How to Teach Text Structures – 5 Types of Informational Text

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.

Wondering how to teach five types of informational text structures? These colorful graphic organizers (and focus on key words) will help your third, fourth, or fifth grade students master nonfiction formats in no time!

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,” 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.”

Begin teaching nonfiction text with the hamburger analogy.
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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.”

Description

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.”

When learning how to teach text structures, begin with description. It fits together in parts.

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.”

When teaching kids about the text structure used for sequence, or chronology, have them think of a timeline. Also, they should look for dates and/or times.

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.”

A Venn diagram can help kids analyze paragraphs or full texts that compare and contrast.

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.”

Key words like "because" help kids identify cause and effect text structure.

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.”

When learning how to teach the five types of informational text structures, finish up with problem and solution.

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.”

After teaching text structures, give kids some practice. These differentiated worksheets offer paragraphs for each type

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.”

If you're wondering how to teach text structures, remember to include transition terms. When kids can identify key words, it's much easier.

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.”

After you learn how to teach text structures, ask kids to apply what they know about the five types of informational text. This page applies to any nonfiction text.

Enjoy Teaching

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 with confidence.”

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