How to Compare and Contrast with the Common Core in Second Grade

second grade compare and contrastLast week, I presented how to compare and contrast in third grade. In order for second-grade students to be prepared for the increase in rigor and expectations of a formal testing grade the following year, students should practice compare and contrast. This is a complex task, but enables students to demonstrate close reading, comprehension, and interpretation of texts.

Below is a comparison of two books by the same author (Monica Brown) and with the same character (Marisol McDonald). I have created sample questions to teach towards and check mastery of each of the broad 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.


Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina (level: L)

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Marisol McDonald And The Clash Bash/Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual (level: M)

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

Marisol McDonald and the Monster/ Marisol McDonald y el monstruo

Buy the collection here.

Why: I have chosen these three texts because the stories are typical of childhood experiences, the themes are accessible, and they enable students to dig deeper into meaning with familiar characters. Using books in a series allows educators to ease students into the process of comparing and contrasting. Books with the same character, author, and setting provide a low threshold of entry because students can readily identify immediate similarities and focus on the differences. In these books, the character, Marisol McDonald, will tackle new problems with the same character traits and motivations.

Key Ideas and Details:

  1. Compare and contrast the who, what, where, when, why, and how of each book. Who is the main character? What problem is Marisol McDonald trying to solve in each book? (Follow up: How are those problems similar or different?) Where and when does each story take place? How do the characters around her feel about her fondness for being mismatched? How does she solve her problem in each book? Why did Marisol solve her problem the way that she did?
  2. How are Marisol’s friends the same or different in Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match and Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash? How are their attitudes about Marisol’s uniqueness similar or different in each book?
  3. playground image from Marisol McDonald and the Clash BashCentral Ideas: What are the central ideas in both books? What evidence do you have to support the central ideas? How are these central ideas similar or different from each other?
  4. Central Message/Moral: Compare what Marisol learns about herself in Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash, and Marisol McDonald and the Monster. What are the central messages the author is trying to suggest to readers in both books? How are these central messages similar or different from each other? What words or phrases does the author use to suggest the central messages?
  5. How did Marisol change the minds of the people around her in Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash, and Marisol McDonald and the Monster?
  6. How does Marisol react to the people around her when they criticize her choices to mismatch in the first book, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match? How does Marisol respond to the people around her when they criticize her choices to mismatch in the second book, Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash? How does she change from the first book to the second book to the third book?

Craft and Structure:

  1. Point Of View: Compare what point of view the author uses to tell each story. What is the purpose of having the main character tell the story to us and let us hear her thinking even when she is not speaking out loud?
  2. Purpose: How does the author use dialogue to tell each story? What is the purpose of using dialogue to tell each story?

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  1. How are the illustrations similar or different in each book? Why would the illustrator, Sara Palacios, want to make the illustrations consistent across both books?
  2. How do the illustrations in each book help readers understand who Marisol is, her character traits, and her motivations? What can readers learn from the illustrations of Marisol?
  3. After reading each book’s scenarios where Marisol embraces her identity, what common features or characteristics does a Marisol McDonald book have? If students were to write the fourth book about Marisol, what kinds of things happen in a Marisol story? What are some things that will not happen in a Marisol story? What central ideas and lessons will be in a Marisol story?

What have you found successful in teaching how to compare and contrast?

Buy the collection here.

Further reading on teaching literacy in Second Grade:

Further reading on the Compare and Contrast series:

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. 

13 thoughts on “How to Compare and Contrast with the Common Core in Second Grade”

  1. Are the Marisol books out of print? If so, do you have any other Lee and Low book suggestions for this third grade lesson? Thank you so much!

  2. Hi Tonya-

    Thank you for asking! We are temporarily out of stock but the books are definitely still in print. If you are planning to use this lesson before the books are back in stock and you are looking for other grade 2 Lee & Low title suggestions, I recommend the Elizabeti book series (! The guided reading levels are beginning to middle of second grade level. The Elizabeti series will allow your students to analyze character traits across books and in multiple events like the Marisol books: Let me know if you want to discuss further!

Comments are closed.