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Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Children to Compare & Contrast

A few weeks ago, my two year olds and I were perusing the shelves of the library when they stumbled upon a book that they wanted to read "because there is an apple and an orange, and I like fruit!"  I flipped through it and threw in into our pile.  Little did I know I would be reading that book every. single. night. for the next three weeks.  Luckily, the book itself is quite hilarious, with an imaginative premise and delightful artwork.  I  fell in love with the author Sara Pinto.  The book,  Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas with Pairs, has children consider how two things are alike...and on the next page has a clever similarity so absurd you would never imagine think it up on your own!  (Take for example...Apples and Oranges both don't wear glasses!)

With every passing night that I read this to my toddlers, I knew I wanted to use it in a compare and contrast lesson with big kids.  This book is sure to please even the older crowd because of its antics, and I just LOVE incorporating picture books into lessons.  

The book would be perfect for an introduction to the concept of comparing and contrasting using similarities and differences.  Even though it only asks for how the two items are alike, you can challenge students to think of differences too before you turn the page and get to the funny similarity.  Here is an anchor chart example to use with the book:

After going through the first six pages together, I made a worksheet for the students to finish out the book with less guidance.  Continue reading the book, but before you reveal the funny similarity, have students brainstorm similarities and differences on their own or in their small groups.  Since they know to expect that funny on the next page, there is a spot on the sheet for them to come up when their own "they both don't..."

After the book, consider doing a journal entry with students in their reading notebooks!  Here is an example of mine.  The pool and beach comparisons would lend themselves well to learning to write a compare and contrast paragraph as well. 

Finally, differentiated task cards are a perfect way to transition into comparing and contrasting from longer reading passages.  These differentiated compare and contrast task cards are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Here's a suggestion on how to use them!

There are five different types of cards in this set that progress from easiest to more difficult.  They start having students compare pictures based solely on the qualities of the picture.  Then, they look at a picture and compare it to something they know in their life.  You can see in the above picture that there is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Students make a list of how it is the same and different as what they see out their window right now.  The third type of card has students decide whether something is being compared or contrasted--is the writer noting a similarity or a difference?
The fourth card has students list similarities and differences between two things or items (a pencil and a marker) before finally reading a short passage and answering questions on the last type of card.  This is a great way to differentiate or scaffold student learning!

Here is a picture of the set up before students work on it.  Each group (there are enough cards for 4 or 5 groups to all have different cards if you want them to) progresses through the 5 task cards on chart paper.  You could have them walk around and read each other's when they are done, too.

Of course this is just the tip of the ice berg of teaching this skill.  Your next step is comparing and contrasting two books, including the settings, characters, ideas, changes, etc.  These activities will get you will on your way to that!

What ideas do you have for teaching students to compare and contrast?  Any favorite books?  Please share them in the comments!


  1. I hadn't heard of this book, but I'm adding it to my list! Thank you for sharing!

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late

  2. Love the book idea. I am going to have to see if our library has it. :) Also, love the way you set up the task cards for a group to work on. I own those cards {because of course I had to buy the HUGE bundle that you have because you are amazing} so I am going to do this with my students this year! Thanks for the great idea!

    Funky in Fourth

  3. Thanks for the great idea and the worksheet! I am definitely going to get that book. It sounds so cute! I love seeing the activities you do in your class. Thank you for always sharing.
    Thrills in Third Grade

  4. I love the idea of using the task cards on the chart paper for groups! Brilliant!

    Mrs. Cain's Creations

  5. I have the task cards already and love them! I was just pulling them out. This activity is awesome. I am going to add a little technology to the piece and have the kids work in partners to take photos of two objects with the ipad to compare and contrast=) Thanks for sharing!!

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  11. They start having students compare pictures based solely on the qualities of the picture. Then, they look at a picture and compare it to something they know in their life.Yepi

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