4 Steps to Successfully Teach Compare and Contrast

Are you looking for a fun, engaging way to teach your students to compare and contrast? This can be one of the most difficult, yet powerful topics to discuss in any classroom. Understanding how items are similar and different is essential for student success. Fortunately, there are plenty of creative activities that make helping them learn this skill enjoyable! In this blog post, we’ll explore exciting ways in which teachers can put these concepts into practice with their students.

What is Comparing & Contrasting?

Teaching students to compare and contrast can prove challenging depending on the subject. If you follow Common Core Standards, they have a heavy emphasis on comparing and contrasting–especially different versions of the same story, characters, and their points of view. It’s crucial to set a strong foundation for what it means to compare and contrast before you can dive any deeper into these skills.

I am excited to share with you today some books and lesson ideas for teaching this skill!

How to Introduce Compare and Contrast

One of my favorite ways to introduce a new skill is with a short video. Pixar Short Films are the perfect tool to capture students’ attention and ignite a discussion.

Jinxy Jenkins and Lucky Lou is a perfect quick video for starting a conversation about compare & contrast. If you’ve never seen this video, it is about two characters who attract very different circumstances throughout their day. It is a great short video to start talking about things students notice that are the same and different. Here are some questions to guide your discussion:

  • Stop at 1:20
    • What do you notice about the man’s day?
    • What do you notice about the woman’s day?
    • How are they different?
  • How would you describe the woman? Share with students that her name is Lucky Lou. Ask if they feel that is a good description.
  • How would you describe the man? Share with students that his name is Jinxy Jenkins. Talk about what ‘jinx’ means.
  • Are ‘lucky’ and ‘jinxy’ synonyms or antonyms?

Explain that when we find ways things or characters are the same, we are comparing. When we find ways things or characters are different, we are contrasting. Now is the perfect time to introduce the reference posters for compare and contrast.

Compare and Contrast Mentor Texts

  • Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
  • Who Would Win? Tarantula vs. Scorpion by Jerry Pallotta
  • Now and Ben by Gene Baretta
  • Unicorn and Horse by David Miles

Texts to Compare/Contrast

  • Wemberly Worried and Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
  • Cendrillon: A Carribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci and The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin and David Shannon
  • Shark Lady by Jess Keating and The Watcher by Jeannette Winter

Whole Group Lesson

During lessons with the whole class, it’s important to focus on how to identify similarities and differences. Using context clues is especially important. In this mini-lesson, students are guided through sorting a set of statements telling how objects are alike and different. This is a great opportunity to discuss keywords like “both, also, just like” which show how they are the same, and “but, although, yet, however” which indicate differences.

Connecting to Small Groups

Using graphic organizers with texts that are on students’ level is the perfect way to connect the whole-group lesson to small groups. I love that these graphic organizers can be paired with almost any book! There are so many options to differentiate to meet your students’ needs! One group might be comparing two characters within the same text. While another group may be comparing two different story structures in two books.

Another great opportunity to apply the skill is through reading passages that focus specifically on comparing and contrasting. Students can practice this skill by identifying similarities and differences in both fiction and nonfiction passages which will support future comprehension and analysis.

Buy Compare and Contrast Activities on TpT

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Just as explicit and consistent phonics instruction is highly effective, so is keeping consistency with your reading comprehension lessons. Having the same set of materials for each skill is so helpful. That’s why I created Comprehension Kits. Each kit includes a lesson plan, mini-lesson materials, reference posters, and graphic organizers that can be used with any text! They are the perfect supplement to your whole group and small group reading comprehension instruction. Grab this FREE list of mentor texts to use for each reading comprehension skill. It also includes a scope and sequence to help you plan! —> FREE Mentor Text List

By scaffolding the Compare and Contrast strategy with these activities and mentor texts, you will be supporting your students in a way that allows them to access more complex texts independently. For a list of recommended comprehension mentor texts, click here. You can find more comprehension skills blog posts here. 

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