The teacher asked students to write a paragraph about video games.
Link is a clever guy who has to rescue Princess Zelda from the villain Ganon. Along the way, he learns to use the Triforce.
To play the game, you have to be good at using a controller. With the right hand, you push buttons to produce action, while with the left hand, you push buttons that control the direction of the characters.
What is the difference between these two student texts? As you all know, the first is narrative text, while the second is informational text. That distinction is what we’ll focus on in this blog post.
We’ll look at the second and third shifts that Common Core recommends for literacy. Those two shifts refer to using more informational text and building knowledge in the disciplines. Translated, those shifts mean that teachers should focus on reading strategies while using the informational text from their subject area classes like social studies, science, and technical subjects.
The key strategy is helping students determine the type of text structure used in their history, science or technical textbooks, or even online. By doing so, they can extract information from the text rapidly and accurately. DataWORKS has identified 10 different types of text structure.
Additionally, DataWORKS has developed five skill steps that follow the acronym of READS. Read the text. Examine the signal words, if any. Analyze and name the text structure. Develop the proper graphic organizer. Study the information. By teaching students these five steps, subject area teachers can really help them grasp the meaning of their classroom text.
Now, let’s look at the key teaching strategies for each of the ten text structures.
1) Main idea and supporting details
This kind of text organizes information by main idea(s) followed by multiple levels of supporting details. It can be accessed by developing an outline format. Usually there is one main idea (what the article is about). It is followed by supporting details that describe the main idea. Sometimes there is a third level of elaboration that includes specific examples or analogies. For example, a text about minerals could be analyzed like this:
Main Idea: Minerals form in many ways
Detail: Some minerals form in the Earth’s mantle
Examples: Carbon changes into diamond
Uses of diamonds: jewelry, drills, saws
This text structure organizes information about a word or phrase that represents a general idea of a class of persons, places, things, or events. For example, a history teacher may define the levels of society in the Middle Ages – king, barons or nobles, and peasants or serfs. Or a text may define the land features of North America – coasts, mountains, plains, and valleys.
3) Description or Enumeration
This text structure organizes facts that describe or list the characteristics of specific persons, places, or things. The order is not important. A good way to access this structure is with a graphic organizer. Here is an example from a science text about loggerhead turtles.
|Item being described: Loggerhead Turtle|
|Characteristics||Description or Enumerated Attributes|
|Appearance||reddish-brown upper shell and a dull brown to yellowish lower shell|
4) Time-Order or Sequence
This text structure organizes facts, events, or concepts in their order of occurrence. Students could create a timeline or a table that summarizes the sequence of events. Here is an example for a text about The Beginning of World War II.
|Sept. 1940||Japan becomes an ally of Germany and Italy|
|Early 1941||President Roosevelt stopped trading oil, etc. with Japan|
|Nov. 1941||U.S. and Japan started talks about trade|
|Dec. 7. 1941||Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, naval base|
|Dec. 8, 1941||The U.S. declared war on Japan|
In this text structure, persons, places, things, or abstract ideas are organized according to a common topic. For example, the text may be describing triangles, and the teacher could help the students classify them according to categories such as angles and sides.
Types of Triangles
This text structure organizes two topics according to their similarities and/or differences. If students don’t recognize the pattern of the text, they will have a hard time writing a summary of the passage. For example, in a science class they could be comparing frogs and toads.
7) Cause and Effect
The cause-and-effect text structure organizes information in a causal sequence that leads to a specific outcome. It describes the cause (why something happens) and the effects (the results). This can take several forms – one cause to one effect, one cause can lead to multiple effects (as in the example below of Rising Fuel Costs), or several causes can produce one effect (as in the example below of The Threat to Sea Turtles). The key in teaching this is to help them identify the proper graphic organizer.
Rising Fuel Costs
|Fuel is increasing in cost||Truck drivers have to sell their trucks|
|Less traveling means less money spent in restaurants and hotels|
|Prices on some goods will go up|
The Threat to Sea Turtles
|Natural predators such as snakes, sea gulls, and raccoons||Sea turtles are listed as a threatened species|
|Humans disturb their nests or harm them at sea|
8) Problem and Solution
In this case, the text is organized as problems and solutions. All it needs to help students is a simple graphic organizer.
|The sea turtle is threatened.||Educate the public;
Pass gill netting regulations for fishermen
This kind of text organizes information to influence the reader to view issues from the author’s point of view. The first thing to do is identify the author’s position, and then determine the reasons given to support his or her opinion. Finally, for the upper grades, you can analyze what type of persuasive appeal is used – to logic, to emotions, or to character/ethics.
|Reasons||Type of Appeal|
|Logic Emotions Character/Ethics|
|Logic Emotions Character/Ethics|
|Logic Emotions Character/Ethics|
This text structure is similar to Persuasion but is not directly persuasive. Rather, it organizes information into a general statement with supporting examples. For example, a science text about rainforests could make the statement, “The loss of our rainforests will lead to an environmental disaster.” Then, it would follow with a range of facts, statistics, examples, expert authority, and reasons that support the general statement.
As you can see, helping students identify the text structure is a great literacy strategy that subject area teachers can use. It will not only help the students understand the material better, but, as Common Core Content Area Literacy Standards hope, it will help them become better readers.
Next time, we’ll look at the literacy shift of reading complex text.
DataWORKS offers a unique guidebook where all these literacy standards are broken down into specific Learning Objectives with Teaching Tips. Check it out to ease your learning curve.