A very valuable member of my PLN, Brad Patterson, initiated a call for images that were similar, yet different; look alike but have very contrastive features; or require critical thinking to notice subtle, yet important differences. Essentially, these photos combined together create material that can be utilised when learning language to compare and contrast. I wondered though, when do we compare and contrast things at any length in reality? Looking at very similar items and differentiating them occurs many times in real life: purchasing situations, for example. When I’m in the market for a new phone, I’m often at a loss as to which phone, phone plan and phone company to choose from. They’re often masked to look different from each other, but only upon close inspection–side by side–do real differences (term, hidden fees, etc) begin to appear.
A non-commercial usage appears in more retrospective situations. I’ve just begun my second year teaching in the IFP program. Having collaborated on curriculum and subsequent material for an entire academic year once already, this year my colleagues and I use reflections from last year to determine the direction for the current cohort of students. Initially it seemed like we’d teach the same program with the same material, perhaps with timing adjusted, but three weeks in, we look back and compare this cohort with last year’s in terms of their proficiency, their needs and what needs to be studied in different depth. Adjustments ensue.
What comparative language do we use?
There’s the lower level comparative adjectives, similes, as…as, and others we’re very familiar with. Then there’s the more complex intricacies of language we use sometimes in speaking, but more often in academic writing, which require a bit more investigation into meaning, usage and form. Try looking up comparison, contrast, differ, similar or difference sometime in the Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English. Lots to work with, isn’t there? Maybe one of these handouts could be useful.
After that digression, back to Brad’s initial request: images. I took this shot while on the subway last week. It wasn’t because of the available comparison. In fact, I wanted to remember the website on the poster. Look closely. There are many similarities in differences between the two girls. (Look in the comments here if you want some hints and click on the photo for a bigger version). Luck of the draw, folks.