We have been busy in our classroom – both practicing our compare and contrast skills and learning Colorado history. We were eager to combine these skills through the use of photographs.
To begin, I compiled two sets of pictures focused on transportation. The first set of pictures were taken in 1910 and the second set were pictures of 2010. As we began to analyze the photos we made our first discovery, in order to discuss the transportation shown, we first needed to agree on the transportation’s names. The room was abuzz with questions . . .
“Is this a carriage or a buggy? Is there a difference?”
“What could we name a trolley that’s pulled by a horse?”
“Would you want to ride in that?”
“Is there a difference between a tram and a monorail?”
My fourth graders were involved in language, discussing among themselves the very best label for each mode of transportation. It was the best type of “just-in time learning”, as it was vocabulary acquisition with a purpose.
It was time to focus on our task. I presented them with the prompt . . .
Analyze the 2 groups of photos depicting modes of transportation taken a century apart. Choose three different modes of transportation depicted in both photographs. Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting these three modes of transportation from 1910 and 2010.
We easily located the format (paragraph), the topic (modes of transportation a century apart) and the big ideas (compare and contrast) in our prompt. As a group, we began to determine the best way to attack this task.
We decided upon a two-column chart, simply listing the modes of transportation found in the photograph groups. After listing transportation found 100 years ago and today, we were able to identify similar transportation found in both these time period. We circled the four that were found in both lists. Now we needed to determine similarities and differences.
The students decided that a column chart was the most efficient way to compare and contrast these forms of transportations. As we analyzed the pictures carefully, we determined the similarities and differences between the transportation modes. Again the conversation was rich, as we discussed whether we could use our background knowledge linked to the pictures or rather we could only use what we could see in the pictures.
Upon completing our observations, it was time to complete a plan. We had two ways in which we could organize our plan – either with similarities and differences as our big ideas, or with each mode of transportation as our big ideas. Although I left the choice up to the students, the majority felt they could best organize their ideas using the modes of transportation as big ideas. As the prompt asked us to compare and contrast the 1920 and 2010 modes of transportation, our details became how each mode was similar to each other and how they were different. By accessing all their previous thinking, students quickly and effortlessly created a writing plan.
For this lesson, I only required the students to complete their writing plan. I had been more concerned about the process – how can we carefully and methodically analyze pictures to determine similarities and differences. Best of all – my students loved this learning engagement. They had been detectives looking at pictures, made thoughtful observations, and discovered meaningful similarities and differences. Together we had experienced digital literacy – and had a wonderful hour of dialogue and learning!