It’s wonderful to use authentic material in the classroom. The connection between a language lesson and the language used out there is strengthened. There are times when adapted material serves our purposes better, but when there’s a choice to fabricate or take what’s real, I think it’s best to integrate that piece of real life into our lesson plan.
In professional, academic, and everyday situations, our students may be asked to compare and contrast. Do they have an organized approach for gathering information? Do they have the language needed to express similarities and differences? One fun way to teach graphic organizers and structures for comparisons and contrasts is to ask students to write consumer reports.
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Objective: To present a consumer report to one’s classmates.
Skills targeted: Reading for details, using graphic organizers, writing comparisons and contrasts, making oral presentations from notes.
STEP 1 – Students must have information on two products or two services. If possible, ask them to collect this information in advance. This allows them to choose something they are genuinely interested in. If, however, this kind of preparation time is not possible, you can collect sets of information yourself. In this case, you may have to ask students to work in twos or threes, depending on how much information you are able to collect yourself.
SUGGESTIONS: (1) At a local mall, get brochures from sales reps. Cell phone sales reps, for example, are always willing to hand out information. (2) Amazon.com is also great for this activity. Just type in the product you want (steam iron, dog raincoat, hair dryer, etc.), and select the two most appealing from the list. View the product details as well as customer reviews.
STEP 2 – Model the use of one or two graphic organizers. A Venn diagram and/or a traditional chart would be appropriate. You can find printable online Venn diagrams for classroom use.
STEP 3 – Have the students fill in the information on their graphic organizers. Remind them that at this point, complete sentences aren’t necessary.
STEP 4 – Review the targeted structures for comparisons and contrasts. Suggestions: (not) as…as; unlike; compared to; while; similarly, in contrast with, both, more…than. Provide models for the structures you want the students to use:
Both steam irons have stainless steel bottoms.
The Black & Decker iron is not as heavy as the Panasonic.
Unlike the Panasonic, the B&D model can do vertical steaming.
STEP 5 – Have students write a short consumer report using information from their graphic organizers and the targeted structures. Provide a model:
Panasonic has steam iron for $36.98. It’s a little over five pounds. It also has an automatic retractable cord reel. Black & Decker makes a similar steam iron. Both have stainless steel bottoms. Compared to the Panasonic, the B&D is more sophisticated. It’s not as heavy as the Panasonic, but it’s more expensive. The B&D steam iron costs $46.29. Unlike the Panasonic, the B&D model can do vertical steaming. That means you can steam clothes while they’re on hangers. Also, in contrast with the Panasonic iron, the B&D model has an automatic shut-off. For ten dollars more, I think the B&D model is worth buying.
STEP 6 – Allow for students to share their reports with classmates. You may choose to do presentations to the whole class, in a small group, or as an exchange between partners.