How to Compare and Contrast Nonfiction Texts

Today, we are going to look at comparing and contrasting nonfiction texts! This practice is important for students in their process of learning integration. Starting in Kindergarten, students should identify basic similarities and differences with simple compare-and-contrast activities. Then, building on the skill each year, they will begin to integrate information from a variety of texts in 4th grade! This will help students conduct research, interpret information, and become well-rounded readers.

Standards for Compare and Contrast Nonfiction Texts:

  • Kindergarten: With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).
  • 1st Grade: Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).
  • 2nd Grade: Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.
  • 3rd Grade: Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
  • 4th Grade: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Introduce How To Compare and Contrast

Compare and Contrast activities and lesson for first, second, third grade students

Your introduction can start with a simple compare and contrast activity. Students can compare and contrast two commonly known things. Without the text to interrupt the skill process, students will be able to identify similarities and differences and build on their experiences!

Compare and Contrast anchor chart

We all know that Venn Diagrams are a quick and easy way to organize similarities and differences. After some modeling and whole group work with Venn Diagrams, students will learn to divide information into three categories. Then, they can be added to any compare and contrast activity!

Model with Read Alouds

Here are a few texts that I would suggest for read-alouds. These can be read aloud once a day at the beginning of your mini-lesson time. Or these can be provided for students during one of the workstations so they can explore two texts on the same topic. The eight links below are affiliate links to Amazon.

Start By Simply Finding the Most Important Point in Texts

When adding texts to the mix, it is best to start with just finding important information. This is an activity that helps students identify important information and then sort it. Students will read two different nonfiction texts on the same topic. While reading, they will record important points or information on post-its, placing them under that text name in the diagram. Then, as a class, discuss the important points for each text and move any information that is in both to the middle of the Venn Diagram.  To read more about these two anchor charts and whiteboard activities, click here to read my older blog post.

printable lesson activity for compare and contrast

Here is another activity to get students ready! Students will work with a partner to identify the most important point of a short paragraph or text. Simply weeding through the information to find that important point will help them later, when comparing and contrasting different points!

printable lesson activity for compare and contrast

Building on the previous activity, students can read two nonfiction passages on similar topics. Using color-coding prompts, students will be able to identify important points from each text. Each of these simple comparison activities are going to be essential in the progression of understanding. Students have now had some experience with identifying important points and comparing information, just finding the similarities.

Then, Look For Differences

printable lesson activity for compare and contrast

With this new knowledge and experience, students will be ready for the next step: contrast.  It is time to start looking for differences in information and texts. In this activity, each nonfiction passage is about a habitat. The task cards will have students identify which text each piece of information came from. And, this helps them learn the differences between each habitat!

Practice Makes Perfect

printable graphic organizers for compare and contrast

With all new skills, I like to build a bucket of books that fit the standard. You can stock up at the library, and grab some Amazon or half-price books. Then, have graphic organizers available for students to use during independent or partner reading time. The graphic organizers will hold students accountable and help them build their skills!  With compare and contrast, a graphic organizer is the perfect activity to help students organize information and communicate their understanding!

Practice, practice practice! Reading passages that ask content-specific questions is going to be a great addition to your classroom! These practice passages can be used during small group, independent, or partner practice. They are a great way to measure a student’s skill mastery and understanding.

Lastly, remember that with new literacy skills, we want to expose students to little pieces at a time. It is okay to introduce this skill slowly and scaffold their learning throughout the process. If we move too fast, students may only partially develop skills and won’t reach total mastery.

Interested in a *free* Compare and Contrast activity?

Get this Compare & Contrast freebie sent directly to your inbox.

Or, are you looking for complete Compare & Contrast Units?

If you’re looking for complete Compare and Contrast units, I have those, too! Each unit comes with everything you need to teach RI .9: Lesson plans, graphic organizers, comprehension passages, assessments, and more!

Looking for more nonfiction teaching tips and ideas? Check out these blog posts:


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