Don’t let teaching nonfiction text structures be a bore. These sweet and simple ideas are guaranteed to spark engagement like never before!
For years I’ve looked for ways to make my nonfiction/informational text unit more engaging and purposeful. I’ve tried going the super-dense but high-impact route by building my unit around the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and I’ve tried going the light and breezy free choice route, letting student interests lead the way. While I am still refining the unit as a whole, I did stumble upon a sweet way to teach nonfiction text structures that I am crazy about! If you’re getting ready to teach your middle school students about informational text structures, I’ve put together my favorite ideas so you can spark engagement with your students, too!
Step #1: Briefly Review the Purpose of Nonfiction Text Structures
Start with a minilesson where you introduce students to the purpose of informational text structures and the why.
I teach Author’s Purpose before teaching Text Structures because I believe the structure is a by-product of the purpose. I tell my students that “Nonfiction writers organize their ideas in a logical way that best communicates their purpose for writing.” Our goal, as readers, is to determine the big ideas in a text and understand how the author develops them.
We cover five nonfiction text structures and note signal words for each one:
- Description/List: The text resembles an outline. It opens with the main idea and then elaborates on it.
- Cause/Effect: The author tells what happened and reasons why it may have happened.
- Compare/Contrast: The author tells the similarities and differences between multiple things.
- Chronological: The text follows the order in which events occurred or the steps in a process.
- Problem/Solution: The author brings to light an issue that needs awareness and proposes some possible solutions.
After students have been introduced to the basics of text structures, I place them in groups of five for a multisensory jigsaw activity.
Step #2: Make it Sweet with a Jigsaw Read
Now here’s where it gets fun. I love teaching thematically, and with a dry topic, I knew it was time to up the ante and play to my strengths.
Typically, we teach nonfiction between Halloween and Christmas. You know what kids are really interested in at this time? Candy. And lots of it.
Is there a better way to teach nonfiction text structures than to pair it with something sweet? I think not! I decided to bring in some information about those sweet little morsels dripping from students’ pockets. In fact, I could invite them to enjoy some of those sweet little morsels in class – if I could tie it to their learning!
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?!
We split up into groups of five, and each student in a group was assigned a different article:
- The History of Candy
- How Gummy Candy is Made
- Candy: Sweet and Sour
- How Much Sugar is Too Much?
- Expensive Taste
Students from each group with the same article gathered to read the text, determine the text structure, and fill out a corresponding graphic organizer.
And, because multisensory learning has such a positive impact on neural activity in the brain, I provided each group with a couple of sugary items mentioned in the text. This included chocolates, licorice, gummy worms, Nerds, Warheads, Starbursts, and sugar cubes. Not much, but enough for them to suck on & experience while reading.
After all the groups had finished, they reassembled into their original groups and shared their graphic organizers and findings.
Step #3: Assemble Nonfiction Text Structure Anchor Charts
For the last step, I had each group of five put their completed graphic organizers together to form an anchor chart. I gave them a large piece of colored butcher paper (square works fine, but I prefer longer strips) and had them glue and label their graphic organizers. By the end of the day, I chose my favorite few and displayed them in the classroom and hallway!
Tips For Next Time
If you’re not a fan of Jigsaw reading (honestly, it’s not my favorite), you can stretch this lesson out over five days. Each day, feature one article/text structure and work together to identify and analyze the text structure.
Alternatively (my favorite method), you can feature all five articles at stations around your room and have students move through them at their own pace. I’d place reminders at each station about the different text structures and signal words if going this route.
I hope you are excited about giving multisensory learning a try when teaching nonfiction text structures. Whether you’re teaching near Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or Easter, there are plenty of opportunities to find sweet treats for students to enjoy while learning about informational text structures. Or, save the money and ask your students to bring in a few sugary treats from home!
This was such a fun way to increase student excitement and participation in my classroom, and I hope it does the same for you. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment or find me on IG and tag me in your post! I’d love to hear from you about how it goes.