Monday, February 7, 2011

Comparing Texts: Chronological Order

Today we finished our Chronological Order centers. Hooray! Interestingly, the kids liked the historical text (The Great Chicago Fire, from Toolkit Texts), the animal life cycle texts, and the procedural text. The biography--well, not so much. I'm still thinking about why this genre is such a stretch for kids.

Our last step was comparing two chronological order texts. Students worked with a partner to complete a chart with criteria such as topic, text structure, transition words used, and text features. Students could choose which texts they compared, and the classroom was filled with the quiet noise of engaged talk. "Why doesn't this one have any transition words?" one girl asked, pointing to the procedural text. "Good question," I replied. "Why do you think they're missing?" Working with her partner, the girl was able to recognize that a set of directions, organized in steps, doesn't need the same kind of linking words as a text written in paragraphs. Wow!

I had two reasons for moving into this activity. Our fifth grade teachers have commented that students have trouble comparing texts across topics. By looking at two texts with the same structure, I could help them to see one important criteria for comparison.

My other reason for having students compare two chronological order texts was as a kind of pre-assessment. By watching students work in pairs to complete the comparison chart and turn it into a paragraph, I could easily see what they knew about comparing and contrasting. Could they use any transition words? Could they craft a topic sentence? When I teach about compare and contrast text structure next week, we'll have a shared experience on which to build our learning. Hopefully, students will be able to remember the problems that they grappled with as they wrote compare and contrast text, and then examine how authors solve those problems.

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