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Understanding the Relationship between Text Structure and Author’s Purpose

Lesson Plan

Understanding the Relationship between Text Structure and Author’s Purpose


In this lesson, students will explore text structures of nonfiction texts. Students will:

  • identify transitions and text structure elements to draw conclusions and make inferences about the author’s purpose.
  • identify the author’s purpose for a text.
  • identify relevant parts of a text that reflect the author’s purpose.

Essential Questions

How do readers’ know what to believe in what they read, hear, and view?
How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
What is this text really about?
  • How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
  • What is this text really about?
  • How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
  • How do readers know what to believe in what they read, hear, and view?


  • Author’s Purpose: The author’s intent either to inform or teach someone about something, to entertain people, or to persuade or convince the audience to do or not do something.
  • Expository Text: Text written to explain and convey information about a specific topic. Contrasts with narrative text.
  • Informational Text: Nonfiction text, written primarily to convey factual information. Informational texts include textbooks, newspapers, reports, directions, brochures, and technical manuals.
  • Text Structure: The author’s method of organizing a text.
  • Nonfiction Structure: An organizational structure found in nonfiction (e.g., sequence, question/answer, cause/effect, problem/solution).
  • Transition Words: Words that help maintain the flow of ideas in a text and signal the author’s purpose.
  • Thesis: The subject or major argument of a composition.
  • Topic Sentence: The sentence in a paragraph that states the main idea.
  • Heading: Words or phrases in bold print that indicate the topic of a portion of the text.


50–100 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.


  • “Guppy Gulch, Pennsylvania: A Middle Atlantic State’s Dive Haven,” by Dave and Sheri Albrecht. Diving USA Dive Sites Across America. Web page was chosen because it allows students to focus on text structure. Alternative articles include the following:
    • “Should kids be banned from indoor tanning facilities?”

  • “Interview with J. Michael Fay, Conservationist”

Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.

Formative Assessment

  • View

    The goal of this lesson is to build upon prior knowledge of nonfiction text structures while exploring the various types of text structures.

    • To assess students’ grasp of the concepts, walk around and observe while students complete study guide questions.
    • Provide feedback on students’ work to help them assess their progress toward the goals of the lesson:
      • identify transitions and text structure to draw conclusions and make inferences about the author’s purpose
      • identify author’s purpose
      • identify relevant parts of a text that reflect author’s purpose

Suggested Instructional Supports

  • View
    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction
    W: Guide students to identify different nonfiction text structures, determine how text structures provide a logical sequence of ideas for reader comprehension, and explore how transitions assist with clarity of author’s purpose. 
    H: Engage students by building on their prior knowledge of the author’s purpose and having them identify the purpose of various genres and well as ways authors communicate those purposes. 
    E: Have students review text structures with regard to author’s purpose, identify structures of texts, and then analyze how text features and transition words support the author’s purpose. 
    R: Give students time to reflect upon their comprehension of text structures when analyzing a text for purpose and structural features. 
    E: Have students identify textual examples and transition words that support the author’s purpose. 
    T: Differentiate instruction by using individual response, small group discussion, and whole class involvement, as well as using materials of different readability levels.  
    O: Organize learning experiences by beginning with whole-class direct instruction, move to individual or group activities for organization and transition use, and then return to group sharing for clarification and summation. 

Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Question: How does an author communicate purpose?

    Say, “With a partner, identify an author’s purpose for writing each of the following genres: novel, textbook, newspaper editorial, complaint letter.”

    Have students share their answers with the class. Make sure that students correctly identify an author’s purpose for each genre.

    • novel: tell a story, narrate, entertain
    • textbook: present facts, inform, explain
    • newspaper editorial: present a position or an opinion, persuade
    • complaint letter: describe and explain what went wrong, ask for a replacement product or a refund

    Ask students to brainstorm ways authors communicate their purpose. (Possible responses include word choice, structure or organization, information or evidence included.) Say, “Authors communicate their purpose in a variety of ways. One way is by choosing a particular structure for the text. The author should choose a structure that works to best convey the meaning of the text.”

    Part 1

    Say: “In this lesson, we will look at how authors of nonfiction texts use specific structures to help convey meaning.”

    Provide copies of the Author’s Purpose worksheet (L-8-1-1_Author's Purpose and KEY.doc). To help students review the different structures, direct them to complete the matching section. Review the answers with the class and reteach any terms that students have difficulty with. Answer any questions about how the different text structures might be used to support an author’s purpose.

    Ask students to complete the second half of the worksheet, matching text structure type to the brief samples. When students are finished, encourage them to compare answers with a partner and discuss the reasons for their answers. After this discussion, review the correct answers as a class. If some students have different answers than the key, ask them to give reasons for their choice, referring back to the individual texts to support their reasons.

    Part 2

    Say, “Nonfiction authors also use text features to support the structure they choose to convey the meaning of a text. You are familiar with text features, but now we are going to analyze how text features support an author’s purpose.”

    List the following text features on the board/interactive whiteboard: thesis, heading, topic sentence, transition. Then ask the following questions to help students identify the purpose of each feature:

    • “Which feature tells the main idea and position for an entire nonfiction text?” (thesis)
    • “Which feature tells the main idea of a paragraph?” (topic sentence)
    • “Which feature divides the article into different sections based on topics?” (heading)
    • “Which feature connects the ideas between sentences and paragraphs?” (transition)

    Reteach concepts if necessary. Say, “Now we are going to examine some common transitions and how they are used to support an author’s purpose.” Have students complete the Common Transitions handout (L-8-1-1_Common Transitions and KEY.doc). Discuss the answers as a class, and answer any questions students may have about the relationship between transitions and author’s purpose. Explain that transitions are important in maintaining the flow of ideas in a text. Spot check the handouts for comprehension.


    In small groups, have students examine sample texts (from textbooks, newspapers, magazines, or online sources) and make a list of transitions in the text. Then have the groups read the text aloud, omitting the transitions as they read. Have the groups discuss how the text is changed without transitions. As a class, discuss their results. Say, “Transitions are a sort of glue that holds ideas together. Without them, ideas are less clear and the reader can be confused about the purpose of the text.” Answer any questions about the use of transitions.


    For additional information about the use of transition words and phrases, see Related Resources.

    Part 3

    Have students read “Guppy Gulch, Pennsylvania: A Middle Atlantic State’s Dive Haven.” Then have them work in groups to do the following:

    • identify the author’s purpose.
    • locate sections of text that support the purpose.
    • identify transition words in the text and relate them to the purpose.

    After students have finished, have the groups share their work with the class. This text has more than one purpose. While the main purpose is to describe a local attraction, other purposes include giving a history of the site and persuading people that it is a fun place to visit. In the discussion, make sure that students have identified the various purposes in the text: describing, informing, narrating, and persuading. Have students offer examples of sections of the text that reflect the author’s purpose, as well as any transition words they notice, to ensure that students have understood that task. Say, “As you can see, a single text may have several purposes and different ways of achieving them. The better we understand an author’s underlying purposes, the better we can understand the real meaning of a text.”


    • Students who are ready to go beyond the standard can be given a speech, magazine article, or nonfiction essay and asked to identify the text structures, citing evidence of each.
    • Students who need additional opportunities for understanding transitions might be given a reading-level appropriate text and asked to circle or highlight transition words within the text, look up what purpose the transition words support, and then label the purpose.

Related Instructional Videos

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Final 06/07/2013
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