Lesson plan

Compare and Contrast Story Elements

By fourth grade, most students are familiar with story elements such as setting, characters, and plot. In this lesson, students will compare and contrast the elements in two stories with similar themes.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to identify similarities and differences between two short stories with similar themes.

(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to name some of their favorite fiction stories, and record students' answers on a piece of chart paper.
  • Ask students to discuss with a partner why these stories are their favorites. If needed, guide students with the following questions: Do you enjoy the characters? Is the plot or series of events exciting? Is the theme or topic one that matters to you?
  • Tell students that oftentimes readers discover a passion for a particular book genre or type of story, and decide to stick with this type of literature for a period of time. For example, some kids like a particular author or books in a series. Explain to students that skillful readers regularly compare and contrast stories with similar themes, especially if it is a theme the reader enjoys. Explain that a story's theme is also known as the overarching topic or issue in a story; it's essentially what the story is all about.
  • Inform students that today they will compare and contrast elements of two short stories that both deal with a similar theme.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that to compare stories is to find elements they have in common, and to contrast stories is to find their differences.
  • Ask students to think of two well-known stories, such as "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" and "The Three Little Pigs." Briefly go over each story orally, and invite students to chime in and contribute to the basic story outline. Document the story outline (bullet points) on a piece of chart paper.
  • Explain that you chose these two stories because they share a similar theme of three animal siblings that discover an enemy who wants to eat them.
  • On a separate piece of chart paper, draw a Top Hat Comparison chart (see related media), and show how you compare and contrast the two stories. For example, in the goats' story, they overcome the troll by knocking him over into the river with their horns; while in the pigs' story, one of the pigs overcomes the wolf by building a sturdy house made of bricks. Add the stories' similarities to the bottom part of the chart. Be sure to include character, setting, and plot comparisons.
  • Have students consider the comparisons, and answer any questions they have.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the Comparing Two Stories worksheet on the document camera, and distribute a copy to each student.
  • Read aloud the two stories, pausing to answer any clarifying questions.
  • Then, instruct students to read the stories again with a partner.
  • Model how to complete the character comparison (the first row in the table).
  • Then, instruct students to work with their partner to complete the rest of the story comparison.
  • Circulate to offer assistance as needed.
(15 minutes)
  • Hand out the Compare Ghost Stories worksheet to students, and read the directions aloud.
  • Instruct students to read the two stories independently, and answer the questions on the second page.


  • During the independent work time, read aloud the stories, and have students answer the questions with a partner.
  • Highlight important parts of either text with different colored highlighters to help compare the two stories.


  • Have students complete a Top Hat Comparison Chart on their own with two stories they have read recently.
  • Students could complete the Compare and Contrast Fictional Stories: Persephone worksheet (see optional materials) for more advanced practice of story comparisons.
(10 minutes)
  • Lead students in a 1-3-6 activity.
  • After they have completed the independent work, have them share their answers to the questions in a group of three, and then in a group of six.
  • Model how to share your answers in both group formats. Review active listening skills and projecting one's voice.
  • Display the following sentence stems to use in the group discussion:
    • I agree with you when you say ____.
    • I disagree with your idea that ____ because ____.
    • What do you mean when you say ____?
    • I'd like to add ____.
  • Observe and take notes on students' six-person discussion to gauge their understanding of comparing short stories.
(5 minutes)
  • Show the video on story comparison (see related media), and have students identify the story elements the video uses as points of comparison.

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