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Exploring Ways Authors Use Text Structures to Convey Meaning

Lesson Plan

Exploring Ways Authors Use Text Structures to Convey Meaning


In this lesson, students will explore ways authors use text structures to convey meaning. Students will:

  • analyze nonfiction text structures and explain how ideas are developed.
  • demonstrate understanding of nonfiction text structures through oral presentation.
  • explain the relationship of text structure to 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?


  • Author’s Purpose: The author’s intent to inform or teach someone about something, to entertain people, or to persuade or convince the audience to do or not do something.
  • Informational Text: It is nonfiction, written primarily to convey factual information. Informational texts comprise the majority of printed material adults read (e.g., textbooks, newspapers, reports, directions, brochures, technical manuals, etc.).
  • Text Structure: The author’s method of organizing a text.
  • Cause/Effect: Causes stem from actions and events, and effects are what happen as a result of the action or event.
  • Compare/Contrast: Placing together characters, situations, or ideas to show common or differing features in literary selections.
  • Problem/Solution: An organizational structure in nonfiction texts, where the author typically presents a problem and possible solutions to it.
  • Sequence: The order in which events take place.


45–90 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

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


You need at least one example of each nonfiction text structure at the reading level of your students. The following examples have been chosen because they have the distinct traits of each text structure. Teachers may substitute other books or materials to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.





  • A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History by Lynne Cherry. Sandpiper, 2002.
  • Sparrow Jack by Mordicai Gerstein. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.



  • “How to Grow Salt Crystals” available at
  • Science in Seconds for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do in Ten Minutes or Less by Jean Potter. Jossey-Bass, 1995.
  • Janice VanCleave’s Earth Science for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work by Janice VanCleave. Wiley, 1991.
  • Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage by the editors of Time for Kids with Renée Skelton. HarperCollins, 2005.
  • recipes


Cause/ Effect:



  • “New Waves for Safe Flying”
  • “Ready, Unplug, Drive”
  • The Yellow House: Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin Side by Side by Susan Goldman Rubin. Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
  • George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2007.


Other Materials:

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Formative Assessment

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    The goal of this lesson is to build on students’ understanding of nonfiction text structures and how they help the reader better understand the text.

    • Observe students during their discussions with partners. Evaluate students’ ability to do the following:
      • Identify the text structure in nonfiction text and analyze how it is developed.
      • Explain how the text structure contributes to the meaning of a nonfiction text.
      • Explain how text structure supports the author’s purpose.
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Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Explicit Instruction
    W: Review the characteristics of nonfiction text. Have students explore one text structure and become proficient at analyzing it.
    H: Have students work together to teach one another about the various text structures and how the author uses these structures to convey meaning to the reader. 
    E: Help students determine whether they understand the various text structures or need to review them. 
    R: Provide opportunities for students to discuss their understanding with a partner and then share with the larger group. Encourage students to discuss their results. 
    E: Observe students to assess their understanding and development of nonfiction text structures, and give students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. 
    T: Provide flexible groupings based on students’ instructional reading levels, and incorporate extension activities for all levels by suggesting materials for further practice as well as more difficult materials to extend thinking to a higher level. 
    O: The learning activities in this lesson provide for large-group instruction and discussion, small-group exploration, partner interaction, and individual application of the concepts. 


Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Questions: How do nonfiction authors use text structure to convey meaning? How does text structure help readers understand the author’s purpose?

    When preparing for the lesson, choose one example of each text structure. Arrange the class into five groups. Assign each group a text structure and a passage to read. Don’t tell students which text structure they are going to be reading about.

    Show students the Nonfiction Text Structures Information Page (L-6-4-1_Nonfiction Text Structures Information Page.doc) that has been re-created on the board/chart paper/interactive whiteboard. Read aloud the five text structures and review the characteristics of each. Explain that students will read a nonfiction passage and answer the following questions:

    • Which text structure is used in the passage?
    • What clues in the text indicate the text structure (e.g., key words or sentences, arrangement of ideas, text features)?
    • How does the text structure help the reader understand the author’s purpose?

    Give each student a passage and the Nonfiction Text Structures Information Page. When students are finished reading the passage and filling in the information page, have them discuss with other group members what text structure was used in their passage, what clues they found to indicate the text structure, and how the text structure helps them understand the author’s purpose. Move around the room to facilitate discussion in the groups. Help students understand how transition words or sentences, repetition of key words or ideas, and use of text features support text structure.

    Have one student from each group move into new groups so that you now have five new groups with at least one student who is an “expert” on each text structure. Have each expert present his/her passage and the text structure, pointing out evidence that indicates text structure to the group. Other students in the group should make notes on their information page as the student is presenting. Each student should then have the information page filled in with information about all of the text structures.

    Bring students together and fill in the information page on the board/chart paper/interactive whiteboard. Tell students to make sure that they have the correct information on their individual information page. Give them an opportunity to make changes at this time.


    • To assess students’ grasp of the concepts, have students read a short passage from their science or social studies textbook that has a distinct text structure. Give them time to read the passage and write on a sticky note the text structure and why the author used that structure. Have students hand in their sticky notes. Determine if students are successful in meeting the goal of determining the text structure and its purpose. Provide additional instruction if needed.
    • Have students choose a topic to research. Then have them choose the most appropriate text structure to use to present the information. Have them explain why they chose that text structure. You may need to provide students with a list of topics that work well with the text structures that have been studied.
    • Use copies of student work from previous years (without names) for students to analyze for text structure.
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Final 03/01/2013
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