Teaching Text Structure

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By Emily Kissner. This presentation guides teachers through the process of teaching text structure. Great for professional development sessions, content area teachers, and new teachers.

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Teaching Text Structure

  1. 1. Teaching Text Structure A quick guide for teachers
  2. 2. Overview • What is text structure? • What are the common text structures? • How does text structure help readers understand nonfiction? • Suggestions for teaching text structure • Where do I find texts? • References and resources
  3. 3. What is text structure? • Text structure refers to the internal organization of a text • As authors write a text to communicate an idea, they will use a structure that goes along with the idea (Meyer 1985)
  4. 4. What is text structure? • Suppose an author wanted to show how hawks and owls compare • The author would help the reader to understand the similarities and differences by using words and phrases such as similarity, difference, on the other hand, also, and as well
  5. 5. What is text structure? • The author would be using the text structure of compare and contrast
  6. 6. What is text structure? • A nonfiction text can have one overall text structure, or several different text structures • For example, a page from a social studies textbook may be written in chronological order, but contain a paragraph that explains a cause and effect
  7. 7. What are the common text structures? • It’s important to understand that there is no “official” list of text structures • Different writers have different lists of text structures • Check your state standards for the exact terminology in your state
  8. 8. What are the common text structures? • Chronological order • Also known as time order, sequence, or temporal order • This structure is organized from one point in time to another
  9. 9. What are the common text structures? • Chronological order • Transition words such as first, next, later, and finally are included to help the reader understand how events relate to one another • Dates and times are also used
  10. 10. What are the common text structures? • Chronological order • This is one of the easiest text structures for students to understand, since it matches the way that they experience the world
  11. 11. What are the common text structures? • Cause and effect • This text structure shows how one or more causes led to one or more effects • This text structure also has a strong time component, since causes come before effects
  12. 12. What are the common text structures? • Cause and effect • Transition words such as cause, effect, as a result, consequently, and because are used • Time order transitions are also used, which can lead to some confusion for students
  13. 13. What are the common text structures? • Cause and effect • Another complication is that many texts do not include just one cause leading to one effect—instead, there may be several causes and several effects
  14. 14. What are the common text structures? • Problem and solution • This text structure presents a problem, and shows how it can be (or has been) solved • This text structure can be confused with cause and effect
  15. 15. What are the common text structures? • Problem and solution • The key difference is that problem and solution always has a solution, while cause and effect does not • Transitions may include problem, solution, solve, effect, hopeful, and so forth
  16. 16. What are the common text structures? • Compare and contrast • This text structure shows how two or more ideas or items are similar or different • This text structure is also fairly easy for students to understand • The text may use a clustered approach, with details about one topic followed by details about the other • The text may also show an alternating approach, with the author going back between the two topics
  17. 17. What are the common text structures? • Compare and contrast • Transition words may include like, similar, unlike, on the other hand, also, and too • Compare and contrast paragraphs are often embedded in other text structures as an author needs to explain a similarity or difference
  18. 18. What are the common text structures? • Description • This text structure shows what an item or place is like • Transitions in this structure might include spatial words, such as next to, on top of, beside, and so forth
  19. 19. Where things get tricky • Some texts will categorize typical main idea and detail paragraphs as description • I find it’s easier to call them main idea and detail with my students
  20. 20. Where things get tricky • Main idea and detail • Some texts will also refer to these paragraphs as statement and support • This kind of text makes a statement, and then uses details to support it
  21. 21. Where things get tricky • Main idea and detail • Transition words include for example, also, one reason, and another reason • This is the typical paragraph structure that’s often taught in elementary school
  22. 22. How does text structure help readers? • Why bother with text structure? • As it turns out, a knowledge of text structure can be very helpful for readers
  23. 23. How does text structure help readers? • When readers do not have a strong knowledge of the topic of a text, they depend more on the structure (Cataldo and Oakhill) • A well-written text guides the reader through the content
  24. 24. How does text structure help readers? • Research shows that efficient searchers use the structure of the text to help them find specific information
  25. 25. How does text structure help readers? • The structure of a text can help readers find answers to questions, as well • For example, knowing that causes come before effects can help students to narrow their search as they’re trying to find the answer to a question
  26. 26. How does text structure help readers? • Text structure is also an important component to summarizing • When readers summarize, they need to reflect the text structure in the summary
  27. 27. Suggestions for teaching text structure • First, don’t be discouraged if your students don’t understand at first • Text structure is a big concept • Be prepared to spend serious time working with this idea
  28. 28. Suggestions for teaching text structure • If you are working with students in grades 3-5, be certain that they understand the word “structure” • Without knowing this word, the metaphor of “text structure” will be meaningless
  29. 29. Suggestions for teaching text structure • The picture book Word Builder by Ann Whitford Paul is a great resource to reinforce the concept that authors “build” with words
  30. 30. Suggestions for teaching text structure • It’s also important to make sure that students understand the thinking behind the structures, especially cause and effect and compare and contrast • It can help to work with this kind of thinking using clear, concrete examples from students’ lives
  31. 31. Suggestions for teaching text structure • For example, students understand cause and effect very well when we connect it to student behavior! • Comparing and contrasting two rooms in the school can also be easy for students to understand
  32. 32. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Once you are sure that students understand structure, you can begin with an overview of the text structures
  33. 33. Suggestions for teaching text structure • I have my students create a foldable flip book with all of the text structures listed • Each day, we refer back to our books and add new information about new text structures
  34. 34. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Plan to teach each text structure in depth • At minimum, plan to spend one day introducing the structure and an accompanying graphic organizer, one day reading a text together, and one day for independent practice
  35. 35. Suggestions for teaching text structure • To lend some continuity to your instruction, you may want to use texts that are centered on a given topic • It’s interesting to see how the same topic can be discussed in different text structures
  36. 36. Suggestions for teaching text structure • It’s also helpful to give students copies of texts that have the transition words highlighted • This will help them to match transition words to text structures • Remember, though: It’s not just about finding the text structure. The main point is to use the text structure to build meaning
  37. 37. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Students also benefit from learning questions to ask of each text structure • This helps them to use text structure to build their comprehension
  38. 38. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Chronological order: How are the steps organized? What is the time span from the first event to the last? How does the author signal the change from one event to the next? What do all of the events explain?
  39. 39. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Cause and effect: What is the cause? What are the effects? Were there several causes and several effects? How did the cause lead to the effects? How did people react?
  40. 40. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Problem and solution: What is the problem? What are the solutions? Who worked to solve the problem? Has the problem been solved yet, or will it be solved in the future? What caused the problem?
  41. 41. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Compare and contrast: What is being compared? What are the similarities? What are the differences? Which similarities and differences are the most significant? Are the details alternating or clustered?
  42. 42. Suggestions for teaching text structure • Description: What is being described? How does the author organize the description? Which detail is the most important? How do all of the details fit together?
  43. 43. Find Te ing xts • Finding the texts to teach text structure is challenging! • I usually use a picture book to introduce the text structure, and then follow up with a short article for students to read • The books come from combing the shelves at the local library
  44. 44. Find Te ing xts – The Scholastic book Teaching Students to Read Nonfiction includes high interest articles with different text structures – Toolkit Texts (from Heinemann) include texts with different structures, sometimes organized around a particular theme – Magazines like Click and Ask, available from Carus, have articles that show a variety of text structures
  45. 45. Find Te ing xts • Chronological Order – Picture books about the life cycle of an animal are high interest and show this structure quite well – A short biography is also a good choice – Because directions are also organized in chronological order, it’s a good idea to also have students work with directions or a recipe
  46. 46. Find Te ing xts • Chronological Order – A House Spider’s Life by John Himmelman is a nice introduction to this text structure – I usually go a level or two down for teaching text structure, so students do not have to cope with difficult text and the new concept of text structure
  47. 47. Find Te ing xts • Cause and effect – Natural disaster books and articles often show this text structure – Some paragraphs within biographies also use this text structure, often to explain why someone chose a particular path in life
  48. 48. Find Te ing xts • Problem and solution – A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry is a good example of a problem and solution text – This text also has a strong chronological order component, which leads to interesting discussions – Sparrow Jack, by Mordecai Gerstein, also shows a problem and a solution
  49. 49. Find Te ing xts • Compare and contrast – This text structure is often found embedded in longer texts – However, the Backyard Books series by Judy Allen (Are You a Grasshopper?) contain strong elements of compare and contrast
  50. 50. Find Te ing xts • If you are in need of some short texts, you may also write to me at elkissn@yahoo.com and I’ll send you some that I created for my classroom
  51. 51. Re o e s urc s • A chapter about text structure can be found in my first book, Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling (Emily Kissner) • Information about how students can use transition words to find details can be found in my second book, The Forest AND the Trees: Helping Readers Identify Important Details
  52. 52. Re o e s urc s • Toolkit Texts: Heinemann Firsthand. Available at www.comprehensiontoolkit.com
  53. 53. Re o e s urc s • A free Powerpoint for teaching text structure to students is available at TeacherspayTeachers or Slideshare.net • “Understanding Text Structures” explicitly teaches the different structures
  54. 54. Re o e s urc s • Teaching Students to Read Nonfiction, by Alice Boynton and Wiley Blevins, is an excellent resource with short texts for students • Available from Scholastic
  55. 55. Re o e s urc s • Nonfiction Passages with Graphic Organizers, also available from Scholastic, is another good resource
  56. 56. W rks p b Em Kis ne o ho s y ily s r • Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling: Nonfiction Focus • Making Inferences and Visualizing in Text • Reading Strategies in the Intermediate Grades • Summarizing in Every Class
  57. 57. References • Cataldo, Maria and Jane Oakhill. 2000. “Why Are Poor Comprehenders Inefficient Searchers? An Investigation into the Effects of Text Representation and Spatial Memory on the Ability to Locate Information in Text.” Journal of Educational Psychology 92 (4) 791-799. • Meyer, B.J.F. 1985. “Prose Analysis: Purpose, Procedures, and Problems.” In Understanding Expository Text, edited by B.K. Britton, and J.B. Black. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  58. 58. by Emily Kissner

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