Comparing Informational Texts

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SWBAT identify similarities between two texts on same subject.

Big Idea

Your students will experience what different authors have to say about the same subject. Two heads are better than one!



It was exciting to me when I found out that common core called for teaching from more than one type of informational text.  As I learned more about the anchor standards and started to understand how they worked with the state standards, I realized how content/subject matter could be much more interesting, meaningful, and memorable for students.  And, yes, in years past there was some form of addressing, reading, or teaching from an informational text, and that was just it, one informational text on the subject. 

 Common Core Connection:

Admittedly, when I saw anchor standard 9, analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the author take, I had mixed thoughts.  To begin with, I did not think First graders would grasp the concepts from or be capable of learning from more than one informational text, multiple authors, and more than one subject or theme, simply because the amount of information from multiple texts would be significantly greater. Then I thought, of course First graders would grasp that concept.  They love learning new things.

Lesson Overview:

In today’s lesson I am building on yesterday’s lesson of reading to get information.  In this lesson I introduced my students to two informational texts about snails and let them explore a third informational text collaboratively in order to determine how each text gave both similar and different information about snails.  (RI.1.9:  Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures)




5 minutes

As my little ones settled on the rug, I held up yesterday’s reading Are You a Snail?, by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries, and asked, “What did you learn about snails from this book we read yesterday”?  I then had them turn to their rug partner and partner share new things that they learned about snails.  When they finished sharing I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to call on three students to share with the class what he/she and their partner learned about snails from yesterday’s reading.  As these children related back what they learned, one student stated, “people eat snails”.  Whoa what?!  I had to stop and ask this student, “Where did it say that people eat snails in this book”?  Because this child could not answer, I continued by saying, “That is an interesting fact, because people do eat snails; however, it did not say it in this book”.  I then quickly explained we are only talking about things we learned from this one book. 

I continued by explaining, as in yesterday’s lesson the comprehension skill we are working on is topic, main idea, and details. 

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Before I started reading Snails, by Kevin Holmes, I showed my students the text features, explaining what the table of content was and how to use the chapter title and page number to find what they were looking for.  I showed them the chapters and explained how each chapter provided one new idea about snails.  I ended by showing my little ones the glossary, and clarified that this part of the book explained what the new or big words meant.  Before I began reading Snails, I reminded my students to listen for and look at pictures that are not only similar to yesterday’s reading Are You a Snail?, but also for those things that might be different.  As I read, I pointed out the chapter title and read pre-selected passages.  I did this because Snails is a very detailed text and has a lot of information about snails.  I made the decision to select a few passages with similar information about Snails, and several passages with different information.

When I finished reading I instructed my students to think about what I just read and had them share with their rug partner any new or different facts about snails from today’s reading.  When they finished sharing I called on students who were sitting quiet with their hand up to share with the class some new facts they learned about snails.  I then had my students take a stretch and directed them to, “look at your desk and slide to it like a snail”. (Slide Like a Snail)  It has been a long time practice of mine to associate a movement to the subject matter we are learning about to help keep my kinetic students interest, and to add a little fun to the class.

Once at their desks I displayed a Student Copy Topic, Main Idea, Detail graphic organizer from the day before on the Promethean board and pointed out this was yesterday’s work from Are You a Snail?  To review we chorally read the title, what the class decided was the topic, main idea, and the details they listed.  When we finished I passed out a blank Topic, Main Idea, Details graph organizer and also displayed it on the Promethean board,  and instructed the students to write the title of the text, Snails in the title section of their organizer.  I then asked them what the topic and main idea was for this book.  Without hesitation, several students said that the topic and main idea were the same as Are You a Snail?  I agreed with them, but wanted them to explain why.  As hands shot up I called on a student who explained, “The topics are both about snails, and both books are about information”.   After a brief exchange, my students decided that the main idea should be “To learn about snails”.

With that we moved to the detail section.  I reminded my students only to write information that we had learned from today’s reading.  As students shared out, I wrote their responses on the Promethean board.  I did this so my less independent students could finish and use their graphic organizer for their independent work.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Before my students moved into their leveled differentiated reading groups where they rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through independent work stations, two of those stations being independent journal writing and reading instruction with me.  I instructed them to take a moment to read both yesterday’s and today’s graphic organizers, telling them to pay close attention to the detail section.  When they had finished, I asked them what they had noticed about the detail section.  One student called out, “Some of the information is the same, and some is different”.   I agreed and asked why that was if both books were about snails?  The class was silent for a moment, and then I asked:

  • “Were the authors the same people”?  They replied, “No”. 
  • “After reading two books do you think we learned everything about snails”?  Again, “No”. 

The original student who answered ventured, “Some of the information is different because there is so much to learn”.  I agreed, and further explained there is so much about snails and that authors write what they think will be the most fun to learn about.

With that I explained that when it was their time to write in their journals, they were to write how the texts were the same and what new information they had learned into their journals.  For my less independent students I put this prompt on the Promethean board:

      In both stories Are You a Snail and Snails the topic is ____.  The main idea is ___.   

      Both books said __ and ___.  Some new information I learned about snails is ____,

      ____, and ___.


I usually do a quick check of my students journals when they first come to me.  The two student journal samples Student Journal Sample 1 and Student Journal Sample 2 are from my highest and beginning reading groups.  There is not a lot of detail in the second sample, but it looks like this student at least understands the difference between informational and literary texts.

When my students reached my group, I had them read a third informational text about snails, Let's Look at Snails, by Laura Waxman.  Usually when my students work with me in the reading group I work on foundational, phonics, decoding, fluency skills.  Today I wanted not only to give my students practice reading an informational text independently; I also wanted to model how to complete the Comparing Informational Texts Activity Sheet in a smaller group setting so that I could give my students the attention they would need so they would be able to complete this type of activity on their own during future lessons.

As each group rotated to my work area, depending on which group it was, I either read Let’s Look at Snails, to them or listened while they read it to me.  When they finished reading I modeled how to complete the Comparing Informational Texts activity sheet.  The two student samples Student Comparing Informational Texts 1 and Student Comparing Informational Texts 2 are from my second and third highest reading groups.  They tell me that I need to re-teach and model more for the students where the second sample came from.


Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker students explained to me why authors include different information when writing about the same subject.  This student is Pointing Out the Differences today's authors included.