Comparing and Contrasting at the Story Level

Are you wondering how to work on comparing and contrasting after the basic vocabulary level? Are you wondering how you can help improve your student's comprehension using evidence-based strategies to do so?

One thing I am super passionate about when it comes to working with our older speech students is how to improve their comprehension and what to do after that basic vocabulary level! There is tons of evidence that shows that a great reader can recognize different text structures whether it is expository or a narrative text (fiction or nonfiction). Good readers can recognize when something is being compared or contrasted within a text. So that is something we can help our students achieve by giving them explicit strategies to be successful.  What do I mean by that? Well, teachers expect students to just pick up on some of these things. Maybe they make a cute anchor chart and tell the kids ok now we are going to read a story and work on comparing things. Our students may not see the connections between things in the story or they may not pick up on the key vocabulary. They might struggle with memory, or sentence structure, or even background knowledge which may hinder their ability to demonstrate what they understand. So now their teacher is asking them to compare some things and they don’t even know where to look. They don’t even realize that something was being compared so that they can be successful.

We have to teach our students how things can be similar. Maybe it’s the function, maybe it’s the way things look…..there are so many categories of how things can be similar and we have to build those EET description skills so that our students can have a framework and keywords to look for. A good way to start is at the picture level and show the students two pictures to compare so that they can get familiar with the key vocabulary and questions that might be asked when we are comparing things.

I may also show them a visual aide like the one below. I love visual aids because it makes it multi-sensory and it helps break things that are very complex down for our students. This way there isn’t much memorization and they can refer back to the visual aid or graphic organizer and there is a concrete strategy to follow. I like to go through these words that students may come across when they are comparing and contrasting so that they know what to look for.

I like to start with things that are simple such as two pictures of a house and have the students find ways that they are similar and ways they are different. I might then use something like two different Simons Cat videos and have the students compare and contrast and have them use a graphic organizer. Most of our students don’t even know how to use a graphic organizer so we need to break down the steps and walk them through it so that they can use them as a tool for success. When I am teaching students how to use graphic organizers to compare and contrast I always like to use the I do, we do, you do method. That way they can watch me think about my thinking and how I look for the answers, then we do one together where we talk it out and I kind of guide them with questions, and then we slowly go into them doing it independently. They need to have enough repetition, enough practice, and enough of that self-talk and awareness of what needs to go where in order to be successful.

Another thing I also really like to use is the Pixar short videos. I like comparing The Present to Mouse for Sale because they both have a person and an animal with something that is different about them that they are embarrassed about. It is really cool to see the students have the ah-ha moment when they realize how the videos are alike and how they are different. This is also a nice way to take the text piece out so you can just focus on the strategy and using the graphic organizers.

When working on comparing and contrasting at the story level, I love to use are my Compare and Contrast Boom Cards to help my students work on these skills because it gives a simplified story that is an easy read. I normally read it to them and we go through it and I will tell them ok this is a story that compares things and we see if they can find what two things are alike and being compared. I look to see if they are able to see the text structure? Can they see some of those keywords like although and but? Are they noticing the vocabulary? I might take the page marker chrome extension and doodle and highlight all over the Boom deck so that they can focus their attention on those keywords.

Then we go to the graphic organizer and the answers are all there. This is nice because they don’t need to retrieve all the answers and figure out where they go. They already have the answers so they can just focus on one thing and that is figuring out where the answers go. I make sure I always tell my students that I am not here to quiz you, I am here to help you learn easier, and feel confident. One of the ways I help my students feel confident is by starting with those things in a text that are explicit and then slowly transitioning into things that are more implied. If they feel successful at the beginning of learning something new with easier materials, they will be more willing to give it a shot when we progress to a little bit harder passage.

So I hope you found this helpful and that you can use these strategies and resources with ease and confidence! If you want to learn more, you can check out the video below and the resources I mentioned for engaging, no-prep, and low-prep activities to use with your students this week!

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