Analyze how the structure of a text develops ideas within the text (Inclusive Big Idea #5)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 7: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #5: Analyze how the structure of a text develops ideas within the text

Standard: Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to the development of the ideas. RI.7.5

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Informational Data Charts: Have a text structure conversation with students. Find a book that represents each of the five different informational text structures. Then, with the students, fill out a data chart to see the types of signal words that are used with each type of text.
    • Description Signal Words:
      • Like
      • Similar
    • Chronology Signal Words:
      • First
      • Next
      • Second
      • Third
      • Before
      • After
      • When
    • Problem/ Solution Signal Words:
      • One problem
      • A way to solve this
      • Problem
      • Solution
      • Dilemma
      • Puzzling
    • Compare/ Contrast Signal Words:
      • On one hand
      • On the other hand
      • Similar
      • Different
      • But
      • However
    • Cause/ Effect Signal Words:
      • Because
      • If, Only
      • Since
      • Because
      • Made
      • For this reason
  • Graphic Organizers: Ask students to interact with a variety of informational texts that represent different text structures (compare/contrast, description, cause/effect, problem/solution, chronology). As they review the various texts, ask students to fill out a corresponding graphic organizer so they recognize the differences in text structures. Provide options for students to complete their graphic organizers, see this TIP Sheet for more information and ideas.
    • Venn Diagrams: To get students to understand the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information, use a compare/contrast text structure. Brainstorm (individually, in a small group, or with the whole class) how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different. Start by modeling this with an engaging example. Provide multiple options for students to record ideas into the Venn Diagrams, such as words, images, or other media. Venn Diagrams can be paper-based or digital. See this TIP Sheet for more information on graphic organizers.
    • Timelines: Individually, in pairs, or with the whole class, students can craft a timeline to record important events in history or important milestones in a well-known person’s life. Timelines can be digital or paper-based. A template can help students know how to get started. Students can create multiple timelines of the same historical period to compare the influence of one thing on something else (e.g., a timeline of important events of the Civil Rights movement and a timeline of the historical Civil Rights legislature that was passed as a result).
    • Flowchart: Ask students to plot the relationship between ideas in a flowchart. Students can record effects and their relevant causes as well as map a problem and subsequent solution within a flowchart. Start by modeling the process with a well-known topic, then allow students to complete their own flowcharts independently or with a partner.
    • Bubble Map: When determining the main idea and relevant details in a passage, a bubble map can help students prioritize information from a text and present it in a visual way to help clarify the relationship between ideas. After reading a passage, ask students to determine what they think the text is about and place that idea in the center of the bubble map. Then have students (individually, in small groups, or as a whole class) brainstorm the supporting details and place those around the main idea. Students may need support in determining which details from the text are meaningful, so have a discussion about how to determine what information is most important to their understanding of a text.
  • Instructional Conversations: Individually, in small groups, or with the whole class, engage in a conversation about signal words. First, ask students what they already know about signal words to determine their background knowledge. Next, provide direct information about signal words to build their knowledge. Then, ask different questions about signal words and allow the group to have an open conversation about the topic. For this particular instructional conversation, ask students about signal words. See this TIP Sheet for more information on Whole Group Discussions. Questions might include:
    • How does this signal word (point to/say/sign a word in a text) help us locate information in this text?
    • (Indicating other signal words) What do these signal words tell us about the information?
    • How do these signal words help us as readers?
  • Information Sorting: Ask students to sort the signal words under each of the matching text structures: Description, Chronology, Problem/Solution, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect. Sorting can be done through drag and drop on the computer, using index cards with signal words written on them, choosing from options, etc.
  • Model to Understand: Place a brief informational piece with clear structure and signal words on the interactive whiteboard or shared online document. As you read aloud, highlight and note the signal words. When appropriate, place pieces of information in a graphic organizer to show how the signal words helped to locate important information (e.g., if the author has used a chronological structure, place the sentences with the signal words that demonstrate the chronology on a timeline).

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that a student needs to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • be aware of how much sensory input occurs at once, perhaps offer the option to use headphones
  • show examples and provide answers to check along the way
  • provide templates or graphic organizers
  • allow use of spell checks and other tools 

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • The Big Idea: Analyze how the structure of a text develops ideas within the text
  • Tell me more about… Informational Text Structures
    • When readers interact with the text to create meaning, it is helpful to have an awareness of the organizational structure of what is being read. For instance, students learn to be aware of cues that alert them to specific text structures such as main ideas and details, a cause and its effects, and/or different points of view. Teaching students to recognize common text structures can help them focus their attention on key concepts and relationships, anticipate the content of what they will read, and monitor their comprehension. Additionally, when students are aware of the text structures, they connect information with their prior knowledge, increase their reading speed, and retain information better. Finally, students who develop an understanding of text structure are more likely to apply their knowledge to their own writing.
    • Internal Text Structure: These text structures refer to the ways in which information within a text is organized to convey the content. Some texts are organized using more than one text structure. Text structures offer important clues that organize the text in predictable and understandable ways.
    • Text Features (External Text Structures): These text structures physically organize and signal information in a text, such as headings, illustrations, bold or highlighted terms, and notes. These call attention to essential information within a text. External text structures help readers identify key ideas and details within a text. This supports comprehension by alerting students to the most relevant information and helping them locate information in a text.
    • Description: The author explains a topic, idea, person, place, or thing by listing characteristics, features, and examples. Focus is on one thing and its components. Look for the topic word (or synonym) to be repeated throughout the text.
      • Example: Many things must be taken care of to get ready to go back to school. For example, one thing to do is prepare your classroom. Another is to organize your materials. The most important thing to do to be ready to go back to school is to plan engaging lessons for students.
      • Signal words include: for example; characteristics are; such as; looks like; consists of; for instance; most important
      • Description Question Stems:
        • What specific person, place, thing, event, or concept is being described?
        • How is the topic described? (How does it work? What does it do? What does it look like?)
        • What are the most important attributes or characteristics?
        • How can the topic be classified? (For example, a robin can be classified as a type of bird.)
      • Paragraph Frame
        • A _______ is a type of ______. It is made up of _____ and looks like _____. Some _____ have _____ such as _____. For example, _____. _____ has several characteristics. One characteristic is _____. Another is _____, which is important because _____.
    • Chronology: Also known as sequence. The author lists items or events in numerical or chronological order. Describes the order of events or how to do or make something.
      • May present a timeline, a cycle, or steps/directions
      • Signal words include: first, second, third; next; then; after; before; prior to; not long after; while; meanwhile; simultaneously; at the same time; following; finally; at last; in the end; on (date); at (time); directions
      • Sequence Question Stems
        • What sequence of events is being described?
        • What are the major events or incidents that occur?
        • What are the steps, directions, or procedures to follow? (What must be done first, second, etc.?)
        • What is the beginning event?
        • What other events or steps are included?
        • What is the final outcome, event, or step?
      • Paragraph Frame
        • Here is how a _____ is made. First, _____. Next, _____. Then, _____. Finally, _____. On (date), _____ happened. Prior to that _____ was _____. Then _____. After that _____. In the end, _____.
    • Compare/Contrast: The author explains how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different.
      • Signal words include: differs from; similar to; in contrast; alike; same as; as well as; on the other hand; both; either, or; not only, but also; yet; although; but; however; on the other hand. Also look for “-est” words: best, fewest, tallest, etc.
      • Compare/Contrast Question Stems
        • What items are being compared?
        • What is it about them that is being compared?
        • What characteristics of items form the basis of the comparison?
        • What characteristics do they have in common; how are these items alike?
        • In what ways are these items different?
      • Paragraph Frame:
        • _____ and _____ are alike in several ways. Both _____ and _____ have similar _____. Both also _____ as well as _____. On the other hand, one way they differ is _____. Another difference is _____. Although they share _____, only _____ is the _____-est.
    • Cause and Effect: The author lists one or more causes or events and the resulting consequences or effects. Effect = What happened? Cause = What made it happen? The purpose is to explain why or how something happened, exists, or works. Often there will be an “if/then” pattern.
      • Signal words include: reasons why; reasons for; if...then; as a result of; therefore; because of; so; since; in order to; leads or leads to; effects of; caused by; result; outcome; impact; influenced by; brought about by
      • Cause and Effect Question Stems
        • What happened?
        • Why did it happen? What was the reason for…?
        • What was the effect(s) of the event? What happened as a result of…?
        • What were the results or outcomes caused by the event?
        • In what ways did prior event(s) cause or influence the main event?
        • Will this result always happen from these causes?
      • Paragraph Frame:
        • The reason why _____ happened was because of _____. If _____ hadn’t happened, then _____. Due to _____ occurring, _____. This explains why _____. The cause of _____ is not easy to define. Some people think the cause is _____. Others believe the main cause is _____. Understanding the cause of _____ is important because _____. The effects of _____ are significant because _____. One effect of _____ is _____. Another result is _____. Because of these outcomes, it is important that _____.
    • Problem/Solution: The author states a problem and lists one or more possible solutions to the problem. May also include the pros and cons of the solutions.
      • Signal words include: problem is…; dilemma is…; puzzle is…; solved; question; answer; because; since; this led to; the main difficulty; one possible solution is…; one challenge…; therefore; this led to, so that; if...then, thus
      • Problem and Solution Question Stems
        • What is the problem?
        • Who had the problem?
        • What is causing the problem?
        • Why is this a problem?
        • What is wrong and how can it be taken care of?
        • What solutions are recommended or attempted?
        • What can be improved, changed, fixed, or remedied?
        • What are the pros and cons of the solutions offered?
      • Paragraph Frame
        • _____ had/is a problem because _____. One possible solution is _____. This answer is good because _____. Therefore, _____. As a result, _____. The problem of _____really boils down to the issue of _____. In the past, the common solution was to _____. However, this was only effective in terms of _____. There are now other solutions that might work. One option would be to _____.
  • Tell me more about… Main and Supporting Ideas
    • Students may have difficulty prioritizing information within a text to determine the main idea and supporting details. They will need modeling and support to make progress with this skill.


Looking for more suggestions? Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Text Structures: Text structure is often part of reading instruction that teachers presume their students will inherently learn. Believing the students will come to understand and identify text structure through exposure alone to informational text is a misconception. Explicit text structure instruction and activities can be incorporated into teaching literacy and substantially help students with organizing their thoughts and increasing their comprehension. It is also important that students learn when and how to choose appropriate flow charts and organizers to match the text structure they are currently reading.
  • Writing: Students can start to develop their own writing and creation of different kinds of texts because they know the key features of each.
  • Taking Notes: As students gather information in content area classes, ask them to use appropriate graphic organizers to record important facts and explore the relationship between the bits of information.

Everyday Connections

  • In the News: Apply an understanding of text structure, especially cause/effect or problem/solution to current events articles. Discuss the issues. Generalize issues to local issues or aspects of daily life.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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