Compare and contrast characters, settings, or events in a text (Inclusive Big Idea #3)

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 5: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #3: Compare and contrast characters, settings, or events in a text

Standard: Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact). RL.5.3

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Anchor Text: Use an anchor text like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. As students read or listen, encourage them to record similarities and differences between Edmund and Lucy, including how their relationship changes throughout the story. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Story Elements Chart: During and after reading or listening to a text, create a story elements chart with the class to answer questions about and make relationships between key details in the text and to compare elements within a story. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Grand Conversations: To delve deeper into various story characters, conduct a grand conversation with your class. Sitting in a circle, or sitting within a small group, pose questions about the character that the students would answer. Questions may include:
    • Who was the main character in the story?
    • What did the main character look like?
    • What did these characters do throughout the story?
    • What kinds of things did the character say to other characters in the story?
  • Think, Pair, Share: Ask students to think individually about a question then meet with a peer to discuss their answers. Then, after they have had time to discuss with a peer they can share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Learn more about Think, Pair, Share in this TIP Sheet.
  • Think Aloud: The purpose for asking students questions about texts is to get them into the habit of self-questioning as they read by themselves. To model this, read aloud a book in front of the class. Then, periodically, stop and ask questions out loud. As you continue to read, begin answering the questions yourself.
  • Graphic Organizers: Use a Venn diagram, character web, or flowchart to organize each character’s risk and consequences. Have students use details from the story to support each character's main thoughts and actions throughout the story. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Map: During or after reading a story, students can draw a map of the major settings from the story, including some small images of a major event at each site then compare settings from different parts of the story.
  • Movie Posters: Students can craft a movie poster that presents one of the major settings and events from the story then compare settings from different parts of the story.
  • Story Map: During or after reading, students can write or draw out the major events of the story. This could be a linear timeline with pictures and/or text, or integrate pictures and text into something resembling a comic strip then compare events from different parts of the story.
  • Story Organizer: Students can fill in a graphic organizer or plot diagram that captures the main events of the story. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that the lesson requires a student to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • provide choice of statements describing characters that students can sort using a graphic organizer
  • use collaborative online templates for students to add ideas and collaborate
  • chunk information: begin with matching details with a setting, character, etc. then repeat and compare with a second example.
  • allow for flexible seating and positioning

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • What Are “Story Elements”?
    • Story elements, sometimes called story grammar, are the parts of a story. These elements develop the story in a logical way to enable readers to easily follow the text. In this big idea, focus on character, setting, and main events. Model for students how to analyze relationships and use key details.
    • Some Story Elements:
      • characters- the individuals in the story
      • setting- the location and time period where the story takes place
      • plot- what happens in the story; has a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • problem/conflict- the incident that sets the story in motion
      • solution/resolution- how the character(s) solved/fixed the problem or conflict
  • What Is a “Plot Diagram”?
    • A plot diagram in literature is basically a map of the book or story. It includes a beginning, middle, and ending for simpler stories. More complex stories for advanced readers will include the introduction, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement (final outcome) as represented in Freytag’s Pyramid. The most common graphic organizer used to analyze the plot of a text looks like this:
Line diagram with a upward sloped diagonal line that connects to a falling vertical line. Along the rising line are Exposition/Beginning, Rising Action, and Climax. Then Falling Action and Resolution fall down.


Looking for more suggestions?  Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Go beyond the specific standard! These examples can spark ideas to generalize related skills from the content to real-world experiences for all students.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Story Elements: Students often miss aspects of story elements when summarizing a text. In addition, some texts are considered “inconsiderate” texts and do not provide enough to allow students to fully understand all story elements, so they must fill in the gaps with prior experiences and personal preferences, leading to problems with comprehension. Students may be unaware that there can be multiple plots, settings, and characters affecting the story to varying degrees.
  • Setting: Setting can include real or fictional places, as well as time periods (e.g., in historical fiction).
  • Reader Response: Some students may believe there is only one way to interpret a text. Students need to consider how their prior knowledge and perspective influence their understanding of a story.
  • Writing: Develop a narrative structure for an imaginative story using the same plot diagram graphic organizer.

Everyday Connections

  • In the Counselor’s Office: After identifying the problem and solution in the text, have students identify a problem in their own lives, and discuss methods of conflict resolution.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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