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A Whale is Not a Fish! Comparing and Contrasting
In this lesson, students will learn the skill of comparing and contrasting. In pairs, they will research whales and fish to determine their characteristics as well as their similarities and differences. Finally, they will display their work on a poster that highlights at least three differences and three similarities between whales and fish.

Goals & Objectives:

Instructional Goals:

  • Students will know the characteristics of whales.
  • Students will know the characteristics of fish.
  • Students will understand the meaning of comparing and contrasting.
  • Students will be able to determine the differences and similarities between whales and fish.


Learning Objectives:

  • Students will list at least three whale characteristics.
  • Students will list at least three characteristics of fish.
  • Students will explain in their own words what it means to compare and contrast.
  • Students will complete a Venn diagram displaying the similarities and differences between whales and fish.
  • Students will create a poster that displays at least three similarities and three differences between whales and fish.


Motivational Goals:

  • Generate interest in the research process.
  • Build student’s confidence in their ability to use resources effectively.
  • Promote student’s satisfaction in their research accomplishments.
  • Motivate students to continue to use information skills after the lesson.
Materials & Sources:


Day 1

  1. Students will enter the media center and immediately sit in groups of four. 
  2. On each table will be a picture of a whale and a picture of a fish.    
  3. Students will be given a few minutes to discuss the pictures with their group members.
  4. LMS will start a discussion by saying that whales and fish both live in water. One characteristic of each will be mentioned.
  5. Students will be called on to share other things that were discussed in their groups.
  6. This will be charted for all to see.
  7. LMS will conclude that there are many similarities as well as many differences between whales and fish.



  1. LMS will tell students that today they will learn why a whale is not a fish.  Although they are similar in some ways, they have many different characteristics.  Part of their job will be to find out some of these characteristics.
  2. Students will be asked to explain what they think it means to compare and contrast two things.
  3. The definition of comparing and contrasting will be elicited from students and written on chart paper.
  4. A Venn diagram will be displayed and explained to students.
  5. LMS will model writing a similarity and a difference in the diagram.  This diagram as well as the characteristic handout will be completed by students during their research.
  6. The bookmarked websites that will be used by students will be briefly shown and discussed.
  7. The area used to display print materials selected for this assignment will be pointed out to students.
  8. Students will work in pairs to do their research and complete their characteristic handouts and Venn diagrams.


Day 2

  1. Students will transfer their completed work onto an poster that they create themselves. They will have the option of printing or drawing pictures of whales and fish to include on their posters.



  1. Students will explain to the class what it means to compare and contrast whales and fish.
  2. They will take turns sharing the information they included on their posters.
  3. Classmates will have a chance to make comments and ask questions about the presentations.
-Completed Venn diagrams will demonstrate students' ability to compare and contrast.
-Completed handouts will show students' knowledge of whale and fish characteristics.
-Stating what it means to compare and contrast whales and fish will demonstrate their ability to explain it orally.
-LMS will observe students' ability to work with a partner.
-Students' participation and excitement will demonstrate their confidence in learning of research skills.

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Presented By: Suzanne Johnson-Robinson
Website by Data Momentum, Inc.