Describe what happens in a story using text structure; Explain the differences between text types (poem, prose, drama) (Inclusive Big Idea #5)

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 4: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #5: Describe what happens in a story using text structure; Explain the differences between text types (poem, prose, drama)

Standard: Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, setting descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text. RL.4.5

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?

  • Anchor Text: Use an anchor text like the poem Sick by Shel Silverstein. After the students read or listen to the poem, ask them to describe it, making direct references to the rhyme and imagery of the poem. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Explicit Teaching: Explicitly teach text structures by introducing students to the terminology associated with prose (sentences, chapters), poems (lines, stanzas, rhyme, meter), and plays (acts, scenes, stage direction, scripted dialogue). Provide mentor texts so students can see examples of each.
  • Genre Study: To create a deeper understanding of the difference among the structures used in a story, the structures used in a poem, and the structures used in a play, conduct a genre study with the children noticing the various differences between the three text types. As they read or listen to stories from each genre, have students record what they notice on a chart or on video. Encourage them to keep adding to the chart/video and sharing as students continue to notice new things
  • Grand Conversations: To delve deeper into the “what” authors do when they write stories, poems, and plays, have a conversation with a small group or whole class of students. Questions may include:
    • What makes stories, poems, and plays different?
    • How are stories, poems, and plays similar?
    • How can you break down the text into smaller pieces (e.g., a scene of a play, a stanza of a poem)? How do these pieces fit together to create a larger story?
  • Genre Sort: After reading or listening to several stories, poems, and plays, create a genre sort for the students that has multiple elements (e.g., characters, setting, plot, scenes, acts, rhymes, stanzas) written on sort cards. Next, create three categories: stories, poems, plays. Ask students to sort the cards into the three categories to show their understanding of the differences among the genres. This can be done using digital tools or paper.
  • Think Aloud: To model your knowledge about genres, talk aloud as you read various stories, poems, and plays. As you read a play, you may notice the difference between dialogue meant to be spoken aloud and stage direction meant to direct the performers silently.  Or you may say, “Oh, these have rhyming phrases and stanzas. That’s how I know this is a poem.” Record main ideas on chart paper or on a handout students can reference when they are reading on their own.

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 if the lesson is not designed to be of interest or relevant.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • provide models based on student choices of texts
  • create a personalized glossary
  • personalize and contextualize content to relate to students’ lives
  • ask students how the topic relates to them.

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.

  • Why are Text Structures Important?
    • Whether reading a story book, an article, a poem, or a comic strip, understanding how the text is organized is a lifelong-skill readers use to enhance their comprehension. The various ways texts are organized are known as text structures. To develop readers who understand what they are reading, it is essential to help them familiarize themselves with the different ways authors organize their ideas in their writing.
  • What are 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.
      • External Text Structures: These text structures physically organize and signal information in a text, such as headings, illustrations, bold or highlighted term, 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.
  • What are the Elements of Narrative Structures?
    • Plot: A sequence of events involving characters in conflict situations. Plot is based on the goals of one or more characters and the processes they go through to attain these goals.
      • Beginning, Middle, End OR Introduction, Problem, Resolution
      • Plot Development
        1. A Problem: usually presented at the beginning of the story
        2. Roadblocks: throughout the story, characters face roadblocks as they attempt to solve the problem
        3. The High Point: when the problem is about to be resolved
        4. Solution: the problem is solved and the roadblocks are overcome
      • Help Students Understand the Plot
        • Look for the information included in the introduction of a story: time, place, circumstances, main characters.
        • Look for the series of incidents where main characters go about achieving goals.
        • Call attention to how the goals are achieved or not achieved in the conclusion, and the high point of the action.
        • Make timelines of the story.
    • Characters: The people or personified animals who are involved in the story.
      • Fully developed characters have many character traits
        • appearance
        • action
        •  dialogue
        •  monologue
      • Help Students Identify Characters:
        • List characters, noting physical and personality traits.
        • Point out how authors reveal personality traits through character thoughts, behavior, or language.
        • Identify the main characters’ goals and how these goals guide the story.
    • Setting:
      • Components of Setting
        • location
        • weather
        • time period
        • time of day
      • Help Students Identify Key Aspects of Setting:
        • Find words and phrases that signal the time and place a story occurs.
        • Read the beginnings of stories aloud noting the clues for time and place.
      • Point of View:
        • First person:
          • story is told through eyes of one person
          • reader experiences story as the narrator views it
          • found mostly in picture books
        • Third person:
          • used so readers can know the viewpoint of one character
          • the author is godlike; sees and knows all
          • found mostly in chapter books
      • Theme:
        • The underlying meaning of a story. Explores truths about human nature. Can be explicit (stated openly) or implicit (suggested).
  • What are Some Types of Narrative Structures?
    • Prose:
      • chapters- a section of a book usually containing a main event or idea for the story
    • Poetry:
      • verse- a line of writing where words are arranged in a rhythmic pattern
      • rhythm- a flow of rising and falling sounds in language that is produced in verse by a regular repeating of stressed and unstressed syllables
      • meter- a systematic rhythm in poetry that is usually repeated
      • stanza- a division of a poem consisting of a series of lines arranged together in usually repeating patterns
    • Drama:
      • scene- where the action is occurring
      • cast of characters- people in the play
      • setting- place where the story happens
      • dialogue- conversation between two or more people
      • stage directions- provide actors with information about where to stand, how to move, or how to react


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

Go beyond the specific standard! These examples can spark ideas to generalize related skills from the content to real-world experiences for all students.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Text Structures: Students sometimes ignore text structure while reading, but an understanding of text structure helps students organize new information and leads to deeper comprehension of content.
  • Story Elements: Students may lack the knowledge there can be multiple plots, settings, and characters affecting the story to varying degrees.
  • Setting: Setting can include real or fictional places, as well as time periods (e.g., historical fiction).
  • Reader Response: Some students may believe there is only one way to interpret a text. Students need to consider how their prior knowledge and perspective influence their understanding of a story.

Everyday Connections

  • In the Community: Attend a community event at a library or local theater where students watch and/or listen to examples of poetry and drama. 

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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