Uncovering Text Structure in the Early Grades
Teaching students about text structures is a research-based practice that supports the Common Core State Standards in reading, particularly those within the “Craft and Structure” and “Integration of Knowledge and Ideas” clusters. Understanding the structure of literary and informational texts can help students unpack meaning, understand content, and remember what they have read.
When teaching literature or narratives, teachers can model and explain the elements of a story and reinforce students’ understanding of them through activities like story mapping or sequencing. Knowing the specific elements of stories (character, setting, goal, problem, plot, and resolution) can help students distinguish between minor and major events and make connections when comparing texts, another Common Core goal.
When teaching about informational texts, teachers can introduce students to common structures like description, sequence, problem and solution, or compare and contrast. When students are taught how sentences and texts are structured (e.g., cause-and-effect statements) and how to look for clue words (because, therefore, so) it can strengthen their comprehension, particularly of complex texts.
The expert interview and classroom videos in this collection highlight the importance of teaching text structure and provide concrete examples of teaching strategies, including using visuals, cooperative learning, and games to scaffold students’ understanding. To learn more about the research base and recommended practices for teaching text structure, see the IES Practice Guide, Improving Reading Comprehension K through Third Grade. In particular, pg. 20 of the guide has a table of common text structures, common clue words, and specific suggestions for classroom activities.