Common Core Part 2: Moving Forward with Informational Text

General Guidelines and Procedures for Teaching Text Structures

DescriptionSequenceCompare and Contrast
Problem and SolutionCause and Effect

The description or list structure is a common one and one that can be taught to even the youngest learners.  In this type of structure, the author presents a topic and describes or lists details that shed light on the traits, features, characteristics or attributes of a person, place, thing, topic, or idea.  Main ideas are provided (often under a heading) and details are elaborated upon.  For example, many animal books for young students are set up to include information about:  habitat, food, predators, babies, etc.

When looking at this type of text, prompt students with questions such as:  What is being described here?  How does it work?  What does it look like?  What does it do?  What is important to remember about it?

Tell students to look for the topic word (frogs, earthquakes, etc.) to be repeated often.  This provides a signal for another attribute or part of the list.  Other signal words or phrases might include:  for example, such as, to begin with, characteristics, most important, then, besides, for instance, also, next, finally, in fact.

Some books that demonstrate this type of text structure include:
Brocket, Jane.  Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What are Patterns?  (from the Clever Concepts series) ISBN: 9780761346135.  Lexile: AD640
Dorros, Arthur.  Ant Cities. ISBN: 9780064450799.  Lexile: 600
Gibbons, Gail.  Bats. ISBN: 9780823414574.  Lexile: AD750
Jenkins, Steve.  Just a Second:  a Different way to Look at Time.  ISBN:  9780618708963.  Lexile: 870
LaRoche, Giles.  If You Lived Here:  Houses of the World.  ISBN: 9780547238920.  Lexile: NC1170
Parish, Peggy.  Dinosaur Time. ISBN: 0060246545.  Lexile: 410
Pringle, Laurence.  Whales Strange and Wonderful. ISBN: 9781563974397.  Lexile: AD940


The sequence or sequential structure describes items or events in order—usually first to last-- or walks the reader through the steps to follow in order to do or make something.  There is a relationship to time; therefore this structure is sometimes called chronological. Graphic organizers for this type of structure generally use boxes and arrows to demonstrate the sequence, logically moving from one thing to another in a specified order.

When working with this type of text, prompt students with questions such as: What events or steps are listed?  Do they have to happen in that order?  Do they always happen in this order?

Signal words for the teaching of this structure include:  first, second, next, then, before, after, finally, following, not long after, now, soon, after that, at the same time, on (date), during, immediately, initially, until, when

Some books that demonstrate this type of text structure include:
Cole, Joanna.  My Puppy is Born.  ISBN: 9780590980869.  Lexile: 380
Dunning, Joan.  Seabird in the Forest:  The Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet.  ISBN: 9781590787151.  Lexile: AD1060
Gibbons, Gail.  How a House is Built.  ISBN: 9780823412327. Lexile: AD570
Hampton, Wilborn.  Kennedy Assassinated!  The World Mourns.  ISBN: 9780590551069. Lexile: 1040
Hartland, Jessie.  How the Sphinx got to the Museum. ISBN: 9781609050320. Lexile: AD1120
Hopkinson, Deborah.  Fannie in the Kitchen. ISBN:9780439411103.  Lexile: 380
Lasky, Kathryn.  Sugaring Time.  ISBN:  9780689710810.  Lexile: 980
McCarthy, Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum.  ISBN: 9781416979708. Lexile: AD740
Provensen, Alice.  The Buck Stops Here.  ISBN: 9780670012527.  No lexile available
Rosenstock, Barb.  The Camping Trip that Changed America:  Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks. ISBN: 9780803737105.  Lexile: 740



The compare-and-contrast structure is used to explain the differences and similarities of two or more objects, places, events, or ideas.  Individual traits are grouped in a number of ways and comparisons provided.  An author may choose to deal with one topic in its entirety first, and then the other topic in its entirety.  This is called the whole-to-whole approach.  The point-by-point approach takes one trait or characteristic at a time and discusses it for both topics.  With the similarities-and-differences approach, all of the things common to both topics are discussed in one section of the text, and all of the differences are discussed in another.  You can decide whether your students are ready to make the distinctions between the different approaches, but they should be aware that this structure can take several forms.

When introducing this type of structure, prompt students with questions like What qualities are similar for these two things?  What qualities are different? What qualities of each correspond to one another? How?

Signal words for comparing and contrasting include: but, although, even though, on the other hand, however, otherwise, unlike, different from, instead of, similar to, either…or, in common, still, etc. lists some mentor texts here.  Also at that site are a number of lessons for teaching this structure, complete with interactive online tools that students can use to review the components and begin organizing their own thoughts for a written essay using this pattern.

The Venn diagram is a valuable tool when using the compare-and-contrast structure.  When teaching it in writing, the essay map, Venn diagram, and comparison guide are all available here.

Other books that are examples of this type of structure include the following:
Boothroyd, Jennifer.  From Typewriters to Text Messages.  ISBN: 9780761367451.  Lexile: 520
Gibbons, Gail.  Alligators and Crocodiles.  ISBN: 97808234222340. Lexile: AD860
Kudlinkski, Kathleen.  Boy were we Wrong about Dinosaurs! ISBN: 9780525469797. Lexile: 740
Markle, Sandra.  Outside and Inside Spiders (and others in this series). ISBN:  9780027623147. Lexile: 800
McKissack, Patricia.  Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters. ISBN: 9780590430272 Lexile: 960
Rauzon, Mark.  Horns, Antlers, Fangs, and Tusks.  ISBN: 9780688102302. No lexile available.



In this type of text, the writer presents a problem and then puts forth possible solutions for it. 

Signal words and phrases can include since, as a result of, so that, if…then, because, one answer is, one reason for, therefore, nevertheless, thus, consequently, accordingly, this led to

Some titles to consider using include:
Ancona, George.  Man and Mustang.  ISBN: 9780027008029.  Lexile: 980
Cherry, Lynne.  A River Ran Wild. ISBN:  9780152005429.  Lexile: 670
Cole, Joanna.  Cars and How they Go.  ISBN: 0690042612  No lexile available.
Levine, Ellen.  If you Traveled on the Underground Railroad.  ISBN: 9780590451567.  Lexile: 720
Thimmesh, Catherine.  Girls think of Everything:  Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. ISBN: 9780395937440.  Lexile: 960



This organizational pattern is used when an author relates the result of an event, situation, or trend and the reasons why it happened.  It is quite common with science and history texts, and often the effect (what happened) is mentioned first.

Signal words and phrases associated with this structure include:  consequently, for this reason, in order to, next, thus, is caused by, so that, when...then, finally, may be due to, therefore

Books that may prove useful when introducing this structure include:
Branley, Franklyn.  Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll. ISBN: 9780064450126.  Lexile:500
Branley, Franklyn. What Makes Day and Night? ISBN: 9780064450508.  Lexile: 230
Maestro, Betsy. How do Apples Grow? ISBN: 9780064451178.  Lexile: 550
Showers, Paul.  What Happens to a Hamburger? ISBN: 9780064450133.  Lexile: 520
Simon, Seymour.  Danger! Volcanoes. ISBN: 9780439467827.  Lexile: 790
Smith, Roland.  Sea Otter Rescue: the Aftermath of an Oil Spill. ISBN: 9780525650416.  Lexile: 1160
Wick, Walter.  A Drop of Water:  a Book of Science and Wonder. ISBN: 9780590221979.  Lexile: 870