Comprehend grade-level informational text (Inclusive Big Idea #10)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 8: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #10: Comprehend grade-level informational text

Standard: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently. RI.8.10

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?

  • Information Coding/Text Annotations: Provide the students with a copy of the text for the students to mark. Students should then create or use a coding system to help them mark and understand the text. They can use colors, post-it notes, stamps, or a choice of those to mark the text. The coding system might look something like this:
    • Code: (-(, Meaning: I have a connection
    • Code: ???, Meaning: This part does not make sense
    • Code: !!!, Meaning: Wow! This was interesting
    • Code: \#\#\#, Meaning: This is an important part
  • Reflective Monitoring: As students read a text, they can record thoughts/questions/wonderings about the text in a reflective journal. After each day of reading the text, they should spend the last 5 minutes writing a quick reflection about what they just read. This is a way for them to keep track of their thinking as they continue to read.
  • Book Clubs: Gather students in a small group to have a conversation about a common text. The group should determine what chapters/sections will be read and when and gather periodically to share their thoughts about the text.
  • Think Aloud: Read aloud various informational texts to students. As you read, model several different comprehension strategies including monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to prior knowledge, questioning, visualizing and inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information. Students will begin to experience strategies they can use when comprehending texts. See this TIP Sheet for more information on how to model using a Think Aloud.

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: Comprehend grade-level informational text
  • Tell me more about… Text Features
    • Text features make the text more accessible to the reader and often provide additional information to help students comprehend the content. Text features are various ways of manipulating and placing text to draw attention to or emphasize certain points or ideas (e.g., bolding or boxing questions, italicizing key vocabulary, listing, bulleting, numbering). Understanding how to navigate through informational text, quickly find key concepts, and identify what the author feels is most important are essential for effective readers. Some of the most important text features include
      • title
      • table of contents
      • photos
      • captions
      • diagrams
      • headings
      • subtitles
      • bold print
      • timeline
      • glossary
      • index
    • Before reading, text features can also be used to help students evaluate the text and make predictions about what they will read. During reading, point out different text features and think aloud about what information you can gain from each. Saying, for example, “When I look at this diagram that shows the different layers of the Earth, I read the labels and can see how thick each layer is. Then, when I read in the text about the Earth’s core, I can look at the diagram and have a better understanding of where it is in relation to the other layers.”
  • 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. The focus is on one thing and its components
      • 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
      • Look for the topic word (or synonym) to be repeated throughout the text.
      • 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.)
    • Sequence: The author lists items or events in numerical or chronological order. Sequence 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?
    • 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?
    • Cause and Effect: The author lists one or more causes or events and the resulting consequences or effects. 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?
    • Problem and Solution: The author states a problem and lists one or more possible solutions to the problem. May also include pros and cons for 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?


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

  • Accessing Grade-Level Texts: Teachers may believe that students reading below an eighth-grade level cannot access eighth-grade texts. This is not the case. See our TIPS Sheet on accessing grade-level texts for more information.

Everyday Connections

  • Have students read texts of interest to them and gather information relevant to their lives (e.g., gather information about a career they would like to pursue).

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.

Find another Inclusive Big Idea

Grade Level
Subject Area