Compare and Contrast Matrix

Morpheus: There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. The Matrix 1999

Wow, I just found a new graphic organizer. Or maybe I knew about it before, but I didn’t understand it well enough to realize its potential. This matrix should be great for vocabulary development. It will help students make connections, organize their thinking, and use their new vocabulary appropriately.

Here is an example from a new product I am currently creating. Students will grow in understanding about the similarities and differences among these various grasslands as they research information to complete the matrix. The new words prairie, savanna,  steppes, and pampas will become more familiar and better understood. (My newest product “Grassland Animals Scavenger Hunt” could be used with this matrix.)

Compare and Contrast matrix

Another matrix that could be used with many grade levels compares the seasons. From kindergarten upwards students could add information at their own level of understanding.

Comparison Matrix Seasons

Comparison Matrix Seasons

I am excited to explore further uses of this matrix, especially anything that could be vocabulary specific. Does anyone have any ideas?


Always, Sometimes, Never

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.


We need our students to think. For many they are trained to put answers on a line. If there is no line, there must be no question. The directions and information above the lines can easily be ignored. The whole exercise, for those who can get it all right without reading and for those who can get is mostly wrong without reading, is a waste of time. This is one example of why I feel so strongly about conversation as a learning tool. This same exercise, shared with a partner with the expectation that answers need to be defended, requires thinking. The students can learn more about what they know and/or what they don’t know.

Graphic organizers are a great way to have students think. I have created a formative assessment called “Know or No”. I give students a list of words on a current topic for them to rate their knowledge. They can then line up in a continuum showing their understanding. This line is then folded and students are paired to talk about the word(s). This formative assessment can used before, during, and after instruction. Students, of course, should grow in their knowledge, but they should also be aware of that growth.

Know or No

Another great graphic organizer to use is a tree chart. Students fill in each section with whatever information they can think of. For example; thinking – always…  helps, thinking – sometimes…  is hard, thinking – never…  costs money. I have seen many of these on TPT and have made many of my own. Here is a new one on Thinking for today’s blog. The others are examples of ones I have used with my class.

Thinking Graphic Organizer Find more at my blog.Thinking

February Tree Map 1



I hope you give your students many opportunities to think and talk every day!


Building Comprehension

We have been working hard to help our students make use of the comprehension tools available within sentences and paragraphs.

Some sentences give examples:

The farm implements, plow, shovel, and spade, had been used so often for planting, that they need replaced.

Others give an explanation:

Our teacher seemed infallible because she always knew the answers.

Many sentences offer synonyms or antonyms:

Penny was mortified, or shamed, by her poor bike riding skills.

A comparison is another structure to be watched for:

Some people are perplexed by puzzles, while others figure them out quickly.

Additionally, sentences can provide information that contrasts:

Something seemed wrong with David today; he made only cursory effort on his schoolwork, unlike his usual careful work.

Clues for Context Clues are sparkling gems to help a struggling reader!

I use this product with my struggling readers. The cards are reminders to look for help in comprehending meaning. As they are reading if they use one of the clue cards, they get to put in their “gem collection”. This complete lesson is available at my store on Teachers Pay Teachers and it is free!

I found a new idea for a lesson idea today. It uses a sentence with just a letter clue for a word:

Mary loves to eat b________ ?????????

Students brainstorm possible words to complete the sentence: bread, broccoli, brownies, bananas, burgers, etc. Then the sentence is repeat with the remainder shown:

Mary loves to eat b________, although her mom doesn’t want her to have too many sweets.

Another example:

Lisa has a new j__________ ???????

jump-rope, jersey, jacket, etc.

Lisa has a new j__________ for writing her thoughts about each day.

I am excited to use this new idea with my students. It will make clear to them the need to read on not only to help with unknown words, but also to add to the context of the word.

Do you have any ideas for increasing comprehension?