Our school has spent about a month in an expository unit already, and a lot of the grade levels are currently working on text structures. The structures that third grade works with are sequential order and cause and effect. Fourth grade adds compare-contrast, and fifth grade adds logical order and classification scheme.
We have worked hard on starting with a tangible experience – something hands-on designed to have the kids notice patterns in language, etc., and then bridging to application in a text. We’re trying to scaffold students’ understanding of the ideas.
Text structures always seems to be the key for students to really comprehend. I feel like students often read superficially, skimming and browsing through the text, but not really noticing or reading closely enough to consider the relationships between words in sentences, paragraphs, and the overall text. This happens in fiction and nonfiction, but it’s especially difficult in nonfiction.
For cause and effect – a difficult standard introduced and tested in third grade, we decided to start with an anchor chart and Mix-Pair-Share activity with statements on cards. This is the anchor chart we created as a sample:
First, kids will recieve a set of cause and effect statements on cards. Each student receives a card. They mix-pair-share to find their cause-effect match. Then, in their partners, they use the sentence stems on the anchor chart to build sentences including their cards.
My favorite part is the sentence stems on the bottom. We’re trying to get kids to use the stems in speaking and writing. We’re hoping this will help them think about the relationship between ideas and how sentence structures contribute to that.
One common misconception I’ve found with text structures is where we see them. In the standards, it feels like the entire text will be a cause-effect structure, or a sequence, but in reality, it’s usually a few sentences, a paragraph, or a section of text that are organized that way. Several different types of text structures can be used in one text.
To help other teachers out with these topics of nonfiction, I’ve been working on a Nonfiction Pack that includes these activities as well as many others! I’m super excited about it – it will be my largest reading pack to date! I’ll let you know when it’s up!