Common Core Part 2: Moving Forward with Informational Text

Informational Text Structures: What they are and why we should teach them

As students move through the grades, they will be required to read more complex texts, and this often means expository text;  that is, they will read for information the majority of the time.  (A majority of the content in standardized reading tests is expository as well.)  Many texts that inform—articles in periodicals and journals, textbooks, websites, and manuals are deliberately structured to assist the reader with comprehension.  Text features such as headings, captions, sidebars, use of bolding and italics, etc. can be easily recognized and explicitly taught as comprehension strategies.

Many texts conform to organizational patterns known as text structures as well--description, sequence, compare-and-contrast, cause-and-effect, and problem-and-solution.  Knowing how the ideas in a piece of text are arranged and interrelated helps the reader to make sense of the text, to see the “big picture.”  Students who are able to step back, analyze a text for its structure, and graphically represent that structure are able to better predict what they will learn in the reading.  Knowledge of common text structures aids in the recall of important ideas and their supporting details.  Direct instruction and guided practice with text structures will give students an advantage as they encounter more and more complex texts.

Initially, you will want to begin your explicit instruction of these patterns of expository text during your reading instruction.  Students' first encounters with text structures will be with texts written by others.  Ultimately, particularly in middle and upper elementary grades, you will be asking students to extend their learning by composing pieces of writingthat demonstrate understanding of these structures as well. Practice analyzing text structures in reading helps students to choose appropriate structures when faced with the task of conveying their own ideas and information in writing.