Here’s how I differentiated the Houghton Mifflin comprehension skill of “Compare & Contrast” for my gifted sixth-grade students, who have been successfully comparing and contrasting since kindergarten.
Bring In The Classics
The Houghton Mifflin (HM) selection is from artist Chuck Close’s biography. Although HM suggests comparing and contrasting Chuck in the beginning and the end of the story, I opted to bring in brief biographies of other artists.
We read through Van Gogh’s biography from Simple Wikipedia on one day and then followed up with Claude Monet’s bio the day after that. Both were edited slightly for content and to make them a bit shorter.
After reading the selection and these two bios, students had information about three significant artists to compare and contrast.
Up-Level The Wording
“Compare and Contrast” inevitably leads to simple, easy responses like “they’re both men” or “one is from France and one is from America.” Creating more specific guidelines combats this problem, and drives students to a deeper level of thinking. I asked students to:
Compare and Contrast the Effects of Each Artists’ Hardships
This simple addition led to a fascinating analysis of tragedy’s tendency to inspire, as well as artists’ varying abilities to overcome these difficulties. It can also serve as a great chance to speak with students about overcoming their own difficulties.
An Interesting Product
A Venn Diagram or Double-Bubble Map is not much of an authentic product. Instead, students created a haiku summing up their discoveries about artists’ hardships. They had to condense their understanding of this vast idea into a mere seventeen syllables. The tight structure led to some very diverse statements about artists.
To publish their poems, students wrote the finished haikus in the center of a blank piece of paper and then used cross-hatching to shade in a spotlight effect. The corners of their page were darkest, leading to a bright center where the words were located. Everything was done in simple black and white. Displayed together, the poems created a beautiful image.
In The End
Students went far beyond Houghton Mifflin’s expectation of filling out a worksheet. The class:
- was exposed to two classic artists
- delved into the concept of art’s relationship with hardships
- condensed many details into a single generalization
- worked with a specific type of poetry
- learned a practical art technique
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