The Venn Diagram is a tool that can be used to show how two or more distinct categories, topics, characters, or time periods (the list goes on and on!) can have characteristics that are unique and shared. This is a visual mapping tool that can be used to help students and teachers categorize perceptions, facts, and learning.

I've used this tool in a variety of ways of the years, but one of my favorite places to use it is to map the waysin which William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is a tragicomedy. This a a great strategy to use as a whole group effort, or on an individual basis.

On the IRA's (International Reading Association) and the NCTE's (National Council for Teachers of English) Read-Write-Think website, you can search for lessons by the type of literacy strategy they use. Under the Venn Diagram section, there are lessons related to the Venn Diagram with two circles and to lessons that use three circles. Even if you are not an English or language arts teacher, there may be ideas contained in these lessons that could apply to your particular content area.

If you're teaching at the elementary level, this strategy could be used as a sorting activity or as a whole group activity. I liked the fact that this site provided a picture and a writing prompt to help students use the Venn Diagram tool. The idea of using artwork with the Venn Diagram could be expanded to fit multiple content areas at the secondary level as well as the elementary level.

This chart was constructed by sophomore students as we read William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. In each section of the Venn Diagram, students wrote examples and evidence from the text to show that this play had contained elements of tragedy, comedy, and tragicomedy.
This chart was constructed by sophomore students as we read William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. In each section of the Venn Diagram, students wrote examples and evidence from the text to show that this play had contained elements of tragedy, comedy, and tragicomedy.