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An Original Compare and Contrast Lesson from WritingFix
this writing across the curriculum assignment encourages deeper student thinking

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I Used to Be... But Now I... Poetry Lesson

Additional Samples for this Writing Activity

This Activity's Title:

I Used to Be...
But Now I...


This comparison/contrast lesson was created by NNWP Teacher Consultant Denise Boswell.

The intended "mentor text" to be used when teaching this writing across the curriculum lesson is the picture book When I Was Five by Arthur Howard. Before writing, students should listen to and discuss the writing style of this book's author.

Check out When I Was Five at

Washoe County teachers, click here to search for this book at the county library.

This seven-step, teacher-created lesson was inspired by the NNWP's Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide. Click here to inquire about ordering your own copy of this resource.

Step #1:
Demonstrating a High-Quality Comparison:

Teacher says: Today, we are going to be listening to a story about the changes that can happen to a person in just one year. People change constantly. They change in short periods of time. A year may not seem like enough time for really interesting changes to happen, but it is. As you listen to When I Was Five by Arthur Howard, use both the pictures and the words to help you focus in on interesting changes that have happened to the story's narrator in just one year of life. He doesn't focus on common things when he shows what's different now (like he's bigger and he's smarter and he's in a different grade in school). Instead, he focuses on interesting and personal things. This is what makes the comparison so interesting in this book. Let's read it now.

Step #2:
Introducing the Topics to Be Compared:

Teacher says: Now you are going to compare yourself today to a time in your life when you were younger. For some of you that may be just last year (like in our book); for others, it may be longer than that. When you determine exactly how old you will be in your younger state and begin to make comparisons, you need to focus on personal and interesting facts....not ordinary and obvious ones. Remember the comparisons made in the book to help you begin to think of ideas that are more personal.

Step #3:
Establishing a Purpose for the Comparison:

Teacher says: You will be writing a poem about yourself today. Your poem must go out of its way to show interesting and personal details, not obvious details. When you make your comparisons during the brainstorm, the differences you focus on need to include lots of interesting, personal details. Don't just think and write, "I used to have a teddy bear" when you could craft that idea into a statement like "I used to snuggle and sleep with a worn-down friend named Teddy whose ear I had chewed on."

Step #4:
Introducing the Comparison Tool:

Next, you want your students to make their own graphic organizers to compare themselves to a younger age. The category ideas ("Questions to Ask") on the example below are good ones to start with, but challenge your students to create new categories and share them with the whole class; this will prevent all the poems from sounding the same. You should build a large graphic organizer on chart paper or on the chalk or white board.

Step #5:
Model the Comparison Tool:

On the large graphic organizer you've built for the class to refer to (and make their own copies from), fill in a few boxes based on your own life to show students how to think about personal ideas and to think using strong details. Be very transparent in your thinking as you think-aloud and place ideas on the sample graphic organizer.

Step #6:
Posing a Deep Question to Students:

Teacher says: How can you--with only a few words and stanzas--show that you understand how people change constantly in their lives? Can you leave hints in your poem that show your reader which you--the younger or the present you--appeals to you more?

Step #7:
Writing About the Comparison:

Below is an example of a structured rough draft sheet that you might prepare for your students.

For students who need less structure or scaffolding, you might simply read When I Was Five once more, and have students use their brainstorms to imitate the book's structure more, or to come up with their own way to turn their ideas into a free-verse poem.

Give students opportunities to revisit and revise their rough drafts' words, then create a final draft.

Go to the student samples page to see some finished products of this poem.


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