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Nonfiction Text Structures


1.  Writers use text structures to organize information.  Teachers should point this out whenever students read and write.

2.  Skim and scan to predict text structure(s).  Make predicting possible text structures a part of every pre-reading activity.   During reading, revise predictions about structure. 

3, Teach and model the use of graphic organizers to go with each text structure. Teachers have to identify text structures in advance and provide appropriate graphic organizer. 

4.  Teachers should spend time modeling how to determine what the text structure is, as well as note taking on a corresponding graphic organizer.   Then students should practice with teacher support. Finally, students should apply the skills and strategies they have learned for independent practice..    

5. Explicit instruction must be provided to show students how and when to use strategies such as attending to signal words while reading different content areas or using signal words when writing expository text.

6.  Use the think-aloud strategy.  The teacher reads aloud a paragraph, pausing at appropriate points to share his/her own comprehension strategies and understanding of the text.  Next, move to a shared-reading strategy, encouraging students to talk aloud as they engage in the process with the teacher. For example, the teacher asks students to talk about the clues they use to try to identify the text structure.

7.  Ask focusing questions targeting the text structure such as which signal words are used to show a particular relationship among ideas in a text structure.

8.  Pictures can be drawn to model the sequence structure.

19.  Create and provide guides and teacher-made organizers that reflect that structure of the original text. This can help students focus on the key elements of the reading selection.

10.  Present students with a completed graphic organizer as a pre-reading strategy.  Have students write a probable paragraph using a predicted text structure prior to reading.  After reading, compare students’ probable passages and the original text.

11.  Write using the text structures.  The teacher should model writing a paragraph using a particular text structure and describe his/her actions as he/she is writing. Then students write their own paragraphs using text structure/ paragraph frames as templates.

12.  Make the connection between reading and writing.  When students read an example of a particular text structure, have them write using that same text structure.  Writing can be done as a pre-reading or post-reading strategy.  

13.  Rewrite a paragraph or passage using a different text structure than the original.  Compare the two and analyze why the author might have chosen the original pattern.  

14.   Use summary frame questions to guide students’ comprehension before, during, and after reading.  Each organizational structure suggests questions which readers should consider as they are reading and be able to answer once they’ve finished reading the passage.

15.  Use text coding strategies – highlighters, Post-It Notes, etc. – targeting text structures.  Teachers must model these strategies and be consistent in the procedures (same color each time, etc.).

When teaching nonfiction, think of before reading (assessing and building content knowledge), during reading (supporting and monitoring comprehension) and after reading (evaluating, extending, and transferring content knowledge) activities.  


K-W-L Chart - K (what I know), W (what I want to know), L (summarize what I learned).  This activity helps activate background knowledge, while building background knowledge for peers.  From their background knowledge, students can come up with a list of questions of what they would like to learn.  Synthesizing takes place when they write what they have learned.

Skimming and Scanning – This is a necessary skill to quickly find the most important information in a text.  Have students work in pairs to skim and scan the nonfiction text features  (title, headings, glossary, maps, charts, bold faced words, etc.), and have the students read only the first and last paragraphs.  Ask what they think the text or chapter will be about.  Have students write down questions/comments in one column, and facts they have quickly just learned in another column.  What will be the important points in the text or chapter?  (Teachers may ask in what section certain information would be found.  This will help assess critical thinking.) 

Anticipation Guide -  Anticipation Guides are helpful to activate background knowledge and build interest in an upcoming lesson.  Teachers determine key ideas in a text or chapter.  They write 3-8 statements which tap into the students’ background knowledge; include statements which could be opinions ~ not just facts that only can be answered by reading the text.  Have students read the statements, circling agree or disagree or yes/no.  By working with a partner, students can have discussions to expand their knowledge.  Then, students revisit the statements after reading the text, circling agree or disagree (yes/no) again.

Predict -O-Gram - This is a good way to highlight language in a text, make predictions, and create questions prior to reading.  The teacher reads aloud a portion of a text, then supplies the students with words that appear on the upcoming pages.  The students use the words to anticipate upcoming events, suggest ways the words might be used, and ask questions they believe might be answered. 

Admit Slip –   Admit slips develop a purpose for reading, which, research shows, leads to a deeper understanding of a text and higher retention of information because readers are creating connections, storing new information in meaningful ways.  Basically, the teacher copies an illustration from a textbook and/or makes a list of headings and subtitles used in the text.  The students must write 3 questions they believe the reading will answer, or list 3 pieces of information they think they will learn.  Have students discuss their predictions/questions prior to reading, and list them together.  Read to confirm/answer the items on the list.   

Teach New Words Prior to Reading - Whether you teach new words in context, through association, integration with background knowledge, structural analysis, compare/contrast, or through visuals, having a grasp on the new vocabulary will greatly improve students’ comprehension.  Connect the new words to the reading.  Not all new words need to be formally taught for the students to understand the passages, for example, many new words students may figure out in context.  Always use integration, repetition, and meaningful use to make the new vocabulary memorable.    

Advance Organizer - A graphic organizer provides students with general information about a topic before they read.  

Assessing Preconceptions and Addressing Misconceptions - Brainstorm with students what they THINK they know before a topic is introduced.  Clarify misconceptions with hands-on activities, explanations, photographs, examples. . . before the students read.  This way, they can better accept the new ideas as they read.


Reciprocal Teaching - This strategy helps students to focus and monitor their reading in order to achieve higher comprehension.  After watching teacher demonstrations of predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing from a short passage, students practice these 4 with a partner.  First assign each student a reading partner.  They will read a short section together, and work together through each of the 4 stages.  At the questioning stage, one student will ask questions of the other.  This role is changed on the next section.  They can predict, clarify and summarize together.

DR-TA (Directed Reading-Thinking Activity) -  This strategy is helpful because of the 4 components that extend and support students’ reading and thinking:  activate prior knowledge, predict, read, revisit prediction to confirm or revise.  First, the teacher asks the class to brainstorm words or ideas associated with a topic.  These are recorded.  Second, students examine the text’s or chapter’s features such as illustrations, graphs, charts. . . .  They form predictions and questions of what they will read.  Third, they have a purpose to read.  Read.  Finally, students discuss the predictions that were confirmed.  They discuss the predictions that they revised as they read, and they look at their lists to see if further reading is still needed before predictions can be confirmed or revised.     

TAG (Textbook Activity Guide) - A TAG is designed to support students as they read.  Prompts are written for the students to help them focus on strategic processes and self-monitoring strategies to help them understand a text.  The teacher reads the section on her own first, highlighting critical content.  A TAG is then created by the teacher to guide the students to this content as they read.  In a TAG, the student works with a partner or small group.  Words like “predict” and “skim” are often used in a TAG, as well as references to the nonfiction text features (glossary, bold-faced words, maps, etc).  Questions are asked and page numbers of where the answers are are given.  This can become a study guide.

Cornell Note-Taking This strategy is effective for helping students understand and remember more of what they read or view.  It supports students in making connections, developing questions, focusing and monitoring their reading, and analyzing what they have learned.  Teacher will model the following first.  Fold a piece of paper in half.  One side is for questions, the other side is for notes, and leave a space at the bottom for summarizing.    During reading or while viewing a video clip, take notes, and develop questions that your notes would answer.  Use these notes to summarize the main ideas at the bottom of the page.  Have students do this individually, then compare with a partner.

Graphic Organizers - Depending on the text structure, prepare an appropriate graphic organizer for students to fill out as they read. 


Exit Slips - This strategy is good for assessing what a student has learned at the end of class.  Exit slips are short prompts given to students for a focused writing that will give the teacher feedback about the learning.  Some exit slip prompts may include:  Write about something you learned today.  What questions do you still have?  How did what we learned today connect with what we learned prior?   

GIST (Generating Interactions Between Schemata and Texts) – This strategy helps students to write organized summaries.  Teacher models this first by finding a short paragraph that details a concept, event, time period, description, problem, or sequential directions.  Read the 1st sentence, and have class summarize that sentence in 15 words or less.  Read the 2nd sentence.  Now have the class combine the first and second sentence into one sentence summarized in 15 words or less.  Continue doing this until the paragraph is read, and the whole paragraph is summarized into one sentence of 15 words or less.  Have students practice on their own paragraph.

Conceptual Questions After the Passage - Have students answer questions after reading to help with recall and to apply conceptual information to new situations.

Good Readers of Informational Text

  • Have clear goals for their reading
  • Preview the text before reading, noticing the nonfiction text features
  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Make predictions
  • Use meaning, and expect the text to make sense
  • Monitor their reading ~ ask “Do I understand this?”
  • Make connections:  text to self, text to text, text to world
  • Create visual images
  • Use the text features (heading, captions, maps, etc.) actively and consciously
  • Draw inferences and conclusions
  • Ask questions as they read
  • Read different kinds of informational texts differently
  • Skim and scan to recheck information
  • Locate information
  • Adjust reading rate to match text demands
  • Make a plan when reading
  • Identify important ideas and words
  • Shift strategies to match purpose
  • Retell, summarize, synthesize
  • Use fix-up strategies:  read on and go back, backtrack, context clues, make substitutions, break unfamiliar words into parts

Nonfiction Prompts

  • I learned. . .
  • I never knew. . .
  • I already knew that. . .
  • I was wrong to think. . .
  • I wonder why. . .
  • I still don’t know. . .
  • An important date is. . .
  • The confusing thing is. . .
  • This helped me explain. . .
  • I was suprised. . .
  • I also want to read. . .
  • The index helped me. . .
  • I like learning. . .
  • I would recommend this book to. . .
  • I would like to share my learning by. . .
  • Some interesting facts are. . .
  • I want to learn more about. . .
  • This book answered my questions about. . . 

Some of this information was taken from http://www.mrsjudyaraujo.com