Comparing and contrasting using cloze activities in Geography

When students write comparisons and contrasts, they need to be able to determine the criteria that are being used as points of comparison and the similarities and/or differences between the two items being compared. These are the "what to say" demands of compare-contrast writing.

At the same time, students must make decisions about how to arrange these similarities and differences to communicate them clearly. These are the "how to say it" demands of compare-contrast writing (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987).

Due to this interaction of content and organisational demands, it can be a challenging form of expository writing for students (Englert & Hiebert, 1984). 

 By using strategies that illustrate and model the language features and structure of compare-contrast writing, students can be supported to communicate their comparative analysis of two or more concepts, strategies or options related to a geographical situation/problem/issue.  

One way that teachers can assist students to write compare and contrast expositions in Geography is to use cloze activities with conjunctions and text connectives. 

Cloze activity with conjunctions and text connectives

The cloze procedure involves a teacher systematically deleting words from a selection of text before providing the text to students. Students are then expected to accurately supply the words that have been deleted.

Cloze activities support students in their writing because they model how language works, i.e. the interaction of vocabulary and syntax, grammatical relationships between words in a sentence and relationships between sentences in a paragraph (Harris, 1984). Once completed, cloze activities provide worked examples [HITS Strategy 4]  on how to create appropriately formed sentences and paragraphs in compare-contrast writing.  

The following is a strategy for using cloze activities with conjunctions and text connectives in compare-contrast: 

  1. Explain to students that conjunctions and text connectives can be used to highlight differences between two or more concepts, strategies or options in a compare-contrast. Inform students that conjunctions occur within a sentence whilst text connectives help to connect sentences or paragraphs.  
  2. Provide a list of conjunctions and text connectives that can be used to show differences: 
    • conjunctions in a sentence to show the difference: although, yet, but, whereas 
    • use text connectives, particularly at the start of a sentence to foreground difference: however, despite this, on the other hand, on the contrary, instead, conversely, an opposing view, unlike 
  3. Instruct students to use one of the conjunctions or text connectives provided in Step 2 to complete cloze sentences that show the difference between the two ideas presented. Ask them to discuss their choice/s and related meanings.

    Example 1: Both refugees and asylum seekers are people who have left their home country and are looking to relocate to another country because of fear of persecution or conflict. Refugees have been recognised under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to be a refugee, ___ asylum seekers have not.

    Example 2: A migrant is anyone who relocates from their home country, including economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. ____, in Australia, the word migrant is often used to refer to economic migrants.

    Note: Teachers can use longer texts with conjunctions and connectives removed to show students how a range of these grammatical devices are used when writing comparative texts.

  4. To extend students, provide pieces of information about two or more different concepts, strategies or options and a sentence starter prompt. Instruct students to write a short paragraph, using the conjunctions and text connectives to write a compare-contrast about one feature relating to the concepts, strategies or options.

    Example: Information is provided to students about different aspects of migration data (e.g. asylum seeker statistics, country of origin, refugee status, etc.). Students are asked to write a compare-contrast sentence(s) about the characteristics of migration in Australia.

    The sentence starter prompt for students to complete might be 'Migration into Australia is a complex issue.

  5. Ask students to share their responses with the class. Write some examples of the part of student responses on the board, underlining the conjunctions and connectives and discuss.

Curriculum links for the above example: VCGGK125.