Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.
The Importance of Text Structure
There are many different ways information is presented; therefore, there are different ways it should be read and analyzed. A Facebook post is presented differently than a formal letter to a grandparent, just like historical texts are presented differently than a children's fairy tale.
Historical texts are informational, since their purpose is to inform readers about real events that happened in the past. This lesson will explain the structure and features of these texts, and then provide standards based strategies you can use to help students better analyze and understand the content. Let's get started.
Analyzing Text Structure and Features
Text structure refers to the way information is organized in a text. As mentioned, the structure of historical texts is informational, meaning it is non-fiction and used to provide information to others.
It will mostly show up in textbooks, newspapers/periodicals, journals, and magazines, and can be structured in a five different ways:
- Cause and Effect- Explains why or how something happened, exists or works. The effect is what happened, and the cause is what made it happen.
- Problem and Solution- States a problem and lists one or more solutions to that problem.
- Sequence- Describes a timeline, or sequence of events, as they took place in history.
- Description-Explains a topic, idea, person, place, or thing; offers examples to strengthen that description.
- Compare and Contrast- Explains how two or more things are similar and/or different. Could be events, people, places, or groups.
Within all of these different structures, there are key features that can be found. These features are used to add information and further the understanding of what is being presented.
- Table of Contents
- Bold and Italic Print
Students can use these features to learn more about unfamiliar words (glossary), get a breakdown of events (timelines, maps), or get a better understanding of concepts and statistics being shared (diagrams).
Standards Based Text Structure Analysis Strategies
Now that you have a better understanding of the different text structures and features, let's look at some Common Core standards based strategies you can use to help students analyze and differentiate between these features.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4-6: Craft and Structure
Strategy: Analyze Signal Words
Within informational historical texts, there are signal words that can help students figure out which structure of text they are reading. Signal words help identify how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, or descriptively). Here are the words to look out for:
- Cause and Effect- Since, because, if so, therefore, thus, then, as a result
- Problem and Solution- One reason, the problem is, however, because, since, therefore, but, so that
- Sequence- First, second, third, next, finally, lastly, following, now
- Description- For example, in addition, another, for instance, such as, to begin with
- Compare and contrast- Similar to, not only…but also, however, compared to, instead of, but, different from
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1-3: Key Ideas and Details
Strategy: Structure Web
Once students identify the structure of a text, they can get to work on a graphic organizer , or visual way of organizing key ideas, to help break down the text.
A structure web is one example of a graphic organizer that helps students:
- Determine the main ideas and sub topics from the text.
- Identify key steps in a text's description of a process or event related to history/social studies.
- Cite details and evidence that support the main idea and sub topics.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.10: Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
Strategy: Key Term Break Down
Historical texts, such as a social studies textbook, are written for a specific grade level, but not all students will be reading at that grade level. It is important to understand the range of reading levels in the classroom and help struggling students find strategies to help them understand the text. For this strategy, help students:
- Write down each bold term, one by one.
- Look up each term in the provided glossary.
- Write out the definition, and then go back and re-read the word as it is used in the text.
- Write the word out in a sentence, on their own, to be sure they understand its meaning.
If students still struggle to understand any of the key terms, have them ask for assistance from a teacher or another student, as vocabulary comprehension is important for moving forward with text analysis.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7-9: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Strategy: Higher Order Questioning
This strategy is aimed at helping students understand how the structural elements contribute to the overall purpose of the text. This is where students can begin comparing the relationships between sources, texts, and visual key features between both primary and secondary sources. Have them consider some of the following questions:
- How is the content written throughout the text, descriptive or informational?
- How is the evidence presented? Is the evidence fact or opinion?
- How do the visual features integrate information into the text?
- Do primary and secondary sources on the same topic come to the same conclusions?
- What point of view is used, and what emotion is portrayed in the text?
- How are details used to provide background information or support for the main idea?
When practicing standards based text structure analysis strategies, it is important to help students understand the structure types and features of the content being studied. Historical texts are non-fiction and informational in structure, so their purpose is to inform about the past. The texts provide extra information by using key features; therefore, analyzing these features is very important. Analyzing, comparing, and contrasting primary and secondary sources, is a great help when it comes to understanding the standards as well. Most importantly, analyzing signal words, using structure webs, studying key words, and using higher order questioning are the best strategies for improving text structure analysis.
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