Practice Text Structure Analysis Strategies

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

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.

Informational texts read very differently than narrative texts, and can be challenging for students. This lesson is all about helping every student learn to use standards based text structure analysis strategies in order to better understand historical texts.

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.

Text Features

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.

  • Title
  • Table of Contents
  • Index
  • Photos/Illustrations/Diagrams
  • Headings
  • Glossary
  • Bold and Italic Print
  • Sub-titles

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.

Structure Web Layout

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:

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