Learning thrives on structure, and one way to increase reading comprehension is to teach students about text structures that they are certain to encounter when reading. When students know what to expect, they are able to read with confidence. Thus, by teaching students about common text structures such as description, sequence, problem/solution, cause/effect and compare/contrast, you are able to help students to feel comfortable about the reading process regardless of their literacy levels.
1. Introduce students to a new text by using pre-reading activities. For example, encourage your students to examine the way the text is organized before beginning to read. Does it contain any photos or other visual inserts? Do such images help one to predict the content of the text? Is a logical and sequential work suggested by means of bar graphs or maps? Conversely, do these images use appealing colors or designs to suggest a descriptive work?
2. Identify commonly used text structures. Expository writing relies on structure to develop ideas. Thus, logical reasoning in a text often proceeds sequentially, while free-form writing still may contain vital structural components such as description, elements of cause and effect or instances of comparison. Newspaper articles, for example, abound with these text structures. Thus, when budding readers are taught to recognize these structures, they are empowered with increased understanding of the substance of material they are studying.
3. Provide clues to alert readers to the occurrence of structure within text. While reading a passage aloud for your students, place added emphasis on sections of the work where a text structure is occurring. For example, if a comparison within a passage is represented by a row of columns, slow your reading speed or add volume to your voice to draw extra attention to this section of the text.
4. Solicit the participation of your students to cooperatively diagram a text’s vital passages. One of the best ways to capture the attention of your students is by means of discussion in front of an overhead projection of the passage. Solicit student response, and highlight text structures with wet erase markers. Encourage students to highlight these same lines on their own copies of the passage.
5. Let students use a graphic organizer to analyze text structure. Concepts such as cause and effect or problem and solution are sometimes easier to diagram on paper than they are to simply think about. Graphic organizers help students to visualize information in parts rather than as an overwhelming whole, and allow them to make quick connections between dissimilar ideas.