Lesson Ideas for Comparing and Contrasting Content

Here are three lesson ideas to help students learn how to compare and contrast information in any content area

By Dawn Dodson

graphic organizers

A good way for students to demonstrate their comprehension of a text is through compare and contrast activities. By analyzing the similarities and differences between events and characters, students can better comprehend what they are reading. Students can do this by using graphic organizers, writing literature responses in journals, or creating a formal comparison essay. Here are the ways I incorporate compare and contrast activities into the classroom.

Using graphic organizers to list similarities and differences is an efficient way for students to record information. Venn diagrams and two-column charts are the most common forms of graphic organizers used for this purpose. I have students use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast different literature genres, characters in a story, and a book versus the film version. By using graphic organizers as a pre-writing brainstorming-strategy, students can then compose an essay using story details/class notes to support their comparisons.

In addition to graphic organizers, you can use journal prompts for student literature responses to assess students’ level of comprehension/critical thinking about a story or specific element. I like students to use two pages in their journals for these assignments. The first page is a two-column list of similarities and differences, and the second is used for a paragraph long response. I have my students begin with a brief summary covering the “five Ws” (who, what, where, when, and why), and transition into a comparison discussion. Students are required to support their comparison statements with evidence from the story.       

At the conclusion of a novel study, I have students choose one of their literature responses to use as a pre-writing draft to create a five paragraph comparison essay. The structure of the essay includes an introduction with a comparison statement, a three-paragraph body stating support for the comparison, and a conclusion that summarizes the main comparison. Students are provided with a rubric to guide their writing. After revision and editing sessions, students share their final drafts with the class. A benefit of utilizing the previous journal responses is that it helps to focus students’ writing.

From graphic organizing to informal and formal writing assignments, comparing and contrasting activities can be incorporated effectively into instruction. Graphic organizers, journal responses, and essays are all three ways to help students better comprehend content. Below are more lesson and activity ideas to help students compare and contrast information.

Compare and Contrast Lessons and Activities:

Venn Diagrams: Contrasts in Color

Through color-coding information, students choose two topics to compare and contrast. The coded information is recorded on a Venn Diagram for students to organize into an essay.

The Iditarod Race Compared to the Movie "Iron Will"

Although content-specific, in this lesson students research information about the Iditarod Race and compare their information to the movie by completing an essay.

Where the Wild Things Are

This lesson is also a movie versus book comparison. Students write a comparison essay to show the similarities and differences between the movie and the book.