Everyone Loves a Little Structure: Structures of Informational Text Overview

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SWBAT understand that authors use five structures (descriptive, cause and effect, problem and solution, compare and contrast, and chronological) when creating nonfiction writing and are able to identify these structures.

Big Idea

Just like houses, nonfiction writing needs a solid structure to keep it from collapsing.

Activating Strategy

7 minutes

In this lesson, we're just introducing the nonfiction structures to the kids to help prepare for CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.5 which is comparing and contrasting the structures. They should have learned these in 4th grade common core, but if this is your first year of implementation, a good overview will let the kids know where they're heading specifically over the next few weeks. This serves as a way to activate previous knowledge, as they are introduced to this information in 4th grade. When I pre-assessed my students, I found this skill is still shaky, so I am planning to fully teach the structures before comparing structures of two different texts. 

A really helpful resource I found is this document. There are sample paragraphs to use here as well. They'll be especially helpful when we get into the guided practice. I use something I purchased, but there are some great alternatives included in this document. 

How does an author organize nonfiction texts? Do they just start writing? 

Students can discuss in pairs at their table or with their neighbor. I tend to use numbered heads (one student is 3 1 and the other is #2) so that I can make sure each student gets to chat. You could say something like, 1s tell 2s how you think an author organizes nonfiction texts. 2s tell ones if you agree and why. 

Once you've heard some thoughts (And I usually make my kiddos tell what their partner said to make sure they are working on active listening), discuss

just as fiction has a plot structure, nonfiction also has structures. We're going to refresh our memories about the nonfiction text structures by completing a matching activity. 

Hand out the text structure scramble N sort activity. I will let the students work with their table groups, but you could also have them paired strategically based on reading level as well. I provided the resource, but here is the link to the blog as well. She has some other great ideas listed there.

With your partners, work to match the structure with the definitions. When you're finished, we'll share ideas.  Don’t discuss right or wrong with the students. Ask students: who is ready to find out who is right?!


20 minutes

During this lesson, I will refer to slides and notes featured in this TeachingTextStructure powerpoint.  I will also refer to my interactive notebook throughout all of my lessons. The use of these notebooks is not necessary to use the lessons. I hope this Interactive Notebook Overview is helpful if you'd like to try them out!

This power point is attached, but this teacher has other great free resources for nonfiction.

We're going to use the Text Structure notes to review the basic attributes of each structure. This is just a general overview of the structures. Students will keep these in their notebook or binder as you go through the powerpoint. These notes help students connect the knowledge of structure to things like buildings and bridges. Students need to understand what a structure is before knowing the different types of text structures. This is important to help students connect the new knowledge learned in the next few lessons. We'll be digging deep into the structures to look for the specific attributes and analyzing the author's use of those structures, so I like to give the kids a big idea of it all before we dig in.

While going through the notes in the slides, ask students to mark their text with the following symbols:

 * I didn’t know that

 ! Wow

 ? I don’t understand

+ I knew that.

This interactive note-taking is something I use to be sure the students are constantly interacting with the text. It's also helpful when starting close reading. This common core shift has probably been practiced by teachers for a long time, but the common core now shows how important it is for all students to dig into the text. Have discussions with students about the information presented and encourage students to make connections to the notes. I draw in the text.  For example, where it says a text structure refers to how a text is built, I draw a wooden framework of a house next to that note. Modeling how good readers think is so important for this age as they have already learned the basics of reading. At this point they are learning how to dig deep into text and how to interact with what they are reading. I have attached an example.

*Some teachers like to have students copy all notes at this age. That is also a possibility. I have found that interactive note-taking on printed notes while reading is wonderful for my students, but these notes can be written in by the students just the same.

Now that we've interacted with the notes, we will create a word splash for Text Structure. A word splash is placing the word "text structure" in the middle of a box, circle, etc. and then you write any words that come to mind that connect to text structure. You can write these all around the center box.

My kids do this in color. All of our processing is done in color as this leaves more of an imprint on the brain. This activity is summarizing the concept reviewed before moving on to the overview of specific nonfiction text structures. I like to use this because it's quick and gets the students to start synthesizing ideas. Allow students about 5 minutes for this processing activity. Here a two examples of my kids working on these. Student Word Splash 1 and Student Word Splash 2. When they finish or after a few minutes let them share.

To wrap up this section, we'll look at a graphic organizer. 

Think about the scramble and sort activity we did earlier and discuss with a partner what you remember. Read through each definition, word clues, and visuals.

Allow students time to discuss what they know about these structures and to mark when they remember with a + sign. I purchased my notes from teachers pay teachers.  There are lots of other free resources as well. This one is almost identical to the one I use: 

Students will create a foldable to work with these terms in the next section. 




Guided Practice

10 minutes

Students will create a structure foldable to work with the overview knowledge of the text structures. Foldables help organize knowledge and appeal to the kinesthetic learners.This is also a helpful way for students to start thinking about the 5th grade common core standard of comparing the text structures. When all of the structures are together on one foldable, it lets the students see the similarities and differences between them all. This will also help scaffold learning for the students when it comes time to read different texts and compare the structures.

Before students start working, I go through all directions with them first. See the picture for a better idea of how this should look.

 Once I pass out the foldablecut this out.  This organizer is divided in thirds. On the front of the organizer should be the structures, the definition of the structure, and the clue words that go with the structure. The far right column will be folded in to create the visual column. You must write the information from the graphic organizer in your own words. You may include other word clues if you think of some and you may also include other graphic organizers if you feel that they truly fit. You will complete this organizer in color.

I have my students glue the very back of the organizer into their interactive notebooks so it is there as a reference. Here is a shot of a student completing a foldable. Again, if you'd rather have the students create their own, this is simple to recreate on white paper or lined paper instead of making copies. 

 Every year my group is different, so I use my knowledge of their collective learning styles to decide what I will do while they are working. Some of my usual strategies are:

   1. Circulate the room and sit with individual students that need my help while the other students are working in table groups. Some of my individuals usually struggle with reading the attributes of the structures and putting that information into their own words on the graphic organizer. I know they get the big idea of each structure if they can paraphrase the information. 

   2. Pull a small group and work with them while the rest of the class works in groups. I do this if I know more than 1 or 2 students struggle with paraphrasing the information in the graphic organizer. 

   3. Complete 1 or 2 structures with the class and then let the students work on them one at a time. Call students to fill in their thoughts on the board as we continue to work on this step-by-step together.

If you have a group ready for a challenge, you could let them fill in as much as they can remember without using the structures graphic organizer.


5 minutes

Now you will return to the scramble and sort cards and try to match the words and definitions again in groups.

Here are my kids with the scramble and sort in action. You could do pairs as well. During this time I like to walk around to check for understanding. When I do this, I write down a few names of students who still appear to be struggling with matching the correct definitions. I prompt students to join in discussion if they are waiting for others to complete the task. "Laura, how can you find the definition of a descriptive structure?"  This closure summarizes everything we just learned and will give a quick check of whether students get the overall definitions of each structure. This will be helpful as we move through the analysis of each structure in subsequent lessons. 

You could turn this into an exit ticket and pass out the scramble sheets pre-cut for each student to complete. They can glue these on a sheet of paper to turn in. You could also create a matching sheet based on the scramble and sort organizer. This Exit Ticket is something you could use if you wish. When I do this, I can make piles of students who know it well and students who are still struggling.

In the next lesson we will break down the structures more in depth and you will get to practice interacting with the different types of texts one at a time.