Nonfiction text structures refer to how an author organizes information in a text. Understanding and being able to identify the structures of nonfiction texts can help students better comprehend the information that they read.
Don’t worry, it does not have to be as complicated as it may seem! Here are 5 text structures every elementary teacher should know and how to teach them.
The 5 Nonfiction Text Structures
- Description: provides readers with information about a person, place, thing, or event. When using a description text structure, authors often use sensory details to help readers imagine the thing being described. Descriptions can be found in fiction and nonfiction texts.
- Compare and Contrast: These texts take two objects (could be people, places, things, ideas—almost anything!) and discuss their similarities and their differences.
- Cause and Effect: This structure looks at why something happens and what the result of that event is. Oftentimes, cause and effect texts will include multiple causes for a single effect or multiple effects for a single cause.
- Sequence: The sequence text structure requires readers to identify the order of events that take place. It is often used in informational texts as a way to provide step-by-step instructions for completing a task or process, or recounting historical events.
- Problem and Solution: These texts discuss an issue that needs to be fixed along with some possible ways to go about fixing it
Introducing Nonfiction Text Structures:
Introduce all 5 at once, make it clear that there are only 5 text structures that nonfiction text follow. I like to display anchor charts for reference throughout the text structure unit.
You can download the FREE text structure posters at the top of this page. These make great anchor charts when printed poster size!
When it’s time to deep dive into each individual text structure, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Start with small examples, just a sentence or two that demonstrate the text structure. You can use the paragraph on the free posters as your starting point!
- Step 2: Identify and teach the signal words for that text structure
- Step 3: Read a nonfiction picture book that incorporates the text structure you’re introducing (see my favorites below)
- Step 4: Complete the corresponding text structure graphic organizer together.
Grab these Graphic Organizers for the 5 Text Structures and Signal Words. They come in full size and notebook size versions and can be used with any text.
Students work together to complete the same graphic organizer as used in the minilesson, this time with a different book or text of your choice. If you don’t have a robust nonfiction library, websites like Epic, ReadWorks, and Newsela have tons of nonfiction texts that you can assign to students or print copies of. Short on time? Use 2-3 text structure task cards instead.
Give students practice with each text structure throughout the unit. Incorporating these low-prep, hands-on activities into your literacy centers is a great way to reinforce the concept while you’re teaching text structure!
Signal Word Sort
Students match the signal words with the text structure they’re commonly found in. This is great for small group work or independent practice. Includes an answer key so students can self-check check for accuracy.
Students arrange the paragraph in the correct order, including topic sentence, 3 detail sentences, and concluding sentence. Then, they mark which text structure the paragraph follows and identify the signal words. Includes all 5 text structures.
Text Structure Task Cards
25 text structure task cards with recording sheet and answer key. Students will get great practice with each of the 5 nonfiction text structures while working through these task cards! Place the cards around the room to turn it into a movement game of scoot or place them at a center to review the text structures.
Continue the text structure practice while spiral reviewing other important informational reading skills. This resource includes 15 nonfiction passages with questions, great for use as assessments. Each comprehension page has questions for:
➞ Text Structure
➞ Main Idea and Supporting Details
➞ Using Context Clues
➞ Making Inferences
➞ Identifying Cause and Effect
➞ Author’s Purpose
➞ Author’s Viewpoint
Teaching the 5 text structures will take some practice, but soon enough you’ll see the “Aha!” moment from your students. Their newfound knowledge of the way a nonfiction text is organized will help with their overall reading comprehension!
If you’re looking for more ELA ideas, check out this blog post for 13 no-prep activities for Fall.
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