Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Steps to Improve Reading Comprehension with Paired Texts

By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger

Paired texts offer engaging ways to help kids achieve Common Core State Standards for reading literature and informational texts during your guided reading lesson plans. In today's blog post, I'll describe which standards you can help students work toward as well as steps to incorporate paired texts that are great for reading comprehension practice.

Common Core Literature Standards for First Grade

  • Asking and answering questions about key details using the text and illustrations.
  • Describing key details about the characters, setting, and major events.
  • Comparing and contrasting books that tell stories with books that give information

These standards can easily be taught during a guided reading lesson using paired texts. To start, you can review the terms characters and setting . Then have students do a picture walk and asking them to make predictions about The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat based on the illustrations. Then read the book together. After reading, ask students if any details in the illustrations helped contribute to their understanding of the story. Ask students the following questions about key details in the story and have them prove their answers by showing evidence from the text or illustrations:

  • What problem are the animals trying to solve?
  • What reasons make the birds think they are best?
  • What reasons make the beasts think they are best?
  • What solution do the animals come up with to solve their problem?
  • Who does Bat think is best and why?
  • What is the setting of this story?
  • Have you ever wanted to win so much that you switched teams? How did your friends respond?

You can model retelling the story including many details from the questions listed above. Then ask students to retell the story to a partner. You can also have students draw and label a picture of what they think will happen after the end of the fable.

Common Core Informational Text Standards for First Grade

  • Asking and answering questions about key details in the text and illustrations.
  • Identifying the main idea and key details.
  • Using context clues to determine the meaning of a word.
  • Identifying nonfiction text features, such as headings, glossary, and index, to aid in reading comprehension.

Is it a Bird or a Bat? is one of three nonfiction books for kids that pairs with the fable of The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat . Before reading the informational text, ask students about their prior knowledge about birds and bats. You may even want to do this a day in advance so you can help supplement the introduction to the topic if students lack prior knowledge.

After reading the leveled reader, you can ask students questions about key details in the photographs and text. You may want to make a chart that students fill out about each animal. Below are a few examples of details students may include.

Using paired texts deepens student comprehension on a topic. One of the overlapping Common Core standards for both narrative and informational texts is comparing and contrasting books. Paired texts offer the perfect opportunity. In first grade, a story can be read throughout a week. Each week you can choose two stories to compare and contrast. You can do this using a Venn diagram, which students can enjoy creating on dry erase boards or within a graphic organizer that students can glue into a writing journal. Here's an example:

Following a Venn diagram, you can get students motivated to move around by putting each book on a different side of the room. Call out observations from the Venn diagram and ask students to move to the side of the room closer to the appropriate book. If you say something the books have in common, students can move to the middle of the room.

Another activity could be a writing prompt where students explain how reading Is it a Bird or a Bat? helps kids better understand the characters in The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat . Toward the end of first grade, students can also write a paragraph to compare and contrast the two books. You can provide kids with a topic sentence, and then students can add details to explain how the leveled books are different and similar. You could also invite a park ranger or zookeeper to the class to talk about these animals.

Paired texts provide many opportunities for reading comprehension practice of both fiction and nonfiction books. When students read a fable with topics that overlap content in a nonfiction book, they develop a deeper understanding of the characters, settings, and events. By comparing and contrasting paired texts, students continue to expand their knowledge and build content-area literacy skills.

Come back again soon for more literacy strategies you can incorporate in your classroom!


Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog .