4 effective ways to make Compare and Contrast stick + Freebie

"Which would you rather have, a dog or a cat?"  Students start murmuring while I draw a Venn diagram on the board.  

"Okay, have at it! Let's compare and contrast them."  I hold up the pen for the eager, first student.  Lots of kids want to share their ideas.                 

"So tell me, how are they the same?"  

Fewer hands go up.  One student writes "animals" in the center.  Another writes "four legs and a tail."

A monkey with his hand over his eyes

Not wrong.  Just obvious.  

Ask Questions

  • What are some things that you like that both animals do?  
Some responses might be that both are fun to snuggle with, they like to have their ears scratched, and they lift their leg when they're scratching their butt. Hey, they're sixth graders! 

Guided by a question, students move beyond the obvious to deeper comparisons.

Start with Pictures

 

Caravaggio's 1601 painting of Supper at Emmaus

 

Norman Rockwell's painting, typically called Thanksgiving

Caravaggio painted "Supper at Emmaus"  in 1601.  Norman Rockwell painted"Freedom from Want" in 1942.

Looking at pictures prepares students to read passages.  Students find common ideas (people at a meal, animated conversations going, an expectation that everyone will eventually sit down to eat, an important person at the head of the table, etc.)

Model, model, model

Model so that students can hear your thinking.  Using a book they know, ask:

  1. Which character would you rather be friends with, X or Y?
  2. Which setting would you prefer to live in?
  3. Which event would you rather be involved in?
  4. Which theme makes the most sense to you?

Work with Short Passages

I start with Aesop's fables because they're short.  Read two fables, or compare a fable with a story students are familiar with.  Every fable has a message that you can easily compare to books.


  • Do you want to simplify your life?  This freebie for Compare and Contrast has 17 pages of videos, fables, passages, and comparison charts.  It has video summaries and an answer key to make your life easy.  And, you can print it as a pdf or give your students the digital version.
  • Do your students struggle with Main Idea and Detail?  Read my blog post about the five tips I use with my students and get a lesson freebie there.

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