The purpose of this activity is to teach writing in a science context using the text structure of compare and contrast.
Working with Electricity and Magnetism, by Kathy Furang (2004);
- Magnets (Science Alive!), by Darlene Lauw (2002);
Background for Teachers
It is assumed that
Introducing Text Structures in Science activity has already been taught
using descriptive text structure examples. This lesson is intended to be a
model lesson and is not expected to be the only occasion where students
write compare and contrast texts in science. The principles taught in this
lesson may be adapted for use in any of the Science Core Curriculum
Objectives where compare and contrast is emphasized. The use of the
verb "compare" in the Core Curriculum signals that this text structure
will be useful.
This activity is intended to mesh with the activities about permanent
magnets and electromagnets found in Standard III. Students will write
about the similarities and differences of these magnets. This activity
should be used after students have had several experiences with
permanent magnets and electromagnets. For information about
permanent and electromagnets, consult the Teacher Resource Book.
Note: During these activities, an emphasis should be placed on the
observations that are needed to report effectively.
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
3. Understand Science Concepts and Principles
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
Invitation to Learn
Review the permanent and electromagnets students have
experimented with. Recall some of the experiments the class has done
with the two kinds of magnets. Discuss how the two kinds of magnets
are alike and different.
- Give chart paper, tape, and a set of Magnetism Fact Strips to each group. Ask the group to place the strips in three
- True only for permanent magnets.
- True only for electromagnets.
- True for both permanent and electromagnets.
Have a magnetic field
Attract iron and steel
Have a N and S Pole
Cannot be turned off and
Loose magnetism if
Magnetic field is
strengthened if stroked by
a stronger magnet
Must connect to an
Stronger if electricity
Keep a constant amount
Can be turned off and on
- Have students in one group share their charts with another group.
Have them look for areas of disagreement and come to a
consensus. Tape their strips in the place.
- Share charts the whole class. Come to a class consensus.
- Discuss how to organize a paragraph that compares the two kinds
of magnets. Explain that you will write about both similarities
and differences in the paragraph.
- If this is first time writing a compare and contrast paragraph, use
a shared writing approach. On chart paper, or an overhead
transparency, write a short paragraph as a class that compares and
contrasts permanent magnets and electromagnets. Use the strips
from the chart to guide your organization and writing. Depending
on the experience of your students, have them complete the
paragraph after you begin it together.
- Have students check to see if all the ideas in the chart are written
in their paragraphs. Have them share their paragraphs with each
- Have more experienced writers write their own paragraph to
compare and contrast permanent magnets and electromagnets.
Have them share their paragraphs with each other.
- If students are very inexperienced writers, you may want to model
the writing process and write the paragraph yourself, thinking
aloud as you compose the writing. Share the writing as you
complete the paragraph. Have students try their own paragraphs
- Have students generate their own comparisons of permanent and
electromagnets rather than using teacher-made fact strips. First,
have students list facts about permanent and electromagnets in a
T-chart. Next have them place the facts in a Venn Diagram that
separates them into three categories:
- true only for permanent magnets,
- true only for electromagnets, and
- true for both.
- Revise and edit the original draft to complete the writing process
and make a final written piece. Illustrate the text. You may add
this to a science portfolio or publish in it some other form, such as
a class book.
- Use compare and contrast text structure to write about other
comparisons in the Science Core Curriculum. For example, have
students write compare and contrast paragraphs about physical
and chemical changes, or to compare inherited and learned traits
of different species.
- This activity could be taught in a small, guided reading or writing
group with more teacher scaffolding
- Use the compare and contrast text structure in social studies and
other content areas to reinforce the text structure.
- This writing lesson focuses on the writing trait of organization.
Use informal assessment strategies to determine if students
understand and use this text structure. Look for sentences with
similarities and sentences with differences.
- If you complete the entire writing process with this piece, create
or use an informational writing rubric to assess the final written
paper. A Science Writing Rubric is provided. Adapt as
necessary for compare and contrast writing.