Teaching text structure
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Teaching Text Structure. A quick guide for teachers. Overview. What is text structure? What are the common text structures? How does text structure help readers understand nonfiction? Suggestions for teaching text structure Where do I find texts? References and resources.

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Teaching Text Structure

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Teaching text structure

Teaching Text Structure

A quick guide for teachers


Overview

Overview

  • What is text structure?

  • What are the common text structures?

  • How does text structure help readers understand nonfiction?

  • Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Where do I find texts?

  • References and resources


What is text structure

What is text structure?

  • Text structure refers to the internal organization of a text

  • As authors write a text to communicate an idea, they will use a structure that goes along with the idea (Meyer 1985)


What is text structure1

What is text structure?

  • Suppose an author wanted to show how hawks and owls compare

  • The author would help the reader to understand the similarities and differences by using words and phrases such as similarity, difference, on the other hand, also, and as well


What is text structure2

What is text structure?

  • The author would be using the text structure of compare and contrast


What is text structure3

What is text structure?

  • A nonfiction text can have one overall text structure, or several different text structures

  • For example, a page from a social studies textbook may be written in chronological order, but contain a paragraph that explains a cause and effect


What are the common text structures

What are the common text structures?

  • It’s important to understand that there is no “official” list of text structures

  • Different writers have different lists of text structures

  • Check your state standards for the exact terminology in your state


What are the common text structures1

What are the common text structures?

  • Chronological order

  • Also known as time order, sequence, or temporal order

  • This structure is organized from one point in time to another


What are the common text structures2

What are the common text structures?

  • Chronological order

  • Transition words such as first, next, later, and finally are included to help the reader understand how events relate to one another

  • Dates and times are also used


What are the common text structures3

What are the common text structures?

  • Chronological order

  • This is one of the easiest text structures for students to understand, since it matches the way that they experience the world


What are the common text structures4

What are the common text structures?

  • Cause and effect

  • This text structure shows how one or more causes led to one or more effects

  • This text structure also has a strong time component, since causes come before effects


What are the common text structures5

What are the common text structures?

  • Cause and effect

  • Transition words such as cause, effect, as a result, consequently, and because are used

  • Time order transitions are also used, which can lead to some confusion for students


What are the common text structures6

What are the common text structures?

  • Cause and effect

  • Another complication is that many texts do not include just one cause leading to one effect—instead, there may be several causes and several effects


What are the common text structures7

What are the common text structures?

  • Problem and solution

  • This text structure presents a problem, and shows how it can be (or has been) solved

  • This text structure can be confused with cause and effect


What are the common text structures8

What are the common text structures?

  • Problem and solution

  • The key difference is that problem and solution always has a solution, while cause and effect does not

  • Transitions may include problem, solution, solve, effect, hopeful, and so forth


What are the common text structures9

What are the common text structures?

  • Compare and contrast

  • This text structure shows how two or more ideas or items are similar or different

  • This text structure is also fairly easy for students to understand

  • The text may use a clustered approach, with details about one topic followed by details about the other

  • The text may also show an alternating approach, with the author going back between the two topics


What are the common text structures10

What are the common text structures?

  • Compare and contrast

  • Transition words may include like, similar, unlike, on the other hand, also, and too

  • Compare and contrast paragraphs are often embedded in other text structures as an author needs to explain a similarity or difference


What are the common text structures11

What are the common text structures?

  • Description

  • This text structure shows what an item or place is like

  • Transitions in this structure might include spatial words, such as next to, on top of, beside, and so forth


Where things get tricky

Where things get tricky

  • Some texts will categorize typical main idea and detail paragraphs as description

  • I find it’s easier to call them main idea and detail with my students


Where things get tricky1

Where things get tricky

  • Main idea and detail

  • Some texts will also refer to these paragraphs as statement and support

  • This kind of text makes a statement, and then uses details to support it


Where things get tricky2

Where things get tricky

  • Main idea and detail

  • Transition words include for example, also, one reason, and another reason

  • This is the typical paragraph structure that’s often taught in elementary school


How does text structure help readers

How does text structure help readers?

  • Why bother with text structure?

  • As it turns out, a knowledge of text structure can be very helpful for readers


How does text structure help readers1

How does text structure help readers?

  • When readers do not have a strong knowledge of the topic of a text, they depend more on the structure (Cataldo and Oakhill)

  • A well-written text guides the reader through the content


How does text structure help readers2

How does text structure help readers?

  • Research shows that efficient searchers use the structure of the text to help them find specific information


How does text structure help readers3

How does text structure help readers?

  • The structure of a text can help readers find answers to questions, as well

  • For example, knowing that causes come before effects can help students to narrow their search as they’re trying to find the answer to a question


How does text structure help readers4

How does text structure help readers?

  • Text structure is also an important component to summarizing

  • When readers summarize, they need to reflect the text structure in the summary


Suggestions for teaching text structure

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • First, don’t be discouraged if your students don’t understand at first

  • Text structure is a big concept

  • Be prepared to spend serious time working with this idea


Suggestions for teaching text structure1

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • If you are working with students in grades 3-5, be certain that they understand the word “structure”

  • Without knowing this word, the metaphor of “text structure” will be meaningless


Suggestions for teaching text structure2

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • The picture book Word Builder by Ann Whitford Paul is a great resource to reinforce the concept that authors “build” with words


Suggestions for teaching text structure3

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • It’s also important to make sure that students understand the thinking behind the structures, especially cause and effect and compare and contrast

  • It can help to work with this kind of thinking using clear, concrete examples from students’ lives


Suggestions for teaching text structure4

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • For example, students understand cause and effect very well when we connect it to student behavior!

  • Comparing and contrasting two rooms in the school can also be easy for students to understand


Suggestions for teaching text structure5

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Once you are sure that students understand structure, you can begin with an overview of the text structures


Suggestions for teaching text structure6

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • I have my students create a foldable flip book with all of the text structures listed

  • Each day, we refer back to our books and add new information about new text structures


Suggestions for teaching text structure7

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Plan to teach each text structure in depth

  • At minimum, plan to spend one day introducing the structure and an accompanying graphic organizer, one day reading a text together, and one day for independent practice


Suggestions for teaching text structure8

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • To lend some continuity to your instruction, you may want to use texts that are centered on a given topic

  • It’s interesting to see how the same topic can be discussed in different text structures


Suggestions for teaching text structure9

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • It’s also helpful to give students copies of texts that have the transition words highlighted

  • This will help them to match transition words to text structures

  • Remember, though: It’s not just about finding the text structure. The main point is to use the text structure to build meaning


Suggestions for teaching text structure10

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Students also benefit from learning questions to ask of each text structure

  • This helps them to use text structure to build their comprehension


Suggestions for teaching text structure11

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Chronological order: How are the steps organized? What is the time span from the first event to the last? How does the author signal the change from one event to the next? What do all of the events explain?


Suggestions for teaching text structure12

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Cause and effect: What is the cause? What are the effects? Were there several causes and several effects? How did the cause lead to the effects? How did people react?


Suggestions for teaching text structure13

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Problem and solution: What is the problem? What are the solutions? Who worked to solve the problem? Has the problem been solved yet, or will it be solved in the future? What caused the problem?


Suggestions for teaching text structure14

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Compare and contrast: What is being compared? What are the similarities? What are the differences? Which similarities and differences are the most significant? Are the details alternating or clustered?


Suggestions for teaching text structure15

Suggestions for teaching text structure

  • Description: What is being described? How does the author organize the description? Which detail is the most important? How do all of the details fit together?


Finding texts

Finding Texts

  • Finding the texts to teach text structure is challenging!

  • I usually use a picture book to introduce the text structure, and then follow up with a short article for students to read

  • The books come from combing the shelves at the local library


Finding texts1

Finding Texts

  • The Scholastic book Teaching Students to Read Nonfiction includes high interest articles with different text structures

  • Toolkit Texts (from Heinemann) include texts with different structures, sometimes organized around a particular theme

  • Magazines like Click and Ask, available from Carus, have articles that show a variety of text structures


Finding texts2

Finding Texts

  • Chronological Order

    • Picture books about the life cycle of an animal are high interest and show this structure quite well

    • A short biography is also a good choice

    • Because directions are also organized in chronological order, it’s a good idea to also have students work with directions or a recipe


Finding texts3

Finding Texts

  • Chronological Order

    • A House Spider’s Life by John Himmelman is a nice introduction to this text structure

    • I usually go a level or two down for teaching text structure, so students do not have to cope with difficult text and the new concept of text structure


Finding texts4

Finding Texts

  • Cause and effect

    • Natural disaster books and articles often show this text structure

    • Some paragraphs within biographies also use this text structure, often to explain why someone chose a particular path in life


Finding texts5

Finding Texts

  • Problem and solution

    • A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry is a good example of a problem and solution text

    • This text also has a strong chronological order component, which leads to interesting discussions

    • Many environmental books are organized in this pattern


Finding texts6

Finding Texts

  • Compare and contrast

    • This text structure is often found embedded in longer texts

    • However, the Backyard Books series by Judy Allen (Are You a Grasshopper?) contain strong elements of compare and contrast


Finding texts7

Finding Texts

  • If you are in need of some short texts, you may also write to me at [email protected] and I’ll send you some that I created for my classroom


Resources

Resources

  • A chapter about text structure can be found in my first book, Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling (Emily Kissner)

  • Information about how students can use transition words to find details can be found in my second book, The Forest AND the Trees: Helping Readers Identify Important Details


Resources1

Resources

  • Toolkit Texts: Heinemann Firsthand. Available at

    www.comprehensiontoolkit.com


Resources2

Resources

  • A free Powerpoint for teaching text structure to students is available at TeacherspayTeachers

  • “Understanding Text Structures” explicitly teaches the different structures


Resources3

Resources

  • Teaching Students to Read Nonfiction, by Alice Boynton and Wiley Blevins, is an excellent resource with short texts for students

  • Available from Scholastic


Resources4

Resources

  • Nonfiction Passages with Graphic Organizers, also available from Scholastic, is another good resource


Workshops by emily kissner

Workshops by Emily Kissner

  • Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling: Nonfiction Focus

  • Making Inferences and Visualizing in Text

  • Reading Strategies in the Intermediate Grades

  • Summarizing in Every Class

  • [email protected]


References

References

  • Cataldo, Maria and Jane Oakhill. 2000. “Why Are Poor Comprehenders Inefficient Searchers? An Investigation into the Effects of Text Representation and Spatial Memory on the Ability to Locate Information in Text.” Journal of Educational Psychology 92 (4) 791-799.

  • Meyer, B.J.F. 1985. “Prose Analysis: Purpose, Procedures, and Problems.” In Understanding Expository Text, edited by B.K. Britton, and J.B. Black. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


By emily kissner

by Emily Kissner


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