Wondering how to teach text structures? First, ask students to read and write basic nonfiction paragraphs. Then introduce five types of informational text structures with sample paragraphs and graphic organizers. Don’t forget to explain transition terms used with each.
Ms. Sneed Learns How to Teach Text Structures
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed studied her standards documents and read aloud: “Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.”
“Wow, I’m not sure how to teach text structures in my ELA block,” she told her mentor, Mrs. Brown.
“Well, you’ve already begun. First, kids need to understand basic nonfiction text structure. In other words, they need to understand the hamburger. Your students have already completed the introduction to nonfiction paragraphs and the hamburger paragraph craft. They understand topic and detail sentences. Furthermore, you’ve discussed elaboration and transitions. See? You’ve definitely laid the groundwork.”
A slow smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face. “Okay, what’s next?”
“Next? You move logically to text structures.”
Introducing the Five Types of Informational Text Structure
Mrs. Brown sat down at the computer and pulled up a PowerPoint presentation.” This will help you learn how to teach text structures.”
Ms. Sneed nodded, and her mentor continued. “Do you notice that this introductory resource focuses on paragraphs, not complete essays? It scaffolds on what you’ve already done. It’s just right for fourth grade learners.”
As Mrs. Brown opened the presentation, Ms. Sneed noticed that it featured passages about Native Americans. “Hey! We’re studying this in social studies right now,” she said. “It does double duty – just like we’ve been talking about. I can hit social studies and informational text skills in one lesson.”
The mentor smiled. “Yep. Let’s go through the slides together. That way, you’ll get a better understanding of how to teach text structures.”
As Mrs. Brown clicked through the slides, she explained. “The PowerPoint introduces description first. As you can see, a description lists parts in logical order. This paragraph, for example, provides facts about how the Ojibwa used birch bark.”
Sequence, or Chronology
“The next set of slides focuses on sequence. Your kids will need to know some additional terms. For example, this text is written in chronological order. In other words, it’s a chronology. Sequence paragraphs, however, can also be procedural. These are written step-by-step, sort of like how-to passages.”
“Hmm, kids can use certain terms to identify this text structure. Specifically, dates and sequence terms show that it’s written chronologically,” Ms. Sneed commented. “The organizers and key terms will really help me teach this.”
Compare and Contrast
Mrs. Brown moved quickly through the presentation. “Third, kids learn about texts that compare and contrast. These focus on similarities and differences. As you can see, a Venn diagram makes perfect sense here.”
Cause and Effect
“Fourth, the author shows how to identify cause and effect. In this paragraph, the topic sentence provides the cause. Then the rest of the paragraph lists effects. Notice that keywords signal the type of text structure. For example, the word ’caused’ can be found in one of the sentences.”
Problem and Solution
“Now let’s look at the last example of how to teach text structures. When an author writes a problem and solution, it’s usually pretty easy to spot. Here, for example, we quickly find out that mining practices could harm the environment. The remainder of the paragraph explains how the problem was solved.”
More on How to Teach Text Structures
Add More Practice
Ms. Sneed stretched and frowned. “I’m afraid my students won’t be ready to tackle text structures with just one PowerPoint presentation,” she said.
“Luckily, this author has also made some differentiated practice worksheets and sorting activities. If you use them after the introduction, your kids should be just fine.”
Emphasize Transition Terms in Reading and Writing
“Look!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “I recognize the transition terms emphasized in the PowerPoint and this resource. They’re the same words and phrases I use when teaching informational and persuasive writing.”
Mrs. Brown nodded. “Yes, every time you mention transition terms in writing, you can circle back to the nonfiction text structures they support.”
Integrate with Applied Subjects
As Mrs. Brown scrolled farther, Ms. Sneed noticed some generic worksheets. “These templates help me see how to teach text structures in social studies and science as well,” she said.
“Right!” Mrs. Brown agreed. “As you discuss any informational text, analyze its text structure. Kids can use critical thinking. Furthermore, you’ll be surprised at how many passages don’t use clear structure. It’s a great way to help kids think about their own writing.”
Ms. Sneed sat back and sighed. “Thanks for showing me how to teach text structures. Without a doubt, mastering the five types of informational text will take some time. But these resources will help me teach nonfiction with confidence.”