There are five basic informational text structures that most nonfiction writers use to organize text. It is important that we explicitly teach these structures to our students, and help them pick out the structure when it is combined with others in a single nonfiction text. When students recognize the basic nonfiction text structures, they will comprehend what they are reading more easily. Understanding these informational text structures will enable kids to read, write, and most importantly, think in a logical and organized way.
Compare and Contrast
This text structure explains how things are alike and how things are different. To compare means to tell how things are the same. To contrast means to tell how they are different. A compare and contrast structure will fit nicely into a venn diagram graphic organizer.
Cause and Effect
The cause is why something happens, and the effect is what happens. Texts with this structure may describe a cause and effect chain of events. It may describe a chain of cause and effect that circles back around to become a circular cycle. This may tell about one cause with several effects, or several causes with one effect. You can find chain of event, cycle, and other graphic organizers that use blocks and arrows for diagramming cause and effect.
Problem/Solution informational texts do what their name implies. They describe a problem, and then describe one or more solutions to the problem. This may be about a current problem, a possible future problem, or a historical problem that is already solved. You can use a simple two column graphic organizer with one labeled “Problem”, and the other labeled “Solution(s)” to diagram the thinking behind this nonfiction text structure.
A list of events in the order they happened is the sequence informational text structure. A timeline graphic organizer will be the organizational model of choice for this type of nonfiction structure.
A list type organization is, of course, what you are reading right now. The author lists and describes important elements of the topic. A numbered list would be the simple graphic organizer associated with this type of informational structure.
Informational text structures are important to recognize. Students will become better thinkers, readers, and writers if they understand and recognize these basic ways of organizing nonfiction content.