Lesson: Non-fiction Text Structures: Author's Purpose: Background Information Paragraphs (Lesson 24)

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Lesson Objective

Paragraphs have purposes. Some paragraphs are meant to give background information on an important person or concept.

Lesson Plan

Lesson 24:

Standard: Identify the purpose of common textual features (for example, title, headings, key words, paragraphs, topic sentences, table of contents, indices, glossary,  captions accompanying illustrations or photographs).

Identify topic sentences, supporting details, and elaboration in paragraphs. 

Determine the purpose of individual sentences and paragraphs and how they contribute to the text as a whole. 

Big Idea:  Writers use lots of evidence to support the main idea or theme.  These supporting details fill the text; they are found in every paragraph, all textual features, and all graphic features. 


Teaching Point: Paragraphs have purposes. Some paragraphs are meant to give background information on an important person or concept.


RW: Reading binders, pencils, copies of Jenny’s Obon Festival and Life of the Loggerhead, post-its

RA: copy of Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds by Victoria Crenson, small post-its



Reading Workshop Lesson:

  • Readers, we know that every paragraph has one purpose – one topic that it is about. It is our job to notice that the author is moving on to a new topic and figure out what that new topic is.
  • Can anyone remind us of the four paragraph purposes that we’ve learned about so far? (T&T and share out – they should be able to explain that some paragraphs hook the reader, some paragraphs teach the reader the main idea, some paragraphs explain a sequence of events, and some paragraphs describe one thing.] Today, I am going to teach you that the purpose of some paragraphs is to give background information about a person or idea. Sometimes there are important people or ideas in a text that the reader needs to know about in order to really understand the text. Authors don’t want to spend too much time talking about these people or ideas because they want to stay focused on the main idea or theme of the text. So, they may write a paragraph or two telling the reader everything they need to know about this person or idea. This is called background information. Today we’re going to look at two texts that have paragraphs that give the reader important background information.  
  • Open your binder to your “Non-fiction” tab.  Let’s try to find background information paragraphs in “Life of the Loggerhead.” Background information paragraphs can happen throughout a text, so we will read the whole thing and stop when we find paragraphs that give us background information about people or ideas in the text.
  • This is a sequence text, so we’ll be able to notice background information paragraphs because those will be the paragraphs that don’t belong in the sequence. Instead, they’ll be giving us information that we need to know to understand the sequence text. Let’s read and stop when we notice a paragraph whose purpose is to give details about one thing.
    • First page, paragraph 2 – introduces Dr. Ken Lohmann
    • Page 16: Gives background about how Dr. Lohmann conducts his experiments
    • Readers, it is important to think about the purpose of each paragraph because if you don’t know why an author included a paragraph, then you’ll be confused about the text overall.  Today and every day, you should notice when the purpose of a paragraph is to hook the reader, teach you the main idea, explain a sequence of events, describe one thing, or give background information about a person or idea in the text. If you find a paragraph that has one of these purposes, you may mark that with a post-it.

Read Aloud Lesson:


  • Readers, we have been learning that in all texts we read, every paragraph has a purpose, and good readers always know what the purpose of each paragraph is. Today, we are going to continue looking at the text structure and the purpose of the paragraphs in a new book called Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web. Remember the newest type of paragraph that we learned about –paragraphs that give background information about a person or idea. We are going to practice noticing those today, in addition to the other paragraphs we’ve been working on.
  •  [Make predictions based on the title and cover]
  • [Read Author’s Note; predict the main idea and text structure, and write the main idea on a post-it]
  • [Read and mark paragraphs, including:
    • First page: hook
    • “They are horseshoe crabs…” – main idea in the last sentence
    • “Horseshoe crabs travel slowly…” – sequence
    • “Meanwhile, far away…” – sequence
    • “On a warm evening in May” – sequence
    • “The high tide churns” – descriptive
    • Next two paragraphs – sequence
    • Stop at “wait for hours for the females to arrive.”


Lesson Resources

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