Making connections is crucial for language acquisition and mastery. Mariam Jean Dreher and Jennifer Letcher Gray at Reading Rockets have written an excellent article on how to use comparing and contrasting to comprehend.
Even though the article’s focus is on ELL K-3 students, I would argue that the strategies shared could benefit all students who have limited exposure to text. In the article, the writers share their steps on how to teach students to identify and use compare and contrast of text structures.
1. The teacher conducts a brief think-aloud activity, modeling the thinking that he or she does when reading a compare-contrast text. The teacher also records the similarities and differences between the things being compared and contrasted using a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram. The students’ role in this first think-aloud activity is to watch and listen to the model that the teacher provides. The teacher also points out features of the compare-contrast text structure itself, and creates a list of words or phrases in the text that students can look for to help them understand that they are being asked to compare and contrast two or more different things or ideas.
2. The teacher engages the students in a second think-aloud activity. At this stage, the teacher involves students by asking direct questions about the things or ideas that are being compared and contrasted in the text, and then supports students as they complete a graphic organizer either in small groups or as a class.
3. The teacher provides students with the opportunity to practice reading compare-contrast texts, either in small groups or individually. Students are instructed to use the same strategies modeled by the teacher during the think-aloud activities, and are given a graphic organizer to help them record and think about the similarities and differences between the things or ideas that are being compared and contrasted in the text.
The full article can be found here. It is a very informative piece.