Problem and Solution Text Structure – How to Teach It

Problem and solution text structure explains difficult situations and resolutions. Let’s take a look at how to teach kids to identify and write in this format. In addition to the organization of ideas, they need to know about transition terms.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Problem and Solution Text Structure

Once again, our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her teaching partner. “Let’s continue planning our ELA block,” she said, “This week, we’ve been talking about structures of nonfiction.”

“Right,” said Mr. Frank. “First, we talked about sequence. Then we explored cause and effect. What’s next?”

“Problem and solution text structure,” Ms. Sneed responded.

Reading Problem and Solution Text Structure

The teacher pointed to the screen of her laptop. “Once again, let’s look at our informational text structures slideshow.”

As Mr. Frank looked on, Ms. Sneed scrolled down. “When we teach problem and solution text structure,” she said, “we ask kids to look for a difficult situation and steps taken to resolve it. To help them understand, our graphic organizer uses a question mark, an arrow, and an exclamation point.”

“Then kids study a sample paragraph,” she said.

“Ah yes, I remember this from last year,” Mr. Frank commented. “Mining practices in Michigan were feared to damage the environment. In response, the Ojibwa made requests, set up a blockade, and held meanings. As a result, the mine was closed.”

Teach kids about problem and solution text structure with a graphic organizer and sample paragraph.
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Looking for Transition Terms

“Additionally, the slideshow focuses on linking words, or transitions,” Ms. Sneed said. “In addition to problem and solution, kids should look for words like finally, so, and consequently.”

“Hmm, the last three could also be used in other informational text structures,” her teaching partner said. “We’ll really have to emphasize that this one includes a difficult situation and steps toward resolution.”

To help kids identify problem and solution text structure, teach them to recognize corresponding transitions, such as "cosequently."

Using a Simple Organizer

Now Mr. Frank turned to his laptop. “Remember this?”

He turned his screen so Ms. Sneed could see it better. “This graphic organizer will help our kids take notes when they study the problem and solution text structure. Additionally, it will help them organize their ideas when they write in this format.”

When reading or writing problem and solution text structure, kids can use a graphic organizer.

Writing Paragraphs with Problem and Solution Text Structure

“We’ve agreed that our kids will write using each format this year. What topic should we use for this?” asked Ms. Sneed.

For a moment, Mr. Frank sat deep in thought. Then he turned back to his laptop. In just a few seconds, he pulled up a file.

“How about another science connection?” He pointed to his screen. “In this earth science activity, kids learn about wastewater treatment.”

“Say no more!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “With just those two words, you’ve illustrated it: wastewater is the problem, and treatment is the solution.”

Science texts, such as this article about wastewater treatment, can be used as examples when teaching problem and solution text structure.

More Cross-Curricular Connections

After scrolling a bit farther in the resource, Mr. Frank continued. “For each stage in the wastewater treatment process, kids tell what science ideas helped develop it. When they finish these worksheets, we can have them explain using the problem and solution text structure.”

Ms. Sneed grinned. “Yep, and they’ll have plenty of information for a thorough response. I love it.”

In this set of wastewater treatment activities, kids explore real-life problems and solutions.

Enjoy Teaching

Mr. Frank sighed. “You know, I can think of a few more applications for the problem and solution text structure. We just have to remember to incorporate it into our plans.”

His teaching partner nodded and smiled. “Let’s do it. Whenever we discuss ways to weave teaching informational text into other lessons, our kids understand it even better.”

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