.
- Tablet vs. paper textbooks.
- Classical vs. pop music.
- Movies vs. theatre.
Popular things to compare:
- Chemistry vs. physics.
- Oranges vs. tangerines.
- New Year vs. Christmas celebration.
- Summer vs. winter.
- Documentary vs. fiction.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for High School
Topics about Influential People:
- Hitler and Stalin
- Obama vs Donald Trump
- Ryan Reynolds vs Donald Glover.
- Volcano eruption and earthquakes: what causes more damage?
- Geology and mineralogy.
- Einstein theories.
- Civil World War I and II.
- Two famous historical leaders.
- Politics in America now and twenty years ago.
Fresh essay topic ideas:
- Sports or diets: what is more effective for weight loss?
- Audio books or paper books.
- Fashion today and twenty years before.
- Silver and gold.
- Chocolate and marmalade candies.
- Autumn vs spring.
- Love vs. friendship.
- Cars vs. bikes.
Compare and Contrast Topics for Middle School
- Playing computer games and reading: which is the pastime you give preference to and why?
Facebook vs Twitter:
- Instagram vs printed photographs.
- Messaging vs real communication.
Easy as ABC topics:
- Black vs. white: best color for formal meetings.
- Apple vs. pear.
- Getting vs. presenting gifts: what is more pleasant?
- Sunbathing at the seaside vs go sightseeing.
- Short vs. long hair.
- Your lifestyle and your favorite celebrity.
- Coffee vs. tea.
- Cinnamon vs. sugar.
- Cats vs. dogs.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for 6th Grade
Topics for beginners:
- Active vs. passive rest.
- Playing inside vs. outside.
- Is your character similar to your parents’?
- Doctor vs. teacher.
- Swimming vs. flying.
- Tennis vs. badminton.
- Football vs. basketball.
- American soccer vs. basketball.
- Ballet vs. break dance.
- Two plays of Shakespeare.
- Quotes of the well-known personalities.
- Two books of the classical writers.
Ap World History Compare and Contrast Essay
- European History and US history.
- Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.
- Two public people.
- Economic development of America and China.
- Two personalities who contributed to the history of England.
Brilliant Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Watching horror films on TV vs. on the large cinema screen.
- New branded clothes vs. second-hand clothes.
- Diets vs. drugs for weight loss.
- Cooking video recipes vs. traditional cookery books.
- Money vs. gift for a birthday.
- Jeans or dresses for a party.
Great Compare and Contrast Essay Topics: Literature
- Two writers of prose.
- Prose vs. poetry.
- Russian vs English writers: choose two most famous in the same genre.
- Jane Austen vs. Charlotte Bronte.
- Two works of Oscar Wilde.
- Romeo and Juliet vs. Macbeth of Shakespeare.
- Tolkien vs Joan Rolling.
- Two characters from the Harry Potter books.
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Effective Tips How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
Are you stuck in front of an empty word document and have no idea how to write a compare and contrast essay? First, go through the basics. This piece of writing is a genre aimed at setting objects, people, places, events, etc. side by side and defining similarities and differences.
After you have sorted out things, hit books searching for relevant information. Most themes will require some specific knowledge, which means that the search for facts and statistics and additional details will take much time. Brainstorm ideas and make notes. Make up a list of common features, characteristics, qualities. Don’t miss details that can play a significant role.
You shouldn’t necessarily talk about all features if there are too many. Just choose things that really matter and start writing following a certain structure format.
Your work will be well-organized if it consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. An effective structure should include five paragraphs. Each paragraph is written to perform its own function. A short introductory part familiarizes your reader with the topic and makes it clear what will be next.
Remember how important it is to use eye-catchy first sentences to attract the audience attention. Think that you are ready with the effective beginning? Then don’t waste time and proceed to the text body revealing major aspects with your findings concerning common things and different features. Finally, summarize and let your reader see the goal you wanted to achieve. Your audience shouldn’t doubt the usefulness of time spent on reading your paper.
Compare and Contrast Essay Example
Compare and contrast essay example: “Winter vs Summer”
Historic essay sample: Napoleon and Kutuzov
Interesting Things to Compare and Contrast
Check out fresh ideas about things to compare and contrast below.
- Virus vs. infection.
- Vitamins from foods vs. vitamins from complexes: which are better for health?
- People DNA vs. animals.
- Samsung vs. Apple computers.
- Hardware vs. software.
- iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone X.
- Women vs. men occupying managerial positions: who is more successful?
- Two most profitable goods and services markets.
- Cola and Pepsi: management techniques.
Advice from Expert
Don’t know how to write a compare and contrast essay? Consider successful samples first. If reading an example you have a wish to find out more about the objects’ comparison, then its author has done a proper job. To say that the theme must be interesting is like saying nothing. It should be inspiring. Moving forward think about the obvious similarities and differences. The crucial reason why many writers fail is that they don’t go further. However, it is a must to study objects thoroughly so that no hidden edges are left. Use critical thinking and look at the familiar thing at a completely new angle.
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