Easy Step by Step Plans for How to Teach Text Structure

Text reads, "How I teach text structure" with a teacher and a notebook

Do you wonder: “How should I teach text structure to my students?” “What is the best way to help my students determine text structure?  While there are different ways to teach and practice text structures with students, I wanted to share what has worked with my students. 

Front-loading text structure instruction is critical to helping students understand and get the most out of nonfiction text. With practice and understanding, students can identify and use text structure to select and recall the most important information from a text. This helps improve reading comprehension. Teaching text structures can have a big impact on students.

Step One: Front Loading Concepts and Keywords to Teach Text Structure

For the first lesson, I introduce my students to the idea of text structures. I explain to them that authors organize text differently based on the purpose and ideas they share. I tell them that typically writers use 5 main text structures as I write them on the board. They are: Descriptive, Sequence, Compare & Contrast, Problem & Solution, and Cause & Effect. 

I like to teach text structure with a chart that illustrates the key ideas for each one. Going through each structure on the chart, I explain what its purpose is, go over keywords that are often used, and show them a  graphic organizer that can be used for key details. 

Words say, "combine text structure freebies" with a picture of text structure practice and key word chart.
Grab these freebies to use when teaching text structure. Text structure key word chart and graphic organizers and Basic Economics Text Structure Practice

This first step is done with only the organizer. We talk about organizing text in general, but I don’t use a specific text yet. I work with an isolated, specific text each day for the next 5 days. 

Step Two: Select the Text to Teach Text Structure

When selecting the text to use, I look for short, nonfiction texts that are clearly related to one of the text structures. I pay close attention to the use of keywords. I also find it helpful to have one topic used to explore all of the text structures. 

I struggled to find specific text that did exactly what I was looking for, so I created many texts myself. Since one of the biggest challenges when adding more practice of something into the schedule is finding time, I created passages that matched the science and social studies topics I was already teaching.  This allowed me to sneak in text practice when we were learning about matter, Native Americans, economics, or other topics.

Step Three: Practice One Text Structure at a Time each Day

Once you have texts for each text structure, I introduce one a day.  I usually teach text structure in this order:

  1. Descriptive
  2. Sequence
  3. Compare & Contrast
  4. Problem & Solution
  5. Cause & Effect 

I usually teach each one as a whole class activity.  Using the keyword chart, we will read the passage and search for keywords. Students highlight any keywords that match the text structure of the passage. This helps us determine or verify what text structure is being used. 

Use this U.S. Government text structure practice when you are working on government in Social Studies for cross-curricular connections.

Then, we will use the corresponding graphic organizer to organize information in a way to show how facts are related. Using our notes on the graphic organizer, students practice summarizing the important information presented. The keyword chart can help students with summarizing, too. 

If I notice students are struggling, I might pull a small group to practice this text structure again with a different text. 

Picture shows students working together in a group with text that reads, "work on text structure as part of guided reading."
Text structure practice works great as guided reading or with students in small groups.

Step Four: Identify the Text Structure with All Examples 

Once I have introduced and practiced each of the text structures, I gauge my students comprehension,  by asking students to identifiy the correct structure when given all 5 at the same time. For the first practice, I use the exact same text we previously looked at and put all 5 paragraphs on the same page. 

A picture of text structure practice about matter with text that reads, "examples of each text structure on the same page."
Take a look at each paragraph about Matter. This lets students see the same topic written in different ways and is a great cross-curricular connection. Grab this packet here.

I review the text structure chart with the keywords together, and then I have students work independently to find keywords and pick the text structure for each one. [Quick Differentiation option: Have students work in pairs or give students only 2-3 paragraphs at a time to identify.] 

Afterward, we go over each paragraph together and talk about how we selected the text structure. This leads to great conversation and lets me know what students are still struggling. I will continue working with those students in small groups. 

Step Five: Continue with Text Structure Practice All. Year. Round. 

Once students have been introduced to text structure, they need lots of practice to really understand text structure and use it to improve their reading comprehension. I will continue using the isolated, text structure practice I created with students, but I vary how I use them. Here are some of the ways I use these practice pages: 

Quote from the blog post reads," students need lots of practice to really understand text structures and use it to improve their reading comprehension."
  • Give individual paragraphs based on what we are learning. I fold the paper in half so students have to identify the text structure before filling in the graphic organizer. 
  • Give the single page with all the text structures on it. Based on how students do, I will use the individual paragraphs as guided reading. 
  • Work with groups in guided reading focusing on just one paragraph at a time. 
  • Create 5 groups of students and give each of them one of the text structures. They read the text and fill out the graphic organizer. Together, they summarize the material using the text structure and share it with the whole class. After everyone has shared, use the single page with all text structures on it as an exit slip. 

As students start getting better at text structures in isolated practice, we start looking for it during our authentic readings and textbooks. Often, just one paragraph will follow a certain text structure. If I notice authentic reading lending itself to one text structure, I’ll ask, “What paragraph do you notice a cause and effect relationship?” “What was the effect of…” and so forth. I will give graphic organizers to use with these texts and practice writing summaries with text structure in mind. 

Common Text Structure Confusion

Problem and solution and cause and effect text structures are very similar. In fact, problems are causes and solutions are their effects. Therefore, I tend to be lenient with students if they confuse the two. I try to guide them to the right answer by asking  follow-up questions like, “Does this idea seem like it causes a problem or is it just an event?” 

Text Structure is Worth It! 

It might take a little bit of time to get your students comfortable with text structures, but once you do, students will better understand the texts they read! I really believe it is worth the time it takes to introduce. I teach text structure to my third grade students as an introduction to help build a strong foundation. Students need time, practice, and exposure with different text structures to excel. 

Get Started for Free

In this post, I mentioned two freebies to help you get started to teach text structure today. Make sure you grab them by joining my emailing list to get the text structure key word chart and check out my basic economics text structure freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Text reads, "free resources to get started." with a picture of text structure resources.

Make every teaching moment count, 

Signature that says, "Love, Julie from Llama with Class"

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