A New Way to Compare and Contrast – Using Rankings

Have students rank topics based on a certain criteria and then defend their thinking. A great way for 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade students to use critical thinking skills while comparing and contrasting.

If you are ever having students compare and contrast more than two items, you might want to consider having students RANK those items instead of using a Venn Diagram.

How Does This Work in the Classroom?

When we rank things, we are really comparing and contrasting them (usually deciding which one is the best or the worst) using a certain set of criteria. Having students rank things in the classroom encourages them to compare and contrast in a fun way.

The most important part of this activity, however, is having students explain, justify, or defend their reasoning. When students explain why one item received a higher tanking then another, they are comparing and contrasting at a much higher level than when they simply tell how something is alike or different.

Depending on the topic you’ve given them to rank, there might not be one right answer, so having them justify their reasoning becomes even more important.

This activity can be completed several ways, depending on how much time you want to spend and whether or not you want to take a grade.
1. You could have partners or small groups discuss their rankings with each other, and then share out with the class.
2. You could have individuals write down their rankings on a blank sheet of notebook paper with a short paragraph explaining their reasoning.
3. You could have small groups create a poster and prepare a presentation explaining their rankings.

However you decide to do this, it is a very low prep compare and contrast activity. Really, all you need is the write question to have your students come up with thoughtful rankings!

Fiction Topics: Ideas for Including Rankings in Your Lessons

Below are some ideas on how to include this ranking activity while studying literature with your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students.
• Which character from the book would you most like to be friends with? Rank the characters from the one you would MOST like to be friends with to the one you would LEAST like to be friends with. Explain your reasoning.
• Of the books we have read, which character had the hardest problem to solve? Rank the characters in order from which one had the HARDEST problem to solve to which one had the EASIEST problem to solve. Justify your answer.
• Which setting from the book (or books) would be the easiest to survive in? Rank the settings in order from EASIEST to survive in to HARDEST to survive in. Explain our reasoning.
• Of the books we have read, which author provided the most interesting details? Rank the authors in order from the one that provided the MOST interesting details to the one the provided the LEAST interesting details. Explain your reasoning.
• What type of figurative language has the biggest impact on a fiction story? Rank the figurative language in order from MOST impact to LEAST impact. Explain your reasoning.
• Which character in the book changed the most? Rank the characters in order from MOST changed to LEAST changed. Explain your answer.

Nonfiction Topics: Ideas for Including Rankings in Your Lessons

Below are some ideas on how to include this ranking activity within nonfiction topics you are already studying with your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students.

Biomes/Habitats
• Which biome would you prefer to live in? Rank them in order from the biome you would MOST prefer to live in to the biome you would LEAST prefer to live in. Explain your reasoning.
• Which biome gets the most amount of precipitation? Rank the biomes in order from MOST precipitation to the LEAST precipitation. Explain your reasoning.
• Which biome is the safest to live in? Rank them in order from the MOST safe to the LEAST safe. Explain your reasoning.

Planets
• Which planet would be the easiest to survive on? Rank the planets in order from the EASIEST to survive on to the HARDEST to survive on. Explain your reasoning.
• Which planet has the most moons? Rank the planets in order from the MOST moons to the LEAST moons. Defend your answer.

Life Cycles
• What is the most important stage in a frog’s life cycle? Rank the stages in order from MOST important to LEAST important. Defend your reasoning.
• What stage in a monarch butterfly’s life cycle is the shortest? Rank the stages from SHORTEST to LONGEST. Explain your answer.

Animals
• Which animal has the best camouflage? Rank the animals in order from BEST camouflage to WORST camouflage. Defend your reasoning.
• Which animal is the most dangerous? Rank the animals in order from MOST dangerous to LEAST dangerous. Justify your answer.
• Which animals would make the best pet? Rank the animals in order from the BEST pet to the WORST pet.

History
• Which event in history had the biggest effect on people today? Rank the events in order from the BIGGEST effect to the LEAST effect. Defend your reasoning.
• Which person in history would make the best friend? Rank the people in order from making the BEST friend to making the WORST friend. Explain your answer.

Geography
• Which landform would be the easiest so survive on? Rank the landforms in order from the EASIEST to survive on to the HARDEST to survive on. Explain your answer.
• Which type of map would you prefer to have if you were lost in the middle of a desert. Rank the types of maps in order from the one you would MOST prefer to the one you would LEAST prefer. Explain your answer.

Government

• Which branch of government has the most power? Rank the branches of government in order from MOST power to LEAST power. Defend your reasoning.
• What is your most important responsibility as a citizen? Rank your responsibilities in order from MOST important to LEAST important.

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