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Teacher Tips and Answers

Warm-Up for Comparison-Contrast Essays

Explanatory essays share information about a topic. One way to explain two topics that interest you is to write a comparison-contrast essay.

What Is Comparing and Contrasting?

Comparison-Contrast Essays
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When you think about how two things are alike, you compare them. When you think about how they are different, you contrast them.

Comparing and contrasting reveal connections between people, places, things, or animals. For example, two animals that appear a lot alike—such as an opossum and a raccoon—may in fact be very different. (The oppossum is a marsupial). On the other hand, two animals that appear different—such as dolphins and whales—may share more in common than you think.

In this unit, you will write a comparison-contrast essay to explore how two subjects are the same and different.

Thinking by Comparing and Contrasting

Most writing focuses on one subject. Comparison-contrast writing focuses on two subjects. When you compare, you tell how the two subjects are alike. When you contrast, you tell how two subjects are different.


You can compare and contrast two subjects by listing details in a T-chart. Follow these steps to build a T-chart, and study the sample to see the steps in action:

  1. List details about one subject on the left side.
  2. List details about a second subject on the right side.
  3. Place check marks next to similarities.
  4. Underline any differences.

Mountain Bike

BMX Bike

✓Popular bike

High, heavy frame

Hard to do tricks

✓Rides well on smooth surfaces

Rides well on bumpy surfaces

Thick tires with deep grooves

Many gears

✓Popular bike

Low, light frame

Easy to do tricks

✓Rides well on smooth surfaces

Rides poorly on bumpy surfaces

Thin tires with smooth grooves

One gear

Teaching Tip

Encourage students to list similar points of comparison. If students record a detail about one aspect of the first subject, they should record a detail about the same aspect of the other subject.

Fill in a T-chart.

Study the picture of the two animals. Write down details about each animal's appearance in the T-chart. Place check marks next to the similarities. Underline any differences. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

State Fright
Sergey Mikhaylov/


Dolphin Whale

✓Fins on sides, back, and tail

Back fin is a pointy triangle mid-body

Pointy mouth

✓Long and slender

Smaller than whale

Bluish, gray color

✓Fins on sides, back, and tail

Back fin is flat triangle near the tail

Wide mouth

✓Long and slender

Much larger than dolphin

Bluish, gray color

Teaching Tip

Besides details from the picture, encourage students also to list details based on their prior knowledge of the two animals. For example, some students may know that both dolphins and whales are mammals that live in the ocean.


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