Determining text structure is a great strategy for comprehension!

If you can figure out how information in a text is organized, that will help you understand it–because you’ll be thinking not just about the ideas, but also the relationships between them.

Key words like reason and result let you know that what you’re reading includes some cause and effect. Terms like similar or on the other hand can clue you in for compare and contrast.

5th grade has been practicing this skill in their classrooms, and they asked if I would reinforce it in the library this week. Of course the answer was yes! 🙂

Since the students have been studying animal classification, features, and adaptations in science, I selected resources that related to those topics. And since we encounter all kinds of texts in our everyday lives, I decided to use a mix of traditional online texts (you know, with headings and paragraphs and stuff) and some outside-the-box resources that included graphics and interactive elements.

When students came into the library, I divided them into groups of 2-3 students each. Each group had a laptop with the lesson Padlet loaded in the browser, so they saw this:

Our lesson Padlet - click to visit!
Our lesson Padlet – click to visit!

We started by reviewing the five text structures we’d be looking for today: description, compare & contrast, chronological order, problem & solution, and cause & effect. We talked about what each one might look or sound like when we’re reading.

We also discussed how a text might use more than one organizational strategy. A piece that primarily compares and contrasts might also include elements of description. A piece that describes a problem and solution might also use cause and effect.

For the activity, students had five different links to visit. All the websites related to their current unit in science, and all of them shared ideas in different ways. As students visited each website, they would explore the information presented, determine its text structure(s), and explain their thinking using this graphic organizer:

Students could visit the websites in any order as long as they made sure to explore all five!
Students could visit the websites in any order as long as they made sure to see all five!

The students were so engaged in exploring these websites that they asked if I could share the links with them for later! They also did an excellent job identifying the organizational strategies each website used–even the not-so-straightforward ones like the animal classification game and the Species in Pieces interactive. (Click the Padlet above if you’d like to explore the sites, too!)

For our closing, the small groups shared their findings with the whole class, and it was great to see how clearly they articulated their thoughts with sentences like “Species in Pieces was cause and effect because it showed the reasons why the animals became endangered,” or “Save The Bats was problem and solution because the bat houses solve the problem of bats losing their habitats.”

I really enjoyed this activity and the students did, too! It’s great to see students excited about exploring new information, but my favorite part was seeing them think so carefully about their reading and learning processes. I love to see metacognition in action!