Writing can be hard and frustrating for upper elementary students; writing a compare and contrast essay can be even harder and more frustrating.
Often, this skill gets pushed to the back burner. It is a lot easier to practice comparing and contrasting with things that take less time - like by using a Venn Diagram.
However, teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to compare and contrast topics within their writing is an important skill. Scaffolding student writing through sentence or paragraph frames and essay templates can minimize the frustration of students, save valuable time, and help your students become better writers. Providing structure helps focus yoru students.
Below, find ideas for scaffolding so that your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students can be successful with comparing and contrasting in their writing - and eventually writing a compare and contrast essay!
Start Small - With Compare and Contrast Sentence Starters or Frames
Students don't have to write an entire essay every time you want them to practice comparing and contrasting within their writing - they can practice this skill by simply writing a sentence that compares or contrasts two things.
Providing students with sentence starters is a great way to ease them into using compare and contrast language in their writing. This is especially beneficial for your ELL and low language students, but ALL of your students will benefit from this strategy.
Example Sentence Starters
1. __________ and __________ are different because __________.
2. __________ and __________ are alike because __________.
3. The most important difference between __________ and __________ is __________.
4. An important similarity between __________ and __________ is __________.
5. While __________ and __________ are alike because __________, they have different __________.
Using a Paragraph Template or Frame
After students have been successful at writing sentences that compare and contrast, expand to short paragraphs. Provide scaffolding similar to the sentence frames to help your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students be successful.
Using scaffolding like this will not only help them with comparing and contrasting language, but will improve their overall writing as well.
Example Paragraph Frames
1. __________ and __________ have many differences. The most important difference is _________________________. Another difference is _________________________. Finally, _________________________.
2. __________ and __________ are similar in many ways. For example, ____________________. Furthermore, they both ____________________. A final similarity is ____________________.
3. __________ and __________ are similar in some ways, but different in others. For example, they both ____________________. Despite this similarity, they are different because ____________________. This difference is important because ____________________.
Compare and Contrast Essay Template / Structure / Outline
Writing an essay can be overwhelming. Teachers often try to support students by modeling good essay writing - which is an essential step. But having students go straight from having a compare and contrast essay modeled for them to writing their own independently can be a huge jump for some. They are going straight from "I do" to "You do."
A scaffolded essay outline makes a good "we do" for upper elementary students. Provide students with a scaffolded template that clearly lays out the structure of a good compare and contrast essay. This helps students stay on topic and reminds them what a good compare and contrast essay should look like.
Eventually, you will take this scaffolding away. Or, you can use the scaffolding to differentiate. Provide more scaffolding for students that needed, while students have a good grasp might only have topic students scaffolded for them - or maybe even no scaffolding at all.
If you know your students would benefit from this type of scaffolding, but don’t have the time to create it yourself, check out my Compare and Contrast Writing Resource.
It walks students through the writing process with scaffolding each step of the way. This resource also provides a model essay so that you can model expectations for your students. Plus, it can be used over and over again with different topics.
Want a Compare and Contrast Freebie?
Download these reading passages with a compare and contrast activity for free and use it to today!