Building up Vocabulary Skills – Similarities and Differences

Describing how items are similar and different can be very challenging but an important skill to target.  I found students can often pick out which items go together in a group of items but often struggle to determine/explain why the items go together.  When I have students with limited vocabulary skills I often make a similarity and differences goal.  Depending on the student’s baseline skill level I might make the overall goal for the student to provide 2 similarities and 2 differences between 2 items or concepts.  This leads to the more challenging skill of comparing and contrasting.

Getting back to the topic on hand, I made these Similarity and Differences task cards because of the need to work with many of my students on building up their vocabulary and describing skills.  Usually when I use these cards with my students they have already been working on categorization skills.  They can name categories and provide items within a given category.  The challenging part now is describing similarities and differences between these familiar items.

When I use these cards in small groups with my students I first have one student name both items on the cards.  The student then tells me one way the items are similar.  I provide prompting as needed for the student.  For example, if the student is struggling to identify how the “school bus” and “tractor” are similar I might ask “are they both something we eat?”,  “are they both something we wear?”, and then  finally “are they both something we drive?”  Usually the extra prompting helps the student find the similarity between the items.  Sometimes the student will get how the items are similar before I ask that final question of “are they both something we drive?” 

Providing those questions helps the student think of how the items are similar.  After the student identifies the similarity I have them say the complete sentence including the similarity if the student can.  “The bus and the tractor are similar because they are both something you drive”.  They are lots of correct answers for how the 2 items are similar.  “They both are vehicles”, “they both have wheels”, or “they both need gas”.   Next work on finding out how the items are different.

After the student provides the similarity between the 2 items I have them provide one difference between the 2 items.  Again, you can provide prompting to help the student identify something different about the items.  For example, with the “milk and orange juice” card I might ask “what color is the orange juice?”  This prompt often helps the student identify one difference between the 2 items is the color.  I might also ask “where does milk come from?”  Another difference would be where the 2 beverages come from.    

If you are using these cards with a small group of students you can either have each student get their own card and provide a similarity and difference.  If you want to make it more challenging use the same card but have each student in the group tell you a different similarity and difference.  It is good for the students to hear all the different ideas and vocabulary terms the students use to describe the similarities and differences.  For example, the crayons and markers are both school supplies, are both used for coloring, and both come in lots of colors.

Another way to make it more challenging besides having students use the same card is to have the student provide 2 similarities and 2 differences between each set of items.  It is often easy for some of our students to provide one similarity and difference but to find another is often more difficult and makes the students really think!

For your higher functioning student, you can have the student take a certain number of cards and write the answers on a piece of paper.  The student can practice writing the similarities and differences in complete sentences.  For example, each student gets 4 cards and has to write the similarities and differences for each card.  The students can share their answers at the end. 

I will talk more about how I’m organizing my task cards in this storage bin system soon.  I’ve shared this before but I got the storage bin with all these boxes I use for my task cards on Amazon and it’s working out perfectly for me.  I can easily take the storage bin between schools.  Here is the amazon link:

If you are interested in these Similarities and Differences Cards you can find them on TPT with this link – Similarity and Differences Cards   

1 Comment

  1. Hello Sarah,

    I love your resource similarities and different cards . I do have a question how will you teach this skill to non verbal students .


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *