Using Text Structure While Reading

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  • 0:04 Human Experience in Text
  • 1:05 Text Structure While Reading
  • 1:35 Types of Text Structure
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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.

If you need strategies to help make reading and comprehending text easier, this lesson is for you! Read on to learn how you can easily determine text structure to quickly understand the texts you're reading!

Human Experience in Text

I'm standing in the middle of a large, grassy rectangle, surrounded by tiers of bleachers. What is this structure called, and what's it used for?

If you said that I'm in a stadium where people play and watch sports, good deduction. A few details allowed you to instantly recognize the structure and its purpose, and even predict what might happen there this Sunday.

Writing is similar. Just as we use architectural structure to give purpose to a given space, text structure, or the way writers organize their writing, gives the text purpose.

Writers organize their writing differently depending upon the type of writing they're doing. For example, a writer would use a cause and effect structure to discuss the effects of dramatic Hollywood affairs, but that writer would build a compare/contrast structure to discuss the similarities and differences between the US and European educational systems. When you know what kind of text you're reading, you'll understand it more easily. Let's learn some more about different text structures and how to recognize them.

Text Structure While Reading

When reading, understanding text structure allows students to better comprehend the text as a whole. If you're not sure how or why the texts are organized the way they are, you will not be able to effectively read or decipher them. Understanding and using text structure while reading means asking questions and determining what is and is not important. This lesson breaks down different types of text structures and provides questions you can ask to help make it easier to use text structure while reading.

Types of Text Structure

Let's look at examples of text structure forms. Each one has a description, some word clues to help identify which text structure it is, and questions you can ask while reading to help pinpoint important textual information.

Compare/contrast is used to explain how two or more things are similar and/or different.

Word clues (look for these words as hints that this is the type of text structure you're working with):

  • Similar to
  • Alike
  • Same as
  • As well as
  • Differs from
  • In contrast
  • Either
  • But also

Questions (ask these questions to help determine which details are, or are not, important):

  • What exactly is being compared?
  • In what ways are they similar?
  • In what ways are they different?
  • Are they being compared by their parts or as a whole?

Sequence is used to list events or items in order, with or without numbers. This can be used to order events chronologically or to explain the process involved in making or doing something (instructions, recipe, etc.).

Word clues:

  • First, second, third, etc.
  • Then, next, after, while, finally
  • At last
  • In the end
  • On (date)
  • At (time)
  • Any form of directions


  • What is the sequence or directions being described?
  • What exactly is happening in the text? Is this event taking place over time?
  • What is the order of the sequence? What is the end result of this sequence?

Problem and solution is used to state a problem and list one or more potential solutions to that problem. Some texts may include discussion of the pros and cons to the solutions, while others may not include this discussion.

Word clues:

  • Problem is...
  • Dilemma is...
  • One possible solution is...
  • As a result...
  • Therefore...
  • If...then…
  • Leads to...
  • Causes....


  • What is the problem, and what's the solution?
  • What is causing the problem?
  • What solutions are suggested?
  • What could be changed or fixed?
  • What are the pros and cons of the solutions?

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