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During our recent polar bear unit, I came across the most adorable book called Polar Opposites.
It’s an amusing story about how Alex the polar bear and Zina the penguin are complete opposites, yet are able to be friends and enjoy a special trip together each year. It’s the perfect mentor text to introduce the concept of compare and contrast for first grade or even kindergarten.
Before reading the book, ask students if they’ve ever heard the phrase “polar opposites” and what they think it means. After reading, discuss what polar opposite means. The phrase in this story has both a literal and figurative meaning. Alex and Zina are really polar opposites; They live at different poles! Alex lives at the North Pole and Zina lives at the South Pole.
Polar opposites is also a figure of speech that means two people, places, or things are completely different or opposite in almost every way. Go back through the story and find examples of how Alex and Zina are opposite. Explain that when we contrast we point out ways people, places, or things are different. For example, Alex is big and Zina is tiny or Alex gets up late and Zina gets up early. Many differences are told throughout the story, but there are also lots of picture clues students can use to infer other ways they’re opposite.
One thing I love about this book is the unexpected twist that Alex and Zina are actually friends. They “meet in the middle” each year for a special trip together. Go back to the end of the book and use the picture clues about their trip to find ways that Alex and Zina are alike. Explain that when we compare we find ways people, places, or things are the same. For example, Alex and Zina both like to swim and lie on the beach. They enjoy ice cream and like to travel.
I created a Venn diagram that we used for this lesson. It’s an easy way for students to organize their thoughts and see how Alex and Zina are different and alike.
Here are a few other activities students might enjoy after reading this book:
- compare and contrast polar bears and penguins as animals
- compare and contrast two book characters that are polar opposites
- think of someone who is their polar opposite and share how they’re alike and different
I also think the “meet in the middle” concept from this book is worth discussing a little further with your students. It’s a great illustration of how we be friends or get along with people that are very different from us!
If you’re studying polar bears, you may also be interested in these activities: