T-Charts to Compare and Contrast using Newsela with Elementary Students

Students learn to compare and contrast Newsela articles using a T-Chart to identify similarities and differences
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Comparing and Contrasting with T-Charts

About This Strategy

Comparing and contrasting is a key skill for students at all levels. Newsela provides many non-fiction articles which students can use to read, annotate and analyze. This strategy helps students to organize notes and look for ways two articles can be similar or different.  Annotating and organizing notes in a T-Chart helps students to prepare for their written response so they can easily organize their writing.  

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Determine the Texts or Text Sets students will read based on the big topics of the curriculum or a topic that relates to the current unit of study.

  2. Develop a T-Chart graphic organizer for students to track what they know about the topic before and after reading as well as a place to take notes on the articles they read (see the resource section for a sample graphic organizer).

    • Students can also easily create a T-Chart organizer using a blank sheet of paper. 

  3. Decide whether to break the class into groups that deal with particular topics or if students can choose their own topics to research and write about.

    • The Text Sets in the Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets section below include more than two articles from Newsela. Decide whether you want students to choose two articles on their own or if you want to assign two specific articles to your class.

  4. Create an outline and rubric for compare/contrast responses (see samples in the resources section) so students understand the expectations of the assignment.

Student Preparation:

  1. Introduce students to the concept of compare and contrast by engaging in a simple discussion of similarities and differences between objects. Bring realia to class with you if possible. For example, discuss the similarities and differences between an apple and orange, or a baseball and football.

    • Tip: If you have the class split into groups, try to have two different items for each group! This makes it more fun and interesting and also helps groups stay focused on their topic.

  2. Brainstorm as a whole class or in small groups and then write down similarities and differences between the two items.

  3. As a class, make an anchor chart of what good readers do when comparing two objects or topics and what good readers do when contrasting two objects or topics

  4. Then, have students select a topic to read about using the search functions in Newsela or teacher-created text sets.

  5. Students should identify the items being compared in their T-Chart graphic organizer.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Ask students to read their two selected texts at their selected reading level and explain to students how they will be comparing and contrasting the two texts (for example, they can compare and contrast the way the authors explain a similar topic).  

  2. Students can begin to mark similarities and differences between the two articles using symbols (i.e. triangle for similarities and circle for differences) or different highlighter colors using Newsela Annotations.  This will make it easier to use their notes when writing their response.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After students have finished reading their two texts, have them annotate and add notes to each section of their T-Chart graphic organizer (included in the Resource section below). They should be noting how the texts are both similar and different. Encourage students to quote, summarize and paraphrase their notes.

    • Tip: If students struggle to include both comparisons and contrasts in one T chart, consider giving each student two T-charts to use -- one for comparing the two texts and one for contrasting the two texts.

  2. Then have students discuss the texts they read in a small group, using their T-Chart graphic organizer as a guide, and then ask volunteers to share their thoughts and notes with the whole class.

  3. Ask students to write a short (1-2 sentence) summary about each article.  Then add similarities and differences to their response template to organize their writing.

  4. Once students have completed their response template, they may type or write their final compare/contrast response.

    • Tip: Consider digitally distributing the T-Chart graphic organizer and response template for easy cutting and pasting!

  5. Have students share their responses in a small group or with the entire class.

Recommended Newsela Text or Text Sets


  • Essential Questions: Pollution exists in many forms on our planet. How are various types of pollution similar and different? What effects can these types of pollution have on humans?  How can we clean up the mess we’ve made?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: Science/ELA

Famous Authors

  • Essential Question: What similarities and differences can you find between two authors?  Consider their purpose, style, voice and tone in your response.
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: ELA/History

Struggles and Triumphs of Famous Athletes

  • Essential Question:  Athletes have to work very hard to perfect their craft.  What are some similarities and differences between the struggles and triumphs of two athletes in this text set?
  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: ELA/Health

EL Modifications

In this strategy, students can build upon their background knowledge and relate topics to their own schema and personal opinions, further deepening their learning. They can use the T-chart to organize their thoughts.


  • Differentiate Vocabulary:

    • Review the article or Text Set prior to implementation in the classroom.  

    • Determine vocabulary that might be challenging.

    • Pre-teach vocabulary using flashcards.

  • Have Spanish-speaking students read suggested articles available in Spanish.

  • Utilize a text-to-speech Chrome extension so students can listen to the articles while they read.

  • Provide an Anticipation Guide to give students some background knowledge about the topic they will read about.

  • Provide sentence starters to support students to write compare/contrast sentences. For example:

    • These two texts are similar because...

    • These two texts are different because...