Ideas and Strategies - Identifying Similarities and Differences

Use a variety of methods when asking ELLs to identify similarities and differences.

  • Orally identify the similarities and differences.
  • Provide interactive charts,organizers and lists with sticky notes, sentence strips, pictures or actual objects.
  • Allow students to group and regroup objects in pairs and small groups before working alone.
  • Move to writing sentences and paragraphs after students have demonstrated some mastery of the task.

Model and scaffold each type of task. The six skill areas ( see below) are rampled and each require more complex vocabulary and language.

  • Provide visuals of the steps of the task.
  • Use clear, comprehensible speech and concise sentences.
  • Reduce idiomatic expressions.
  • Scaffold using simplified steps and graphic organizers ( see below) lessening the support as the activities are repeated.
  • Make sure that students have many opportunities to practice the skills at one level- describing, classifying, comparing, contrasting, writing analogies and creating metaphors BEFORE moving into the next level.

Start with sorting activities, move into classifying and then from simple to complex metaphors and analogies.

  • Include culturally familiar subjects and vocabulary when adapting lessons for ELLs.
  • Tips for k-3 level students: Sort actual objects or pictures instead of printed words. Label the items verbally and then with print. Sort by one or two basic attributes and then move to more complex and a greater number of attributes. (ie seasons, letter sound, number, key feature, color, etc...)
  • Tips for 4-6 level students: Sort vocabulary including cognates, synonyms and antonyms. Sort across subjects ( ie sort word problems by prominent operation). Use graphic organizers to define the relationships between words.
  • Tips for Secondary level students: Sort steps in sequence ( ie how a bill becomes a law), sort descriptions of features, plot summaries and personality attributes. Build upon real world uses for categories.

Use Graphic Organizers to visually represent comparisons, classification, metaphors and analogies.

  • Concept based word walls Adding Layers to Word Walls (doc / pdf)
  • Venn Diagram Template 1 (doc / pdf) Template 2 (doc / pdf)
  • Attribute Chart Template 1 (doc / pdf)
  • Comparison Matrix Example (doc / pdf)
  • T-Chart Template 1 Poe Example
  • Folded Comparison Chart (doc / pdf)
  • Scaffold using graphic organizers such as those in Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works, Marzano, et al. 2001 pgs. 352-356.
  • Using a Comparison Chart to teach Analogies

Language Development Activities facilitate identifying and discussing similarities and differences.

  • Sample Games and Activities (doc / pdf) to use with ELLS to develop language for identifying similarities and differences.
  • Sample Sorting Activities with Prompts (doc / pdf). for identifying similarities and differences.
  • Proficiency levels for Similarities and Differences Tasks