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Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Comparing & Contrasting
Ages: 6-12   Grades: 1-7

Teach the skill of comparing and contrasting in a variety of unique verbal and visual contexts.  Students practice strategies and learn to apply them to their everyday thinking and decision making.


  • Improve language-based thinking and problem solving
  • Consider experiences, review choices, explain answers, and apply what is learned to real-life situations
  • Compare and contrast a variety of objects and human traits
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Build basic reasoning skills with step-by-step instruction and activities designed to build on success.  Start by teaching students the vocabulary of comparing and contrasting (i.e., words such as alike, different, similar, shape, location).  Then, use the one-page activities to teach students to:

  • tell how things are alike and different
  • identify what belongs and doesn't belong in a group
  • compare by characteristics
  • identify similarities

The book is written in the proven success format of the Spotlight Series with: 

  • activities sequenced by complexity
  • visual cues that are gradually faded
  • skills defined in student-friendly terms
  • a variety of curricular and daily living topics
  • simple sentence structure and vocabulary so students can focus on learning the concepts 
  • minimal writing requirements in the beginning activities
  • a pretest/posttest

You may purchase Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Comparing & Contrasting individually or as part of the 6-book Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving set.  The 6-book set consists of:

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Causes & Effects

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Comparing & Contrasting

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Facts & Opinions

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Making Predictions & Inferences

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Sequencing

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Solving Problems


Copyright © 2007

40 pages, pretest/posttest, answer key
  • Reasoning skills encourage critical thinking and meta-awareness of internal thought processes.  Reasoning skills support students' logical judgments based on conscious reflection and sensitivity to multiple viewpoints (Little, 2002).
  • Reasoning and critical thinking are necessary skills for competence across the curriculum.  They require students to examine, relate, and analyze all aspects of a problem or situation.  Students engaged in critical thinking must make associations that connect problems with their prior knowledge (Pellegrini, 1995).
  • Questioning is the core of critical reflection.  It prompts students to engage in a research process that fosters higher-order thinking skills and social-moral attitudes (Daniel et al., 2005).
  • Explicitly teaching and reinforcing inference-making leads to better outcomes in overall text comprehension, text engagement, and metacognitive thinking (Borné, Cox, Hartgering, & Pratt, 2005).

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Comparing & Contrasting incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Borné, L., Cox, J., Hartgering, M., & Pratt, E. (2005). Making inferences from text [Overview]. Dorchester, MA: Project for School Innovation.

Daniel, M.F., Lafortune, L., Pallascio, R., Splitter, L., Slade, C., & de la Garza, T. (2005). Modeling the development process of dialogical critical thinking in pupils aged 10 to 12 years. Communication Education, 54(4), 334-354.

Little, C. (2002). Reasoning as a key component of language arts curricula. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 13(2), 52-59.

Pellegrini, J. (1995). Developing thinking and reasoning skills in primary learners using detective fiction. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, 1. Retrieved April 8, 2009, from


Paul Johnson, Carolyn LoGiudice


Paul F. Johnson, B.A., and Carolyn LoGiudice, M.S., CCC-SLP, are editors and writers for LinguiSystems.  They have collaborated to develop several publications, including Story Comprehension To Go, No-Glamour Sequencing Cards, and Spotlight on Reading & Listening Comprehension.  Paul and Carolyn share a special interest in boosting students' language, critical thinking, and academic skills.

In their spare time, Paul and Carolyn enjoy their families, music, gourmet cooking, and reading.  Paul, a proud father of three children, also enjoys bicycling, playing music, and spending rare moments alone with his wife, Kenya.  Carolyn is learning to craft greeting cards and spoil grandchildren.


Reasoning and problem solving are not simply life skills, they are quality of life skills.  Throughout our lives, the abilities to reason and solve problems are the difference between succeeding or failing in academic pursuits, making good and bad everyday decisions, and improving or destroying social relationships.

The world assumes we come to it with well-developed reasoning and problem-solving skills, but that is not always the case.  Because of language delays and other factors, many students lack basic skills to achieve positive outcomes in academic and everyday living situations.

The goal of Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving is to build skills, step-by-step, using a focused instructional approach.  The situations students will use for practice in these books are ones many of them have faced or will face throughout their lives.  We support the approach that Richard Paul suggests in his landmark 1990 book, Critical Thinking:

". . . because we can form new ideas, beliefs, and patterns of thought only through the scaffolding of our previously formed thought, it is essential that we learn to think critically in environments in which a variety of competing ideas are taken seriously." (page xv)

Before students can reach and approach the kind of proficiency Paul describes, they must fully understand and master the building blocks of reasoning and problem solving.  Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving presents six crucial areas for developing the language-based thinking skills that, when mastered, provide students with the tools to become better thinkers and problem solvers:

  • Causes & Effects
  • Making Predictions & Inferences
  • Comparing & Contrasting
  • Sequencing
  • Facts & Opinions
  • Solving Problems

Most students will benefit from working through each book from beginning to end.  Even if a student's proficiency is beyond the initial activities presented, the feeling of success he experiences by mastering them will motivate him to approach the more challenging activities that follow with confidence.

Spotlight on Reasoning & Problem Solving Comparing & Contrasting teaches your students to focus on key characteristics in order to compare and contrast a variety of objects and human traits.  Before presenting the activities in this book, preteach the vocabulary words below to equip your students with specific terms pertinent to comparing and contrasting.

     alike                  different        similar                    compare

     contrast             features        characteristics      functions

     appearance      size               shape                     location

     composition      antonyms      synonyms              homophones

     types                  category       description            sequence

Although all of the activities in this book can be done independently, present as many as possible to groups of students.  Review all possible answers for multiple-choice tasks before your students choose the best answer.  Ask students to explain how they knew the other choices weren't correct.  This type of discussion helps students master identifying salient characteristics to compare and contrast.  Here are some other ways to enrich your students' learning:

  • Use graphic organizers to help your students compare and contrast as they complete the activities in this book as well as to compare and contrast textbook information or story characters.
  • The initial activities only require students to compare things based on their similarities.  Depending on your students' skill levels, require them to also contrast the items to spotlight their differences.
  • Select any two objects in your room for your students to compare and contrast.
  • Present pictures of items from various categories.  Ask a student to secretly select an item.  The other students should then ask yes/no questions to identify the target item.  The more items a question can eliminate, the better, such as Is it alive? or Is is manmade?
  • As your students master comparing and contrasting objects, challenge them to compare and contrast more abstract concepts, such as love/hate, adjective/adverb, and nomination/election.
  • Introduce analogies as a formal way to compare and contrast words.  Start by stating the relationship between the first pair of words, such as A bicycle has handlebars for steering: a car has a _____.

We hope you and your students enjoy working through these activities together, and we are certain that with your guidance, your students' reasoning and problem-solving skills will improve with each completed page.

Paul and Carolyn