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Comparing and contrasting

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.

These handouts layout the language of comparison into blank chart form for learners to take notes or write examples as you go over them in class. It also gives collocations as found from the link above. Use however you wish. This exercise takes student-generated topical sentences using various comparative lexical items, learnt from the previous handout, sometimes correctly used, other times incorrect. Students edit them to find errors and fix them. Modify as you please. This is a Powerpoint presentation I used to introduce structure of a compare/contrast essay. It includes an example topic. Use however you wish. These PDFs include a practice activity comparing and contrasting two news articles with differing points-of-view and perspectives on the same issue. Students to read both, find aspects to compare/contrast and write a short essay.

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.

Notice anything similar, yet different?


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[…] Tyson Seburn […]

the collocations dico for students is great , thanks :-))…..@

Brad Patterson

I have this feeling that I should be seeing something more than what I see. Is it the dark hair of the girl under the photo that matches. The same pink color purse and dress ?

Brad Patterson

I think I’m outta my league here. I don’t know too much about Korean culture. Fun that we can see you snapping the shot on the left. Do I at least get a B ?

Brad Patterson

🙁 I’ve never gotten a D in my life… is there any extra credit available… ok ok… i’ll let the others play too ! 😉

[…] Tyson Seburnt […]

Comparing and contrasting > I want you to work hard for your comparatives from the photo! 😉


Not sure if I’m on the right path, but this is what I see: both female, crouched body position/bending, one arm lower than the other, both looking downward, attention on something below them.
It almost looks like the picture is looking over the girl’s shoulder at the iPod and the text “Experience a whole new world” takes on an interesting parallel with the seated girl’s iPod (technology)! How’d I do?

Cool activity and lesson resource – don’t miss it! Thanks @seburnt

Uuuuh this was hard!

Awesome post re @brad5patterson’s compare contrast challenge!

Wow! This challenge has really taken off! #eltchat

[…] a lot of differences. This project helps develop your ability to notice fine details. I could use this example in my future classroom by talking about colors and what causes them to be different. Below is my […]

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