By Lyssa Sahadevan
Comparing and contrasting the most critical points in different texts about the same topic will help students learn more about the issue. When you compare texts, you tell how they are alike. When you contrast, you describe how they are different. Practicing this skill early will build foundational skills necessary for conducting research and interpreting information in later years.
I like to start teaching this concept with actual objects. We begin by comparing an apple and an orange. I bring both objects to school, and students pass them around and make observations. To get students talking, we do a think/pair/share where students talk about what they noticed. We reconvene for a whole-group discussion and make a chart.
After that, we compare and contrast items in our classroom: water bottles, student shoes, etc. Students identify similarities and differences without text interrupting the skill process; they build knowledge about this concept based on the experience. Next, we move to pictures. One of my favorites is a cat and a dog. First graders have big ideas about these furry friends! Finally, it is time for text. Two of my favorite texts are Hameray's Spiders and Spiderwebs by Jeffery L. Williams.
We start by identifying the essential information from each text. While reading, we jot down the important points on sticky notes. When done, we sort the sticky notes to determine the information that is the same and what essential facts stand alone. The work of sorting sticky notes helps students physically see the information that is the same and what is different. Students also begin to understand how two books on the same topic can offer the reader a wonderful mix of information.
Next, students compare and contrast with a partner, going through the same process. They love partner work, and the conversations around what is essential and where to place the sticky notes on the chart are valuable opportunities for students to learn from each other.
We practice with partners several times before asking students to independently complete the sticky note activity. Like any skill, it takes lots of practice, but it is time well spent! When students can compare and contrast texts, they think deeply about meaning, connect content between books, and develop life-long skills.
Fables & the Real World retells classic fables, each paired with three related nonfiction texts. This innovative series uses vibrant illustrations and stunning photography to engage emergent readers. Guided reading levels: E–M. Also available in Spanish.
Lyssa Turner Sahadevan has been an early childhood educator for over 20 years. She is passionate about all things literacy, is a former Teacher of the Year and loves sharing ideas with others. Lyssa lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and two silly boys.