NonFiction Text Features & Structure

Text features are to non-fiction what story elements are to fiction.  So what exactly are some non-ficiton text features?  Here is a hand-out I made for some of my students when we were studying text features within non-fiction.  It explains how the reader can use the most common text features to help him determine importance.  I hope that you can use it with your child as well.

Some Special Features with Non-Fiction

Text Structure: how the author organizes the information in the text

Why do these text structures matter to readers?

  • When readers what kind of structure to expect, it helps them connect to and remember what they’ve read better.
  • It gives readers clues as to what is most important in the text.
  • It helps readers summarize the text.  For example, if we’re summarizing a text that has a sequence/time order structure, we want to make sure we summarize in the same structure.  (It wouldn’t make sense to tell an autobiography out of order.)

1. Problem/Solution: The author will introduce a problem and tell us how the problem could be fixed.  There may be one solution to fix the problem or several different solutions mentioned.

Real life example: Advertisements in magazines for products (problem-pain; solution-Tylenol)

 

2. Cause and Effect: The author describes something that has happened which has had an effect on or caused something else to happen.  It could be a good effect or a bad effect.  There may be more than one cause and there may also be more than one effect. (Many times, problem/solution and cause and effect seem like “cousins” because they can be together.)

Real life example: A newspaper article about a volcano eruption which had an effect on tourism

 

3. Compare/Contrast: The author’s purpose is to tell you how two things are the same and how they are different by comparing them.

 Real life example: A bargain hunter writing on her blog about buying store-brand items and how it compares with buying name-brand items.

 

4. Description/List: Although this is a very common text structure, I think it’s one of the trickiest because the author throws a lot of information at the reader (or lists facts) about a certain subject.  It’s up to the reader to determine what he thinks is important and sometimes even interesting enough to remember.

 Real life example: A soccer coach’s letter describing to parents exactly what kind of cleats to buy for their kids

 

5. Time Order/Sequence: Texts are written in an order or timeline format

Real life examples: recipes, directions, events in history

 

Sometimes the text structure isn’t so easy to distinguish.  For example, the structure of the text as a whole may be Description/List (maybe about Crocodilians), but the author may devote a chapter to Compare/Contrast (Alligators vs. Crocodiles).

 

More Resources on Text Structure:

  • Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling by Emily Kissner (the entire book is not dedicated to text structure, but several chapters are).  This is a good book for parents who have kids in the upper grades—she teaches 6th grade.
  • For a great chart from Scholastic on text structure, click here.
  • Click here for a Power Point, written by Emily Kissner.  It gives you a more in-depth look at text structures, similar to what is in her book, but on a smaller scale.

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