If someone says “Compare/Contrast,” most of us instinctively envision the two overlapping circles of a Venn Diagram. But this graphic organizer only separates information between the two circles; it doesn’t really organize the info within the circles. That makes it hard to truly compare information between two items.
A better alternative is the T-Chart. The two items being compared (Items A & B) are still flanking the left and right sides of the organizer. However, this time the middle column is for the features, facets, or aspects of both items you want to study and analyze.
With every added feature of comparison, there is a new row (a new horizontal line added to) the table. This format allows your students to see information side-by-side. They can truly see parallel facts in a physically parallel format. It’s so easy! And kids love it!
Utilizing T-Charts after reading
Comparing texts after reading can be done more simply with a T-Chart than the traditional Venn Diagram.
- Text-to-text comparisons can easily highlight the differences between characters or between various story elements.
- This same tool can also show similarities and differences between the text and movie versions of a book.
- Or a T-Chart can compare the accuracy of details from a historical fiction text with those from a primary source document.
- Within the content-areas, students can make a T-Chart of the facts they learned about two different subjects. Check out the eagles v. owls and the endocytosis v. exocytosis science examples.
Look at how easy it is to use the T-Chart Template when the information is organized so simply into rows and columns! (Also available as multi-columned semantic maps.) Notebook versions of both the 2-column T-Chart and the 3+Column T-Chart are available, too.
Pre-writing with T-Charts
If students are preparing to write a comparison-contrast paper, have them start with the middle column of the T-chart, identifying the facets of the subjects they want to study. If students know the categories of information they want to compare, then they have direction and purpose when researching and pre-writing.
A completed T-Chart then serves as the road map for organization. Each row serves as a new paragraph. Each paragraph addresses the same facet for both Item A and Item B. As a writer moves to the next row on the T-Chart, he starts a new paragraph on this new category. It’s amazing how much more organized students’ papers will be.
Primary teachers and/or special education teachers might try the 3D flapbook before introducing students to the T-Chart. An XL flapbook could be used within a whole-class lesson. By laminating the flapbook, you can use write-on/wipe-off markers numerous times on a variety of topics before releasing students to try one on their own. This offers students a hands-on way of organizing their information.
Adjusting the T-Chart for more than two items
Comparisons don’t always come in pairs. You need a graphic organizer that can adjust to accommodate more items. The T-chart can easily support that. Simply slide the feature’s column to the far left and add an unlimited number of rows and columns. (This larger table is sometimes referred to as a semantic map.) Now you can compare and contrast multiple types of planets, figurative language, Native American tribes, geometric shapes, seasons, animals, historical events, cultures, governments, etc.
Beyond content-area concepts, this table format allows you to compare more than two texts at a time. For example:
- Compare multiple texts written about the same topic.
- Compare multiple texts written by the same author.
- Compare multiple types of text (e.g., fable v. fairy tale v. myth v. legend, etc.).
With the ability to add rows and columns to the comparison table, you can easily enlarge the table as students continue to learn new information. Check out the tables on figurative language and body systems. (Page 1 reveals the initial table. Page 2 demonstrates how the table can grow with added columns and rows highlighted in yellow.)
Great Teacher Comments:
Bridget Longmeier, Literacy Coach for Brown Elementary (Seymour, IN) visited a 4th grade class to model a lesson on drawing conclusions. The class used three different sources on insulators and conductors to practice drawing conclusions. She used Smekens Education’s 3-column T-Chart as a student handout for collecting the information.