Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Through elementary school, readers will learn to compare and contrast within and between texts. By first grade, readers can practice comparing two texts as they continue to learn decoding, sight words, and vocabulary. Comparing and contrasting are useful because teachers can assess students’ abilities at close reading, comprehension, and interpretation, as well as expose even new readers to deeper interactions with a text.
Below is a comparison of two books of similar topic and genre. I have created sample questions to teach towards and check mastery of each of the three Common Core categories. These are by no means the only questions to ask in each category, but these provide an overview of the progression in question complexity and mastery of the texts.
By creating a range of compare and contrast questions across the standards, we are able to differentiate for students within a class, provide extension opportunities for ready learners, or move the whole class from literal- to higher-level thinking over the course of several lessons.
Twister’s Tricks (level: F)
What Boo And I Do (level: H)
Why: I have chosen these two texts because both present familiar content that expands beyond typical children’s experiences, the speaker is assigned and identifiable, the themes are accessible, and both texts enable students to dig deeper into meaning while in familiar settings. Books with similar central ideas and subjects provide a low threshold of entry because students can readily identify immediate similarities and focus on the differences. In these books, two girls relate their experiences of having and training a pet with different motivations and actions.
Key Ideas and Details:
- What tricks can Twister do? What tricks can Boo do? How are these similar or different? How is training a horse similar or different to training a dog?
- What equipment does Boo’s owner need to have a dog for a pet? What equipment does Twister’s owner need to have a horse for a pet?
- What is the central idea(s) of What Boo And I Do? What is the central idea(s) of Twister’s Tricks? How are these central ideas similar or different?
- Compare how the adults in each book interact with the animals. Who helps whom in Twister’s Tricks? Who helps whom in What Boo And I Do? Why might Twister’s owner need an adult help compared to Boo’s owner?
- How do Twister and Boo demonstrate patience and gentleness? What other character traits do Twister and Boo have? How is their behavior towards the children similar or different?
- Compare how both girls demonstrate responsibility towards their pets.
- Compare the purposes of each girl training their pets. Why does the little girl in What Boo And I Do train her dog, Boo? Why does the other little girl in Twister’s Tricks train her horse, Twister?
- Compare Twister and Boo’s physical features and behavior. What makes Boo more suited for working with senior citizens than Twister? What makes Twister better adapted for living in a field?
Craft and Structure:
- Compare the point of view each author uses to share the information. Who is narrating each book? How do you know who the narrators are if you don’t know their names? Although both books are written in first person, why might both authors choose not to tell you the narrators’ names?
- What kind of books are these? (storybooks, poems, nonfiction, etc.?) What text features prove what kind of books they are?
- What words, phrases, or images show how each author feels about responsibility and respect towards animals?
- What words, phrases, or images show how each author believes animals can help people?
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
- How do the pictures in each book help readers figure out a new word? How do the photographic illustrations in both books help readers understand who Twister and Boo are, their character traits, and their relationships to the girls? What can readers learn about Twister and Boo from the photographic illustrations?
- What features do these books have that make them nonfiction? How are they similar and different from other nonfiction books? If students were to write a book about their own pet, what common features should be in the text? What are some things that will not happen in the text? What central ideas will be in a nonfiction book about a child’s pet?
What have you found successful in teaching how to compare and contrast? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
For further reading on teaching literacy in First Grade:
- What Does Close Reading Look Like In First Grade?
- How to Read with Your Rising First Grader This Summer
- Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books In First And Second Grade
- Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening In Grades K-1
For further reading on the Compare and Contrast series:
- How To Compare And Contrast With The Common Core In Kindergarten
- How To Compare And Contrast With The Common Core In Second Grade
- How To Compare And Contrast With The Common Core In Third Grade
- How To Compare And Contrast With The Common Core In Fourth Grade
- How To Compare And Contrast With The Common Core In Fifth Grade