How to Compare and Contrast Elements of a Passage

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  • 0:01 What Does It Mean to…
  • 1:15 Compare
  • 1:49 Contrast
  • 2:18 Strategies
  • 3:40 Comparing and…
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to compare and contrast when analyzing pieces of literature. You will also learn different strategies to assist in identifying key similarities and differences when applying compare and contrast.

What Does It Mean to Compare & Contrast?

Comparing and contrasting is a skill often used in school for a variety of subjects, such as math, science and social studies. Teachers may ask you to compare and contrast numbers, results from a science experiment and early civilizations in history. You may even compare and contrast without even knowing it. Think about when you go out to eat ice cream. You probably don't go places thinking you will eat every flavor. You narrow down your choices by comparing and contrasting the different flavors. So, what does it mean to compare and contrast? How does it apply to language arts?

Language arts teachers often use this skill to assist students when analyzing a story or reading a passage. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the word analyze, it means to break something apart in order to be understood. A teacher may ask you to compare and contrast two or more settings, characters, events, effects and other story elements so that you can fully analyze what you are reading. Now let's find out just what these two words mean!


When you compare, you focus strictly on similarities between two story elements or things, depending on the question being asked. For example, when comparing 'The Turtle and the Hare' and 'The Lion and the Mouse,' we can see both are fables because they are short stories that use animals as characters to teach a lesson. We can also compare to see that 'Cinderella' and 'Hansel and Gretel' are both fairy tales because they are stories about magical characters that take place in imaginary places.


When you contrast, you will focus on how two or more story elements or things are different. Going back to our examples, 'The Turtle and the Hare' and 'The Lion and the Mouse' can be contrasted to see they are different because they teach different morals and use different kinds of animals to do it. When contrasting 'Cinderella' and 'Hansel and Gretel,' we see they are different because they have different plots, characters and settings.


How exactly do you document comparing and contrasting? There are several strategies that will assist you during the comparing and contrasting process. They will also serve as visual aids to help you see similarities and differences in whatever it is you are comparing and contrasting. Some of the best-known strategies are the Venn diagram and the T-chart.

The Venn diagram is a graphical representation that details all ways story elements or things can be compared and contrasted. You make these diagrams by drawing two circles that intersect each other. The differences are documented on the outside of where the circles intersect and similarities on the inside. This will help keep your information organized, so you can visually see both differences and similarities.

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