The Importance of Teaching Text Structure Lesson Plans
Using text structure lesson plans can help students improve their understanding of what they read.
By Deborah Reynolds
The average classroom has a multitude of learning abilities and learning styles. Content textbooks are often above the reading level of the grade for which it is intended. If a teacher has students that struggle with grade level text, how can that teacher help those students comprehend history and science textbooks? One strategy that can aid students in breaking down informational text is understanding text structure.
Knowing the elements of text structure is an effective tool in understanding nonfiction. Depending on the age of the students, it may be a good idea to start by explaining what “structure” means. For example, relate it to the components that make up the school building, and how each part of the structure is necessary and important.
Identifying the components of a text makes it all come together. Once students understand the words, then they can be introduced to each element which can include cause/effect, sequence, problem/solution, directions, and descriptions. Each element can be identified using clue words. Words such as “then”, “next”, and “afterward” are indicators of a sequencing pattern. When students learn the key words, they will be able to scan the text and pinpoint the information they are seeking.
There are several lesson plans that have great ideas for addressing text structure. One strategy involves having the students work in cooperative learning groups to conduct somewhat of a “scavenger hunt” for signal words. This allows students to build confidence while learning a new skill. Another idea is to include a graphic organizer that guides students in identifying the structure of the text. This idea appeals to those students that are visual learners.
Also, extensions are a great benefit in lesson plans for students that have a clear understanding of text structure and are ready to take it to another level.
Text Structure Lesson Plans:
This lesson plan gives students tools to recognize text features and structure and use them when reading nonfiction. Included are two reproducible handouts. The first handout is a graphic organizer that guides the students through using text features to make predictions about the text. This lesson also includes a nonfiction text that teachers can use.
Students use text structures to improve their understanding of science textbooks. The lesson opens with background information for teachers on how text structure is used in most science texts. Students work in cooperative learning groups to discover these features using a variety of texts. The lesson plan includes four extension suggestions.
Students are learning the organizational structure of problem/solution texts. The students will break by writing “What it Says,” and “What it Does” statements while reading the text. Although the lesson plan suggests using one particular text, this lesson can be done with any problem/solution formatted text. Students work cooperatively to find solutions to the problems and create rubrics for the assignment.
Students create a booklet of examples of expository texts. The lesson plan comes with a template for the booklet along with several other handouts. Students are taught how to look for signal words in text. The lesson also includes two extension activities for students ready to advance.