Compare and Contrast Nonfiction Text Structure


Throughout the course of the lesson, students will read and write examples of the compare and contrast text structure, identify keywords that signal its use, and set a purpose for why they might use it in their own writing. By the end, they’ll be well practiced in this essential reading and writing skill!

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Text comparison in the nonfiction genre allows students practice in analyzing and comparing information, structures, topics, and author’s style. The lesson asks students to consider what it means to both compare and contrast, and then provides a list of questions for students to use to help them compare two nonfiction texts. Students are often asked to compare and contrast two different texts on state standardized tests, so this lesson can be used as meaningful test preparation.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction: 

  1. Call students to the carpet/front of the room to sit together. Read the short instructional passage “It’s Gonna Blow!”.  Ask students to turn and talk to a partner to discuss which nonfiction text structure the passage used. Write the choices: Problem and Solution, Compare and Contrast,  Sequence/Chronological Order on the board to offer your students a basis for their answer.
  2. The correct answer is a compare and contrast piece. Ask students to tell you how they came to their answers.  Possible suggestions might be that the passage described how different types of volcanoes were similar and different. It did not offer a timeline of a volcanic eruption. It did not talk about the problem of eruptions and then offer solutions. So, students could use process of elimination to determine the correct choice.
  3. Explain that today students will begin learning about nonfiction text structures. Nonfiction topics will always be real and based on fact, not opinion. The structures refer to how the text presents information. List the five different major types of nonfiction text structures on the board, but circle compare and contrast: List:  cause and effect, compare and contrast, problem and solution, sequence or chronological order, and description.   Now describe compare and contrast on an anchor chart:
    Compare and Contrast Nonfiction Text Structure
    Compare and Contrast Text Structure Characteristics:

    The author is talking about two or more items that are in one subject area or topic.

    The author discusses similarities between the items.

    The author discusses differences between the items.

    Keywords: different from,  same as,  similar to, both, differences/different, as opposed to, instead of, although,  however, compared with, other than, in contrast to, while, but, also, more, less, bigger, smaller

    There are many others as well! Some words that show you comparisons are specific to topic and may not be on a set list of words.

    Example( Look at the highlighted keywords: While hamsters and gerbils are both members of the rodent family, they have noticeable differences in their appearances. Both animals have a tail, but the hamster’s tail is small and bald,  as opposed to the gerbil, which has a long, fur covered tail.
    Purpose: The information is presented so that the readers can organize the similarities and differences in facts, events, items, or concepts. A Venn Diagram or T-Chart is often used to visually organize information.
  1. Have students work with a partner to read the Activity Page One. Students will actively read by underlining or highlighting key words that help them compare and contrast. They will then complete a T-Chart to compare and contrast information. After all groups are done, create one large T-Chart with the whole class, using student responses that they volunteer.
  2. Students will independently complete the Practice Page and Venn Diagram.
    1. After completing independently, have them work with groups of four to check for accuracy. Go to each small group to check in and make sure they are correct.
    2. Homework: Students will choose two animals or plants in the same family (for example a tiger and lion or a Spruce Fir and a Douglas Fir) or two people who are in the same field, such as two presidents, two NBA players, two jazz musicians, etc. They will write their own short compare and contrast piece. They will have a student classmate partner with them after completing their individual assignment. They will exchange papers and see if they can successful complete a T-Chart or Venn Diagram based on the partner’s paper.
    3. Students will complete a Quiz.

    NOTE: Before you begin each day’s instructional time, it is a good idea to review the anchor chart!


Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards

Compare and contrast the overall structure
(e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/
effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas,
concepts, or information in two or more
Analyze multiple accounts of the same
event or topic, noting important similarities
and differences in the point of view they

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