Learning to compare and contrast different ideas deepens students’ understanding of what they read. How should you begin? Have students think of a question that compares and contrasts concepts, characters, or story elements. This can work for both fiction and nonfiction books. You can introduce this during a whole-class read aloud. You might ask students to compare two characters in a story. How are Frog and Toad alike? How are they different? They can also compare two different stories they have heard. How are the story elements in Cinderella like the elements in Sleeping Beauty? Comparing and contrasting key ideas in nonfiction may present some challenges. However, learning this strategy will help students better understand increasingly complex text they read as they advance through grade levels. How are frogs and toad similar? How are they different? You can have students practice asking a question to a partner and having the partner answer it after they finish reading.

In the video below, literacy expert Jan Richardson begins by making a chart with second graders. The chart compares and contrasts two different kinds of deer in All About Deer, a nonfiction Explore the World book they read. Students then pick two deer and write about how they are the same and how they are different. Note how Jan first models how to do the task and then supports students as they make their charts and then begin writing. She provides extra support with the Yellow Questions card from our Comprehension Box Set.

For more information and other ways to practice this comprehension strategy, see page 275 in Jan’s book The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. I hope you’ll find it to be a useful tool for your developing readers!