ALEX Learning Activity

Compare and Contrast Essay: Writing Lab

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Jessica Byrd
System:Butler County
School:Butler County Board Of Education
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2827
Compare and Contrast Essay: Writing Lab
Digital Tool/Resource:
Compare and Contrast Essay: Writing Lab Google Slideshow
Web Address – URL:

This resource provides instruction and graphic organizers for the Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing, and Proofreading stages of the writing process. The resource is designed to facilitate creating an expository essay. The purpose of the essay will be to compare and contrast traditional and virtual learning. Students will need to research to gather support for their proposed solutions. 

This activity was created as a result of the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2021 (2021)
Grade: 8
8. Produce clear, coherent narrative, argument, and informative/explanatory writing in which the development, organization, style, and tone are relevant to task, purpose, and audience, using an appropriate command of language.

a. Write narratives that establish a clear purpose, use narrative techniques, and sequence events coherently.

Examples: narratives - memoir, short story, personal narrative; techniques - dialogue, pacing, description, reflection;
sequencing - chronological, reverse chronological, flashback

b. Write informative or explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas or processes effectively, by developing the topic with relevant information or data from credible sources and using appropriate transitions and precise vocabulary.

c. Write an argument to defend a position by introducing and supporting a claim, distinguishing the claim from opposing claims, presenting counterclaims and reasons, and citing accurate, relevant textual evidence from credible sources.
Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to compose an objective compare and contrast essay with a predictable structure in a formal style.

Students will be able to identify relevant data from credible sources to develop ideas.

Students will be able to use language conventions, vocabulary, and transitions effectively to communicate a message.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

1. The teacher will need to share the Compare and Contrast: Writing Lab with the students. Each student will be prompted to make a copy of the slide deck. The students need to advance through the slide deck as a whole group and not work ahead.

2. The teacher should display slide 1 of the presentation to the whole group, and use the following language to introduce the lesson: "Today we will be learning how to write an expository essay. Please follow along with me in the presentation. Do not work ahead. By the end of the lesson, you will have written a five-paragraph essay that will compare and contrast traditional learning with virtual learning. Does anyone have any questions?"

3. The teacher should instruct the class to advance to slide 2 and explain the standard and learning objectives in student-friendly language.

4. The whole group should advance to slide 3. The teacher should instruct students to read the slide independently for a few moments or call on a volunteer to read. The teacher will answer vocabulary-related questions and clarify misunderstandings before moving to the next slide.

5. Advance to slide 4. The teacher will describe the writing prompt to the students and discuss the required elements of an expository essay.

6. Advance to slide 5. The teacher will explain that the first step in the writing process is prewriting.

7. Advance to slide 6. The teacher will facilitate the Table Talk activity by explaining the instructions below:

Table Talk
Questions: How are traditional learning and virtual learning similar? How are they different?
Take 2 minutes to silently reflect on the question and jot down your thoughts on a piece of paper.
Share your thoughts with your partner and write a response to your partner’s statement.
Volunteers will share their responses with the whole group.

After students have completed the Table Talk activity, the teacher will instruct them to add their responses to the corresponding boxes on slide 6.

8. Advance to slide 7. The teacher will instruct the students to narrow their focus by choosing one item from each box on slide 6 and adding their selections to the corresponding boxes on slide 7. 

9. Advance to slide 8.

The teacher should explain to the students that they should research to find facts, data, and examples to support their key points. The teacher should allow time for students to complete the graphic organizer and research key points in a guided setting.

*This slide contains a link to a graphic organizer that students can use when conducting research. Each student will be prompted to make a copy of the graphic organizer when they click on the link. The Research Findings Graphic Organizer can be shared with the teacher directly via email or uploaded into the teacher's digital classroom. Slide 8 also contains links to the Alabama Virtual Library and Google Scholar.

10. Advance to slide 9. The teacher should explain the drafting stage of the writing process using the following language: "Now that your research is complete, it is time to start drafting your essay. During the drafting process, we will write the first draft of your essay. We will start with the introductory paragraph."

11. Advance to slide 10. The teacher will read the slide and answer any questions the students might have about their introductions. The teacher should allow time for students to write their introductory paragraphs.

12. Advance to slide 11. The teacher will read the slide and discuss the importance of supporting details. 

13. Advance to slide 12. The teacher will read the slide and discuss using transitions correctly to show relationships and connections between ideas.

14. Advance to slide 13. The teacher will instruct students to work independently to identify 10 examples of transition words or phrases and explain how each term shows a relationship. The teacher should only give students a few minutes to complete this activity by typing their answers into the space provided on slide 13. Once time is up, the teacher should allow a few volunteers to share some of their answers with the whole group. 

15. Advance to slide 14. The teacher will use slide 14 to facilitate a discussion about graphic text elements and formatting. Students should have discussed how graphics and text formatting can support ideas and enhance understanding. 

16. Advance to slide 15. The teacher should use this to discuss formal style and objective tone. 

17. The students should be given time to draft the body of their essay before continuing to slide 16.

18. Advance to slide 16. This slide provides an overview of the elements of an effective conclusion. The teacher should discuss these elements.

19. The students should be allowed time to draft the conclusion paragraph of their essay.

20. Advance to slide 17. The teacher should use this slide to transition to the revision stage of the writing process. This is a good place to pause and ensure that all students have completed their draft and are ready to move on. The teacher will need to set a deadline for the drafting process.

22. Advance to slides 18 and 19. The teacher should use these slides to help students check the organizational structure of their essays. 

23. Advance to slide 20. The teacher should read the slide. The teacher should leave this slide visible for students to refer to during the revision process. The teacher should allow students to revise their work in a guided setting.

24. Advance to slide 21. The teacher should use this slide to transition to the editing and proofreading stage of the wiring process. The teacher will need to provide a deadline for completing the revision process.

25. Advance to slides 22 and 23. The teacher should read the slides and instruct students to exchange their writing with a peer. Students should be allowed to complete a peer review during this portion of the activity. Slide 23 should remain visible for students to refer to during the peer review process. Students should be given time to make corrections and a deadline for turning in their final draft.

26. Advance to slide 24. The teacher should read the slide. 

27. Advance to slide 25. This slide should remain visible as students self-assess their work. The teacher will need to use the rubric or a similar rubric to evaluate student work. This rubric assesses both of the learning objectives associated with this activity.

Assessment Strategies:

Assessment Strategies:
Research Findings Graphic Organizer

The assessment linked above assesses the student's ability to organize and make connections between their support and key points. The worksheet requires manual scoring and teachers should look for the following criteria:

The student has effectively identified 8 quotes that support the key points of their essay.
The student has provided citation information for each of the quotes. 
The student has sorted their research findings by similarities and differences.

Transitions: Quick Check (Slide 13)

The assessment above assesses the student's ability to use transitions to communicate a message clearly and effectively. The assessment can be found on slide 13 of the Compare and Contrast: Writing Lab slide deck. Students will be able to complete the activity by editing their copy of the resource.

The teacher should award 10 points for each transition the student can list independently.
The teacher should award 1 bonus point for each transition the student can associate with a specific purpose.

Expository Essay Self-Check Rubric (Slide 25)

This rubric assesses students on all three of the learning objectives associated with this activity. The rubric is housed in slide 25 of the Compare and Contrast: Writing Lab resource.

Advanced Preparation:

Before using this tool, the teacher should preview the slide deck, resource links, and assessments. The teacher will also need to share the slide deck with the students. Each student should have their own copy of the resource. It is recommended that the teacher customize the attached assessments to best meet their students' needs. Students should be familiar enough with the research process to conduct research independently. This resource does not teach citation skills and students will need additional instruction in that area.

Variation Tips (optional):

This slide deck may be broken up into distinct stages of the writing process. The resource may also be easily modified to use to teach persuasive writing.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):

This resource facilitates the writing process and can be paired with additional standards. Although [ELA2021](8) 8b is the focus standard, [ELA2021](8) 17a, [ELA2021](8) 20, [ELA2021](8) 20a, [ELA2021](8) 31, and [ELA2021](8) R4 would also logically fit with this activity.

Corresponding activities are available here--

Expository Writing: Expand Vocabulary

Compare and Contrast Essay: Writing Prompt & Rubric

  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: compare, contrast, draft, drafting, editing, ELA202188b, essay, expository, prewrite, prewriting, proofread, proofreading, review, revise, revision, write, writing