Ohio Resource Center
Strategies:  Browse Reading Strategies


by Shannon Bumgarner
  What is comparing/contrasting?
Comparing/contrasting is a strategy that helps readers bring order to concepts. When good readers compare and contrast, they are able to analyze the material to discern patterns (Allen, 2004) and thus gain a stronger understanding of what they are reading. This makes the information memorable and leads students to successful learning across the curriculum. Good readers who use the comparing/contrasting strategy have learned to hone their observation and thinking skills and focus on both big ideas and details.

In the arsenal of strategies to help students become proficient readers, comparing/contrasting is useful in all kinds of reading. Thus, as Janet Allen (2004) advocates, students should get practice in comparing and contrasting a wide range of content matter that includes "events, historical figures, works of literature, speeches, political positions, scientific phenomena, and mathematical principles" (p. 19).

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  Where is comparing/contrasting discussed in the Ohio Academic Content Standards?
Comparing/contrasting is implied throughout the Ohio Content Standards for English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following benchmarks:

English Language Arts

Standard: Reading Process—Concepts of Print, Comprehension Strategies and Self-Monitoring Strategies
Grades 4–7
  Benchmark B. Apply effective reading comprehension strategies, including summarizing and making predictions and comparisons, using information in text, between text and across subject areas.

Standard: Reading Applications: Literary Text
Grades 4–7
  Benchmark F. Identify similarities and differences of various literary forms and genres.

Standard: Writing Applications
Grades 11–12
  Benchmark A. Compose reflective writings that balance reflections by using specific personal experiences to draw conclusions about life.


Standard: Life Sciences
Grades 3–5
  Benchmark C. Compare changes in an organism´┐Żs ecosystem/habitat that affect its survival.

Standard: Physical Sciences
Grades 3–5
  Benchmark A. Compare the characteristics of simple physical and chemical changes.

Social Studies

Standard: People in Societies
Grades 3–5
  Benchmark A. Compare practices and products of North American cultural groups.
Grades 6–8
  Benchmark A. Compare cultural practices, products and perspectives of past civilizations in order to understand commonality and diversity of cultures.

Standard: Government
Grades 3–5
  Benchmark C. Compare the defining characteristics of democracies, monarchies and dictatorships.

Standard: Economics
Grades 9–10
  Benchmark A. Compare how different economic systems answer the fundamental economic questions of what goods and services to produce, how to produce them, and who will consume them.


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  How does comparing/contrasting support reading comprehension?
As a reading strategy, comparing/contrasting calls on readers to think about what they are reading in order to determine likenesses and differences. So by its very nature, comparing/contrasting is a strategy that deepens comprehension. Comparing/contrasting aids reading comprehension because it helps students discover patterns over multiple sources of information.

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  What activities support students in comparing/contrasting?

One supportive comparing/contrasting activity is a graphic organizer that asks students to compare one text with another on the same subject. (Janet Allen has a good template for one in her Tools for Teaching Content Literacy.) Supply students with a worksheet (you might use either the "Text to Text" one from Allen, 2004, or the variation supplied with this strategy) and two different texts about the same topic. Have students compare several aspects of their reading and make notes on the organizer. Of course, as it is for other organizers, it's often a good idea to model the use of it before the students try it on their own.

Point to be compared/contrasted Text: The United States and Its Neighbors Text: The Battles of Lexington and Concord
Vocabulary words independence
Committee of Correspondence
Boston Tea Party
Continental Congress
Parliament The British law-making body—was and still is. The part of the British government that makes laws.
Stand-off at Lexington 70 Minutemen with Captain Parker waited silently on the green for the British to arrive. "Don't fire upon, but if they mean to have war, then let it begin here." On Lexington Green a few dozen Minutemen had a stand-off with hundreds of soldiers. Silence until a shot was fired.
First shot fired No one knows if shot was fired by a British soldier or a Minuteman. Some people say it came from the British side, while others from a Minuteman's musket.
Results from Lexington 8 colonists were killed; 10 were wounded; 1 British soldier was wounded. 8 Minutemen killed; 10 were wounded; 1 British soldier was hit.



The United States and Its Neighbors. (1982). Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett.

Raatma, L. (2004). The Battles of Lexington and Concord. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books.

A template for this comparing/contrasting chart is available for your use.

From the ORC Collection
For an after-reading activity that fosters comparing/contrasting and that students enjoy, try "Get the Reel Scoop: Comparing Books to Movies." The description in the ORC record (Record #1355) states:
In this lesson, students compare and contrast books to movies. The process of comparing and contrasting teaches students to think critically about the different forms of media presented to them. Working cooperatively, students describe how the elements of the book and movie are alike and different as they identify the characters, setting, plot, and climax. Students then take the ideas they have gathered through this process and complete an authentic writing experience (e.g., publishing movie reviews for the class newsletter, writing summaries for the school video collection). (author/ncl)
You can view the full ORC record, which includes a link to the resource along with information such as standards alignment, at http://www.ohiorc.org/record/?id=1355, or you can go straight to the resource at http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=46.


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  How can comparing/contrasting be used to teach vocabulary?
Janet Allen developed a word analysis map that can be used in all content areas, especially social studies. Look for it online at http://www.stenhouse.com/pdfs/0085appe.pdf; scroll down to page 135 (you don't have to scroll as far as the page number implies—the pagination begins at page 125).

Also see "Choosing, Chatting, and Collecting: Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy," Record #3804 in the ORC collection. The record summarizes the lesson this way:
In the vocabulary self-collection strategy, students choose the words they want to learn, offer a rationale for their selection, and agree upon words to include in a classroom collection. This strategy helps students to understand the meanings of new words, integrate new words in their conversations and writing, and make personal connections with words while reading. In this lesson, an online Shakespeare text is used as an example. The self-collection strategy is versatile and may be applied to any content area reading. This lesson can easily be modified and used with other content area topics as well. Although self-selection of vocabulary enhances students' motivation and achievement in learning new words, overuse of the strategy will diminish active engagement. (author/ncl)
You can view the full ORC record at http://www.ohiorc.org/record/?id=3804, or you can go straight to the resource at http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=296.

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  Where can I go for additional resources pertaining to comparing/contrasting?
Allen, Janet. (2004). Tools for teaching content literacy. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Allen, Janet. (2000). Yellow brick roads: Shared and guided paths to independent reading 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Harvey, Stephanie, & Goudvis, Anne. (2005). The comprehension toolkit: Strategy cluster 6—Summarize & synthesize. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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Allen, Janet. (2004). Tools for teaching content literacy. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Shannon Bumgarner has been an educator for 19 years, during which time she has taught special education, first grade, Title One reading, and fifth grade and has also served as a literacy specialist. She has provided professional development for several school districts and presented book studies on various teacher resources. She has been a SIRI instructor since 2000.

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