Not Every Text Structure is Descriptive: How to Tell When a Text is Truly Describing

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SWBAT identify the characteristics that make up the descriptive nonfiction text structure.

Big Idea

If a descriptive text structure just describes something, then wouldn't everything be descriptive? Well...not exactly.


10 minutes

In this lesson we'll be analyzing the descriptive structure to continue working through CCSS RI5.5. In order to refresh learning from the 4th grade common core standards or prime the brain for new knowledge, students are going to work with a piece of interesting nonfiction. A really helpful resource I found is this document. There are sample paragraphs to use here as well. They're especially helpful when we get into the guided practice. I use something I purchased for this lesson,but there are some great alternatives included in this document. 

Place the brain Passage (Lexile 870) on a large sheet of paper directly in the center. Do this for as many groups as you would like. I have 6 table groups, so I’ll do one for each table.  Give each group of students their sheet and some markers. I keep a visual up for students to be sure they know the expectations.

You will read the passage together and write thoughts about how the author chose to organize the text. You can take turns reading or choose a reader for the group.

I use this to keep my kids practicing close reading as much as possible since this is an expectation in the common core. Also, when activating, I like to keep my kids from working independently so they are a little more motivated to learn. The peer interaction seems to get them excited. Pose questions to students like, “What is the author's main idea? How does the author organize the text?”  Students will each write on a small section of the paper that is in front of them. Here is a video of my expectations for this activity. 

While students are working, circulate the room and guide groups to help their thinking, but don't discuss too much so students can create their own ideas. Monitor students to keep them on task. After a few minutes, call students to share thoughts. We're hoping they can say that the main idea of the passage is how the brain works and the structure is descriptive. Record ideas on the board. I create a student recording page on my SMART notebook to record student ideas. 


15 minutes

During this section I'll refer to the descriptive structure slides from this free powerpoint.

Today we'll be exploring the characteristics that make up the descriptive text structure. This is also called the main idea text structure.

Students will probably feel the most comfortable here since they should have lots of background knowledge about the topic. Even though the structure may be new to them, the concept of main idea is pretty universal. Give students the descriptive text structure notes.

Place the notes in your interactive notebooks and use them to make annotations while I review the slides from the powerpoint. Today I just want you to place a check mark by the notes that are familiar to you.

If your students seem to need more direct instruction, you may want to spend more time on the notes. My students will be able to move quickly though these, so I'll spend the bulk of my time apply the knowledge of the characteristics and with the use of the graphic organizers.

Why would an author use this structure to write and what graphic organizer would an author use to plan their descriptive writing?

At this point, the hope is that students would return to the structure foldable created in the first lesson to find the web that is commonly used for descriptive structures, but students may also come up with something entirely different like an outline. Allow students some time to think about the ideas, record their thoughts and then share their ideas with a table partner. Here is an example of a student notebook page. I used think-pair-share before letting them share with me to help them revise answers with partners before offering the response in class. It has helped with their risk taking when participating.

Who is ready to share their ideas on the SMART board?

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Students, now you will dig through a small text to find evidence of the descriptive text structure.

My lessons are laid out in the same format for this part of the instruction of the structures to help students focus more on the knowledge and less on new tasks. I try to blend my lessons with some direct instruction and application of concepts to help reach my diverse levels of learning.

Take out your colored pencils and prepare to color code the evidence we find today! We are going to read through a small passage without making any marks and then we will return to the text to begin marking. 

Think aloud about the first main idea sentence and tell students that this definitely sums up the big idea of the text. I color code the main idea in green to link this to my writing instruction. Green means Go! State your topic sentence, so this shows students how reading and writing are interchangeable. The remainder of the passage coding is up to you. Any color is fine. I use red for the last sentence, as it should be the conclusion and in my writing instruction, the conclusion means, Stop! It's time to wrap up now.

To teach this section, I use the passage included in the resource I bought from teachers pay teachers. Here is what the my passage looks like. You can use any short paragraph though. If you feel like you'd like to do this first with a longer passage, feel free. My students need to see things scaffolded, so I start small to teach the general concept, and then let them apply all knowledge to longer text either independently or in small groups. 

Once you have read through the passage and color coded the main idea, details and conclusion sentence, show students how to use the web organizer to record information. I chose to use a pre-made graphic organizer that has a place for all 5 details for this part of the lesson. When I move forward, students will either create their own organizer or have a generic organizer that will require them to summarize key concepts to include on it. Again, I color code the organizer to correlate with the colors included in the text. I try to appeal to my visual learners at all times with color. Besides the words, students can actively see the concepts this way. Here's a student sample of the guided practice. 


Small Groups

15 minutes

At this point, provide students with a descriptive passage on a topic that relates to your classroom. I chose a free exponential notation passage because it was a common core standard in math that my students were still struggling with, so I threw a little nonfiction reading in to keep the skill fresh.

Now we will read the passage, complete a descriptive organizer and complete some response questions about the text.

This is a time when I pull my struggling readers to work with them on a text. The rest of my students work either with table partners or free choice partners in groups of 5 or fewer.

When I pull my small group, I will focus on reading through the text in sections.  

While we read I would like you to code one paragraph at a time to show where you are confused. Please mark ? each time you come to a confusing spot. You will be reading independently first, and we will stop after each paragraph to discuss confusion and clear up misconceptions. Once we finish reading the text, we will return to the text to consider the key concepts to include in a web organizer.

I will think aloud and guide students to summarize the most important ideas to include in the organizer.  My students need this and by meeting in this way, we are working on the following standards:

 RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

RI.5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

RI.5.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

RI.5.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

You may find your students have other needs, so use this time in a way that works for you and your students.


10 minutes

Provide students with the descriptive 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.