by Jeff Barger
How do you organize your closet? Are items organized by type or color or season? Knowing the organization pattern in a closet helps you locate your clothing. Knowing the organization pattern of a nonfiction text helps students anticipate what will come next in the text and make it easier to comprehend. These structures also come with signal words/phrases that help identify them. Studying nonfiction text structures is also a great opportunity to practice using graphic organizers. Here are five structures that you will find in nonfiction texts:
- Cause and Effect: This structure helps explain why something happened.
- Examples: What are the factors that help create a snowstorm? How did World War I begin?
- Signal Words/Phrases: as a result, because, if…then, outcome
- Graphic Organizer: Fishbone or Ishikawa diagram
- Compare and Contrast: Finding similarities and differences between two or more events, ideas, objects, or topics.
- Examples: Examining viewpoints on whether collegiate athletes should be paid. Comparing products that perform the same task.
- Signal Words/Phrases: as well as, both, different from, however, similar to
- Graphic Organizer: Venn Diagram
- Description: Teaches readers about a topic using details to explain. This structure will often feature main ideas and supporting details.
- Examples: A text about a city like Washington D.C or about an animal such as a polar bear.
- Signal Words/Phrases: about, characteristics, features, for example
- Graphic Organizer: Bubble Map
- Problem/Solution: Why is there an issue and what can be done to solve it?
- Examples: Texts about inventors or scientists who develop cures for diseases. An issue dealing with traffic clogging up on the main road in your town.
- Signal Words/Phrases: answer, challenge, issue, problem, result, solution, trouble
- Graphic Organizer: Problem and Solution Diagram
- Sequence: These texts contain directions to making something or explain how an event unfolded.
- Examples: A recipe to make cookies. What were the events leading up to a war?
- Signal Words/Phrases: after, before, finally, first, next, then
- Graphic Organizer: Flow Chart, Timeline
Teaching the structure of a nonfiction text will enable a reader to access background knowledge to comprehend a text.
Jeff Barger is a K-5 literacy specialist in North Carolina. He is the creator of the NC Teacher Stuff blog and has written three nonfiction books for children.