Before studying to become a reading specialist, I had never explicitly been taught nonfiction text structures as a student and I also hadn’t been taught the importance of teaching them to our students as an undergrad. They can often be the missing puzzle piece for our growing nonfiction readers. Nonfiction text structures, which are the way the text is organized by the author, are split up into five types. They are cause and effect, descriptive, chronological order, problem and solution, and compare and contrast.
Teaching and interacting with nonfiction text structures can improve reading comprehension by helping students to…
- navigate nonfiction texts,
- make predictions based on other nonfiction texts of the same structure,
- set a purpose for reading a nonfiction text,
- visualize the text structure based on the text structure’s graphic (see above image),
- identify “clue words”, or signal words, that align with each type of text structure while reading, and
- use a text structure’s signal words when summarizing the text.
Below are 5 ways to teach and practice nonfiction text feature with your students.
1. DISPLAY NONFICTION TEXT STRUCTURES VISUALS
Having nonfiction text structures displayed somewhere on your classroom wall is a great way to provide students with tons of exposure to them all year long. I like to display a nonfiction word wall that has vocabulary cards that show a text structure, a definition, and a visual example displayed as a reference.
When directly instructing text structure, I have posters that hone in on just one structure at a time. You can also create an anchor chart with cut-out article examples of each text structure from magazines or printed informational passages.
2. TEXT STRUCTURE SORT
When working specifically on text structures, I set up 5 labeled bins with the type of text structure on each. Students sort a bunch of nonfiction books from our classroom library into which categories they belong. You could also use do this with printed informational passages with the labels laid out on a table for students to sort the passages below.
For long texts with multiple text structures, you can have students just put a post-it in the section that shows the particular text structure that they chose to place the book.
3. TEXT STRUCTURE STICK-IT
Display clue words for each text structure. I have a poster I use that show each text structure, clue words for each, and a visual. You can definitely keep it simple and just write the clue words for each on the board though! Students can also flag sentences in the text that show a specific text structure without these clue words. Students use color-coded flags for clue words or sentences in a text that indicate a specific text structure. This is a great activity to get students interacting with text structures in an authentic way.
4. NONFICTION TEXT STRUCTURE PUZZLES
I really like using puzzles for any vocabulary, because they are a hands-on activity and once you print and cut them out they can be used over and over. They can be used as part of a reading center, in guided reading groups, as an early finisher activity, or as independent practice.
5. GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS
I like to have students use graphic organizers while reading nonfiction. This is not only to support them in organizing their ideas, but also for me to check their thought process and understanding. After identifying which nonfiction text structure their text is, students create a visual of the nonfiction text structure. The use information from the text to fill it in on their own.
The resources pictured can be found in my TpT shop! Click on the covers below to check them out!
Looking for more tips on teaching nonfiction reading skills with your students? Check out this blog post on 5 Ways to Teach Nonfiction Text Features.