How to Teach Text Structures – Fourth Grade Informational Text

Wondering how to teach text structures? First, ask students to read and write basic nonfiction paragraphs. Then introduce five text structures with sample paragraphs and graphic organizers. Don’t forget to explain transition terms used with each. Once kids understand the differences, they’ll be able to identify informational text structures.

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.”

Fourth grade students need to understand basic informational text structure. You can illustrate it with a hamburger analogy. Kids write topic sentences and detail sentences. Then they add elaboration and transition terms.

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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.”


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.”

Are you wondering how to teach text structures? Three key ingredients are a good mentor text, a graphic organizer, and knowledge of related transitional terms. Fourth graders can identify this informational text structure as description. It lists parts to a whole.

“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.”

To teach text structures like sequence, emphasize time order words. Students should also know the terms chronology, chronological, and procedural.
Compare & 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.”

To teach the text structure of compare and contrast, students look for similarities and differences.
Cause & Effect

“Finally, the author shows how to identify cause and effect. In this paragraph, the topic sentence

To teach cause and effect text structure, help students find the reason an event occurred.
Problem & Solution

To identify problem and solution text structure, students should look for steps taken to resolve an issue.

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.”

Support students who are learning about informational text structures. Let them practice with a worksheet that lists structures on the side.
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. What a great way to get double duty from a lesson!”

To identify informational text structures, kids need to recognize transition terms associated with each.
Integrate with Applied Subjects

“These templates help me see how to teach text structures in social studies and science as well.”

“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.”

Students need to identify text structures in the books they're reading. Ask them to locate description, sequence, compare-contrast, cause-effect, and problem-solution in their social studies and science books.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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