Archive for the ‘Similarities’ Category

In my experience it is more difficult for my writing students to choose interesting controlling ideas for essays on similarities than it is for them to choose interesting controlling ideas for essays about differences (contrast). One key to writing about similarities is finding two topics that at first glance appear to have very little in common.  Recently a friend who admires Fred Astaire shared a You Tube video about some mirroring that Michael Jackson did of Fred Astaire. Although this topic is not particularly academic, the video illustrates some interesting similarities between a piece of work by Michael Jackson and some work by Fred Astaire.

I plan to use this later this semester in my writing course when we work on writing about similarities. I will either use it at the beginning of the unit as a “buy in” or at the point when the class is preparing to choose their topics.


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card1The goal is to write a paragraph about the similarities between two people, places, or things. In order to get there, my students require several types of support. Among other things, they need to work on the vocabulary and grammar used to write about similarities. About a week before they write their paragraphs, I give the class a handout that I have made.  At the time they receive this handout, I also assign them to do some fill-in-the-blank cards  that I’ve created and linked to Blackboard. I made these cards using StudyMate Author by Respondus. Please have a look at them, use them with your students if you like, and if you have any suggestions, please let me know by making a comment to this posting.

I prefer this web-based activity to one found in a textbook because:

  • it gives immediate feedback.
  • it allows students to complete the activity again and again because the answers disappear.
  • it makes the acquisition of some of the building blocks of language fun. 
  • it saves class time since it is assigned as homework.

I’d also like to briefly mention that for this topic we compare two men who had difficult circumstances when they were children, but developed into wonderful, successful people. To gather content, we watch two short video clips. We preview some vocabulary; watch once for general comprehension; and watch again for more detailed comprehension. Some of the similarities that my students point out are their difficult childhoods, caring mothers, love of reading, and great capacity for giving.

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