Imagine your students down the road in college or the work place. What kind of writing will they be doing? Will it be an essay on their favorite food or vacation spot? No. Will they have to describe their favorite event or tell a story about something scary that happened to them? No. If the answer is “no,” then why are we writing these essays that border on absurdity?
Practice. These types of essays allow students to explore their feelings, their experiences, and utilize their imaginations. Academic, technical, and professional writing are where a high percentage of their future may lie, but creative and social writing cannot be ignored.
I say all of this because I want to return to the original question. What type of writing will your students be doing in college and the work place? Typically, they will be writing to explain, to inform, and to persuade. In doing this, they will inevitably have to compare multiple texts to perform these tasks.
What’s the big deal? How hard can it be to read a couple of articles or passages and make a comparison? Harder than one might think.
For starters, the differing texts may be different types of writing. One could be purely factual based while the other is presented in opinion backed up by facts. The viewpoints could be different. The style of writing could be different. When a student pulls from a single text, they only have one line of thinking on a particular subject. Multiple texts allow the writer to expand on an idea, give a variety of facts, and ultimately create a stronger piece of writing.
How does one go about this?
1st – Read each text in its entirety. Use the RIP method to read, interpret, and predict.
2nd – Read one text at a time – again. This time, make notes and/or highlight key facts, statistics, quotes, and other vital information.
3rd – Read the questions. Most people like to read the questions first. Personally, I prefer to own the knowledge of the information and let it sink in before I even think about what I have to write.
4th – For each question, brainstorm ideas of how the question should be answered. Are you explaining? Informing? Persuading? Who are you addressing the answer to? Is it any reader, a single person, or a group of people?
5th – Are you writing a paragraph or an essay? If you are given a certain amount of space to write in, this will be a great indicator of how much you are supposed to write.
6th – Create a plan for a single paragraph or an essay response.
This may seem like a lot of steps to get to the actual writing, but it isn’t. This routine of questioning will save you time in the long run.
In the writing, it is important for the writer to use their own words. Of course, you want to pull from the texts to support your writing, but at the same time, this is not a copy and paste session. And, as you are integrating these facts, it is important to have smooth transitional language when you have citing where the information derived.
Writing with comparative texts is all the rage, and it is picking up steam in states across the country. As a writer and a writing consultant, I firmly believe it is a wonderful step forward. It lays the foundation for students to understand why writing is important and how it can impact their future.