What's Your Problem? Problem and Solution Text Structure

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SWBAT identify the elements of the problem and solution text structure and understand why an author would use it.

Big Idea

But I thought Problem and Solution was only in fiction? It's a nonfiction structure as well, but looks a little different.


This lesson will explain the characteristics of the problem and solution text structure. While teaching, be sure to explicitly discuss how this is different from cause and effect. The two are very similar and identifying the text structure will come down to those clue words again. As in previous lessons, we'll give some explicit instruction and then let the students apply their knowledge to longer texts. Following the workstations for this concept, students will compare the texts read in cause/effect and problem/solution. A really helpful resource I found is this document Text Structure Explained. There are sample paragraphs to use here as well. Especially when we get into the guided practice. I use something I purchased, but there are some great alternatives included in this document. 


5 minutes

  Is a problem and solution only found in fictional text?

I want the students to chat about this for a little to give them something to guide their thinking today. 

Today we're going to look at the problem and solution nonfiction text structure. The words problem and solution have the same meaning, but the information you read will be organized differently than in fictional text. Does anyone think they know how this will be different? 

Then I'll show students the picture for an activating. I want them to discuss quickly

1s tell 2s one reason you think these are a problem/solution text structure. 2s agree/disagree and tell one reason you think they are problem/solution text structure.

Again, I like the numbered heads because it keeps the kids accountable for what they are saying. 


20 minutes

I'll be using slides from this free powerpoint from Emily Kissner on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

We'll start by passing out the notes and getting them in their notebooks. They'll refer to these and interact with them as we go through the slides in the powerpoint.

sometimes an author wants to present a problem and the solutions that are being attempted or have been used. Problem and solution is very closely related to cause and effect, but the big difference is the solution.

This is something I'll write on the slide and I'll expect the kids to write it in their notes. 

When I get to the slide with the problem and solution paragraph, I'll ask students to read it and find the problem and solution. They'll get about a minute to do this. 

What is the problem and solution? How did you know? Were there any words that stood out to you?

My kiddos will discuss in their table groups or with neighbors and share out. Use this information to discuss the importance of hunting for these words to prove the problem and solution text structure.

It's very easy to say that this paragraph could also be cause and effect. The cause being their was only one slide at the playground; effect was they had to buy an extra one. The distinguishing feature that makes this problem and solution is simply the word choice.

The next slide shows students the additional words that they might see. What other words could you add? I would have them add issues, conflict, resolved, resolution, solved. 

To start handing off responsibility, the kids will read the Chesapeake Bay slide and think about the key words they find. Then students can come up to circle them on the board. 

As we close up the direct instruction, I'll give my students some time to process the idea of problem and solution by answering the following questions: 

Why would an author use this structure?

What graphic organizer would an author use to plan this type of writing?

I have my students process this on the page adjacent to the notes, but you could have them discuss it in groups, on the back of the notes in their binder or any other way that works for you. Student Sample 1 and Student Sample 2 are from my students' notebooks.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

At this point we'll try out the skills by using a short passage and a graphic organizer. I use a paragraph and organizer that I bought here from Teachers Pay Teachers, but you can use anything that works for you. I choose a short, easy read to practice the color coding and recording of information in the organizer. I'll move to longer, grade-level appropriate text in the independent reading. Here is a picture of what my Paragraph, Graphic Organizer and Top of Organizer would look like. 

Now I want my students to grab two colored pencils and while reading, underline the problem in one color and the solution in another.  They should be sure to color key words in the corresponding as well. Students can transfer the ideas to the organizer when they finish the reading. I would walk around at this point and check in with my usual struggling readers. My students who have been performing inconsistently on formatives are the ones I start with. 

Give students about 5 minutes to read and fill in the organizer. Once they finish, I'll review thoughts and discuss the key words they found.

How does knowing this text structure help you become a better reader? 

Allow students some time to discuss and let them share out. I want to guide them to the idea that anytime we can see information in an organized way (such as a structure) it helps us remember what we read. Students who are able to identify and understand the organizational structure of a piece of text are better able to organize their own recall of the information, and are better able to discriminate between information related to the main idea and the unimportant information. 

Independent Practice and Small Groups

25 minutes

Knowing my students' difficulties discerning between cause and effect and problem/solution early on, I planned to use texts with similar topics but different structures in these lessons. In the cause and effect lesson the students read "The Effects of Poverty in Africa." Today they'll be reading the "Crisis in Africa" Passage. Don't be fooled by the cause and effect heading of this passage. This text certainly includes cause and effect, but there are many sections that offer the solutions being tried to counter the problems.  I grabbed this from readworks.org and the complexity is perfect for our 5th grade kiddos, and it is way more problem/solution than it is cause/effect. They'll definitely work to read it, but some of the difficult vocabulary is defined throughout the passage, and you can work with your neediest kids in a small group if you think they'll struggle too much. That's what I plan to do. 

Today we will be reading to not only understand the problems that people in Africa are facing, but to locate problems and solutions and the accompanying key words throughout the text.

Students will use two different colors to highlight the text for problem and solution.  I also ask my kids to use their interactive marks here as well. ! for Wow!, ? for I'm confused, * for that's important, and a check or minus sign if they agree/disagree. Here are examples of the Highlighted Passage and the Africa Graphic Organizer. I've also included some feedback on annotations. My kids really seem to like this and feel that it helps them stay focused. 

Once students have finished reading and recording, call students back together to review and discuss their findings. I call attention to the fact that although there are spots of cause and effect, I can see that solutions are offered in this text. Call on students to come up to the board to highlight the places where solutions are offered. Discuss that since the passage does go back and forth between the problems and some solutions, this is a stronger demonstration of the problem and solution text structure. 


5 minutes

Provide students with the Problem and Solution Check for Understanding. Allow students some time to complete the task. Then look over and group students according to understanding. I don't grade these since we've only just started working on the concept. I'll use this information for my workstations tomorrow so I can meet with students who may be struggling.