Home >> A Tsl >> Archives >> 07 1 >> Comparing-Contrasting With Cookies

Search form

Comparing-Contrasting With Cookies


Arts and Humanities
Language Arts


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

A fun compare-and-contrast activity using Girl Scout cookies readies students to write more complex comparisons of characters, literature...


Students will learn point-to-point comparisons techniques. This lesson might also be used to teach outlining.


compare, comparison, contrast

Materials Needed

  • Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies (1 per student)
  • Girl Scout Trefoil (Shortbread) cookies (1 per student)
  • Xerox copies, or a transparency of the nutritional information from each box (1 copy/student)
  • paper and pencils for writing

    The Lesson

    Before using this lesson, be aware that it involves food and that some students have restrictions dietary and/or religious that might prevent them from eating the cookies used in this lesson.

    Review the concepts of comparing and contrasting. Comparing and contrasting is valuable when a writer wishes to examine/compare the similarities and differences between two things. To compare is to explain how items are alike; to contrast is to demonstrate how they are different.

    If a brief reinforcement activity is necessary, you might ask students to compare an apple to a pear. Discuss how the two fruits are alike and how they are different. You might have even-numbered rows of students write a short paragraph comparing the two fruits and odd-numbered rows write a short paragraph contrasting them. The rows of students can pair up to share their paragraphs.

    Explain that some things are more complicated to compare and contrast than an apple and a pear. Those things similarities and differences are not always so clear/obvious. They require a more detailed analysis -- a point-by-point comparison of different features.

    At this point in the lesson, hand out to each student two Girl Scout cookies -- one Thin Mint and one Trefoil (Shortbread).

    Note: I plan this lesson for the time of year when Girl Scout cookies are being sold and delivered. However, the cookies can be frozen for use at any time.

    I ask students not to eat their cookies -- yet. (I also assure them that no one has to eat the cookies.)

    I ask students to make a list of the details of the cookies that can be compared. They mention things such as size, shape, color, weight, smell, and taste.

    Then I distribute copies (or display a transparency) of the nutritional information from the boxes side panels. This sets up additional comparisons. I ask students to identify some characteristics of the cookies that the nutrition information can help us compare; they mention things such as the number of cookies per serving and the per-cookie weight, calories, fat content, and so on. That information (or a cookie count) can even help us figure a cost-per-cookie price.

    Give students time to study the cookies and nutrition information and to write some of the points of comparison they notice.

    You might introduce a graphic organizer that students can use to help them examine the features of the cookies. This Compare-and-Contrast Graphic Organizer can be printed for use, or it can be used on a classroom computer; each student can copy it onto a disc or CD so they will have their own personal copy.

    As an alternative, you might use this Spider Map Graphic Organizer.
    After students have done that, talk about the general categories under which their comparisons fall. Agree on three general categories that tend to cover most of their ideas. Those categories might look something like these:
  • Appearance
  • Nutrition
  • Sensory Enjoyment

    Arrange students into groups of three. Each student in the group will choose and draft a paragraph about a different one of the three categories.

    After they have drafted their paragraphs, have the students work together to draft an introduction (to set up their comparison) and conclusion (to tie together the ideas presented in their three paragraphs). The result might look something like this:

    Trefoils or Thin Mints?

    [Introduction] Every year people anxiously await the sale of Girl Scout cookies. Even though all Girl Scout cookies are poplar, two types that have survived the years of merchandising and have become "standards" are the Thin Mints and Trefoils (sometimes labeled as Shortbread). The popularity of those two cookies may be due to the fact that they are distinct enough to appeal to different people but similar in providing a sweet treat.

    [Feature 1: Appearance] Even though these cookies look different, there are similarities in appearance. For example the two brands are almost opposite in color; the Trefoil is a light tan cookie while the Thin Mint is dark brown. On the other hand, the cookies are about the same size. Even though the shapes are somewhat different, each Trefoil weighs 6.3 g and measures 1-3/4" in diameter while the Thin Mints weigh 7 g each and measure the same. Other than being chocolate and vanilla, the two cookies are very alike in appearance.

    [Feature 2: Nutrition] The two thin delicacies are not particularly nutritious and will not make the consumer thin. Both cookies contain not only fat, but some saturated fat. Trefoils contain 2 g fat per cookie, .5 g of which is saturated, while, surprisingly, the Thin Mints are slightly more healthy, containing 1.6 g of fat but only .2 g saturated fat. Calories are relatively low in both cookies -- 34 calories each -- but sugar is the number one or two ingredient and, therefore, the source of the calories. Because of the fat and sugar, both cookies are equally non-nutritious.

    [Feature 3: Sensory Enjoyment] Taste is where the two cookies differ the most. They appeal to the culinary enjoyment of different types of people. The Trefoil is a plain cookie that tastes of butter and vanilla while the Thin Mint is a chocolate-lover's delight. The butter cookie has a crispy texture that softens quickly, especially when dipped in milk. Even though covered in soft chocolate, the Trefoil also has a crispy texture which is good accompanied by milk. Because of the divergent tastes and textures, the two cookies would appeal to different people.

    [Conclusion] Even though these two popular cookies differ on the surface, they continue to make Girl Scout cookie time a favorite time in most communities. Analyzing these cookies demonstrates that, though things, and even people, may be different on the surface, there are always similarities when we take the time to look deeper.

    Now that students have done a detailed compare-and-contrast of the Girl Scout cookies, they will be able to apply the same/similar techniques to comparing/contrasting two characters or two works of literature or art. They can use similar organizing tools and approaches. The final result will be an essay that follows a similar format [Introduction, Comparison of Feature 1, Comparison of Feature 2, Comparison of Feature 3, and Conclusion] to students cookie comparisons.


    As students write their own comparisons, the teacher will assess their essays based on criteria taught in the sample. Depending on the grade level, a rubric can be used to help students document that they have a required number of features, and a required number of details for each feature. For example, the rubric might require the students writing to have the following characteristics:
    ____ An introduction
    ____ Three features/characteristics being compared
    ____ Two details for each feature that is compared/contrasted
    ____ The comparisons examine similarities
    ____ The contrasts examine differences
    ____ The essay makes a point about the comparison (thesis statement)
    ____ The writer evaluates, or informs about, the similarities and differences
    ____ There is a conclusion that explains the purpose of the comparison

    Submitted By

    Lesley Roessing, Ridley Middle School in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania

    Education World®
    Copyright © 2007 Education World