Diagnosing Compare and Contrast

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SWBAT show how characters in a text are the same and different using a Venn diagram.

Big Idea

Students identify key information about characters in a text and record on a story chart. They then use that information as well as other details from the text to compare and contrast two characters.

Unit Introduction

The lessons housed within this unit all provide practice on specific skills or strategies. Some lessons were written to see what students remember and/or can do at the beginning of the year. Others were used to re-teach groups of students who hadn’t quite mastered the chosen skill when it was first introduced. Still others were designed to give students meaningful practice while I conducted required testing.

All lessons used texts that were familiar or easily decodable so that students’ energies were spent on skill practice rather than trying to just make sense of the text itself. Many lessons include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, Teaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.

Setting a Purpose


Miss Nelson is Missing! (Allard, H. (1985). Miss Nelson is Missing! Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is another great text to use at the beginning of the year. Kids love the idea of a class throwing spitballs and paper airplanes. They’re also shocked when Miss Viola Swamp declares, “Shut your mouths!” They all gasp at the idea of a teacher basically telling students to shut up!

I like to use this text to see what students know about the skill of comparing and contrasting. Most often, they can’t tell me which is which - does comparing mean the same or does contrasting? Of course, we work during the year to solidify these terms. But for right now, I just want to know what they can actually do with the skill and what they have yet to learn.

After reading the story aloud, we go through a scaffolded activity. The first page is a character chart where we list details about selected characters and determine if they changed in the story. The second page we also complete together. It is a Venn diagram for Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp. This seems to build a lot of confidence in kids - it’s fairly easy for them to find ways that the two teachers are different from each other. However, sometimes they struggle to find similarities besides the fact that they’re both teachers. We work through this together.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Once I see that they remember how to complete a Venn diagram, I turn them loose to complete another on their own. This one is a bit more challenging as it compares the students in room 207 with their own class. It causes them to think a little more critically and typically shows me the great divide between students’ abilities. Many, of course, say that both classes are students while others state that both classes prefer to have fun over learning. 


Students turn in their completed diagrams when finished. I don’t normally go over these together as they’re mainly used as a diagnostic tool for me to learn about students’ ability to complete a specific skill. Instead, I use them to guide further instruction in this area.