Compare and contrast activities are excellent for helping students see the differences between two seemingly similar ideas or events, or the similarities in ideas or events which may seem completely contradictory. They help students visualize complexities and build a deeper sense of understanding.
By including these compare and contrast activities for middle school in your lesson plans across curricula, teachers can help students make connections that last a lifetime.
English Language Arts (ELA) Compare and Contrast Activities
1. Books and Movies Venn Diagram
Once in middle school, students begin to read more complex novels with deeper meanings. Many of these impactful books have been made into movies. Through the use of a Venn Diagram, students can analyze how movies capture the important elements of the books they portray.
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2. Signal Words
To have students practice linguistic skills behind comparing and contrasting, have them write a journal entry comparing/contrasting two things they are interested in. Provide them with a list of signal words to use, such as "also", "similarly", and "whereas". This list is beneficial for all learners, from elementary students to college students!
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3. Compare/Contrast Essay for Stories
This is one that's vitally important for the advancement of literacy skills. Being able to craft a written essay about what students know is a skill that'll continue to benefit them not only academically but as global citizens.
Learn More: Thought Co.
4. Aesop's Fables
Using free online reading passages, students can compare and contrast how stories are told and why details matter. You can even assign a variety of tasks to help students sort out similarities and differences according to student learning styles!
Learn More: UMass
5. Four Corners
Label each corner of the room with A, B, C, or D. Have 3/4 of students be "players" while a secret 1/4 are "fibbers". Read different prompting questions or statements about comparing and contrasting and have students move to which corner they think represents the correct answer. The "fibbers" can move to any corner to try to fool other students and sway their thinking!
Learn More: WikiHow
Math Compare and Contrast Activities
6. Peer Review
Comparing answers and methods in mathematical operations can help students see where they might have gone wrong. Before revealing the correct answer to a problem, have students pair up with their shoulder partner to compare their processes and results. If they have different answers, they may need to review to see where someone went wrong.
Learn More: Algebra And Beyond
7. Compare/Contrast Methods
Sometimes there are multiple ways to reach a conclusion. Try teaching different methods to students, then have them compare the techniques and decide which one they think is more natural for them.
Learn More: GSE Harvard Edu
8. In All Shapes & Sizes
Compare and contrast different shapes (2D or 3D) with objects around you. This is perfect for younger students and students who are still working on mastering the basics. You can even try this using specific molds of food or play materials, like play-doh.
Learn More: Dreams Time
9. Monster Cards
Using monsters printed on cards, have students compare different elements of the monsters. This combines the knowledge from ELA lessons about signal words with the mathematics of counting and shape identification!
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Learning how to plot points on a chart can really assist students in learning how to notice differences in trends or data, especially if they're visual learners! Start by giving them 2 different sets of statistics, then have them plot the points on a line chart. Then, compare and contrast the two lines!
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Science Compare and Contrast Activities
Similar to the chart activity for math, using graphs can show students in the science classroom the differences in data collection. The New York Times has a massive list of charts for free that you can use to help students learn how to decipher their meanings.
Learn More: NY Times
12. Different Sources for Data
Have students compile a list of sources for a given topic, then compare/contrast that information using a graphic organizer. This can help them sort out fact from opinion, and what's been proven versus what may just be speculation on the subject.
Learn More: Study Lib
13. Task Cards
Students can compare and contrast using task cards. These task cards can be virtual or hard copy and they cue the students to sort out what is the same and what is different. Just make your cards according to your topic, or use some pre-made ones!
Learn More: Boom Learning
14. Different DNA
Compare/Contrast at home with the differences amongst family members! Have students compile a list of similarities and differences between them and their relatives. Even if they're not blood-related, they may be surprised to realize just how many qualities they have that are the same, as all humans are 99% identical genetically! Have them put it in a Venn Diagram or other graphic organizer for easy comparing.
Learn More: Family Locket
15. Latin Root
Studying the Latin roots of scientific names can help kids realize patterns of similarities within the terms. This can even be collected through an anchor chart that you add to all year long to help keep students reminded of what they've already learned.
Learn More: Rock In Resources
History and Social Studies Compare and Contrast Activities
16. Venn Diagrams
Once again, a Venn Diagram may be the most efficient way to organize information for learners when it comes to historical events and leaders. Simply take the two subjects you're learning about and see where they're the same and where they're different.
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17. 2 Sides to Every Story
Divide the classroom in half. Read a prompt and have students move to one side of the room or the other according to what they think is true, then give 1 student from each side a chance to make a plea to try to convince members of the other side to flip. Not only is this comparing/contrasting 2 ideas, but it also has students think critically and logically about their options, and it's fun for students to get to move.
Learn More: Strictly Positive Teaching
18. Historical Figure Charts for Students
Teaching students about different historical figures can get confusing, so by having them create a chart about different people in history you can help them organize their thoughts and facts to later be able to compare.
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19. Compare/Contrast Essay
Another cross-curricular activity that's great for middle school student literacy growth is a historical compare and contrast essay! Give them some freedom in topic choice to promote interest.
Learn More: iUniversity Prep
An online tool students may find engaging is Piktochart! The teacher can make the Piktochart teach with or allow students to create one according to different aspects of history you're studying in class.
Learn More: Pikto Chart