6 Tips to Teach Compare and Contrast

Out of all of the million strategies that we are asked to teach for reading, this has got to be one of my favorites. I love reading passages and analyzing how they're alike and different and I think it's fun for the kids too. 

Whether it's a paired passage narrative or a set of informational texts, there are so many things you can do with this concept, that it's hard to narrow it down to just a few. But, narrow it down I did and here they are...6 tips for teaching Compare and Contrast:

1. Use Real Life Examples

One of my favorite teaching strategies for reading is to show the kids how they are already doing this in real life, practice that (without all of those pesky words), and then once the kids are comfortable with the process, we connect it back to reading.

For example, if I asked them how a hamburger and a hot dog were alike and different, I bet they could tell me right away! How about cats and dogs? McDonald's and Burger King? 

Even better, it's more powerful to have a few real-life examples that the kids can see, right in front of them. For example, how are a basketball and a football alike and different? 

Or bring in some special guests (if they have agreeable personalities) and have them compare and contrast the custodian and the principal...could be interesting! All of these could be placed on a Venn diagram but personally, I think it becomes overkill, so we might do 1 - 2 of them now and just discuss the rest.

2. Teach Key Words
Once they are becoming more familiar with the concept, I like to teach them some of the clue words that they might see when asked to compare and contrast. We go over these phrases and actually practice using them with some of the real-life examples I mentioned.

3. Compare and Contrast Fiction

Using mentor texts is a great way to compare and contrast. Not only are they short, so you can read one or two at a single sitting, but they really capture the upper grade kid's attention. My students always love it when I read them one of these picture books and guess what... they learn so much from them too. It's a win-win! These are great to do as a whole class, unless you are lucky enough to have multiple copies of the same books and can put the kids in groups of 2 - 3.

4. Examine Fairy Tales

I really love to take a fairy tale and to show how it's alike and different around the world. Cinderella is a great one for this, as well as Little Red Riding Hood and others. Besides having the kids look at books that share the same titles, it's also great to compare and contrast different fairy tales. 

I love to go to our school library and check out a whole stack of fairy tales for the kids to read in small groups and then compare and contrast. Like how are Snow White and Sleeping Beauty alike and different? Or Thumbelina and Rapunzel? The possibilities are endless. 

5. Read Some Fables

Not only are fables great to use for theme practice, they're also great for compare and contrast. I really like the fact that they're short in length, not that I'm trying to encourage laziness by any means, but it is so much less intimidating to kids, to deal with short texts than long ones. That way, we can do lots of them without it feeling like a chore...very important for the upper grade child!

6. Include Biographies

Every spring, our upper grade kids put together a wax museum for the whole school. They first research a famous American, write a report about him/her and then dress up as that person. You should see our gym, filled with celebrities! They love it. Of course, biographies are great to read whether or not you do a wax museum. They're also great to use to compare and contrast famous people to famous people or famous people to ourselves.

Finally, I do love to use a resource (Compare and Contrast for 3rd - 5th) I've created specifically to let my kids practice the art of comparing and contrasting. It's full of paired passages, (10 of them) and some helpful graphic organizers, so you can print and go!

If you'd like to read some more compare and contrast ideas, here's another post you might like:
Compare and Contrast Activities

I'd love to hear if you've used any of these tips successfully or if you've done other things to compare and contrast too.



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