Analyze how the structure of a text develops literary elements (Inclusive Big Idea #5)

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 8: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #5: Analyze how the structure of a text develops literary elements

Standard: Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style. RL.8.5

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 anchor texts such as The Diary of Anne Frank: A Play by Frances Goodrich and Albery Hackett and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Compare the structure of the play and the autobiography as well as the information presented by both texts. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Explicit Teaching: Introduce 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 students noticing the various differences between the three text types. As you read stories from each genre, record what students notice on a chart. Keep adding to the chart as students continue to notice new things.
  • Story Coding: Provide the students with a copy of the text for the students to mark. Give students a list of signal words. Ask students to find the various signal words in a text and highlight them with a highlighter. Ask students to analyze how the signal words help to understand the structure of the text (flashback, beginning/middle/end, etc.).
  • Flow Chart/Diagram: Students can use flow charts to show how things have changed in the text, using the signal words. Teachers can provide or show students in the text what the “current” situation is. Then, highlighting the “signal words” (meanwhile, unlike, etc.) students can write down/copy how things have changed. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Think, Pair, Share:
    • Provide students with a text. Ask students to analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of the text. Then, the student meets with a peer to share their findings. After the pairs share, a couple of teams can share with the rest of the class. The teacher can then lead a class discussion by asking some of the following questions:
      • Why do you think the author included this sentence/chapter/scene/stanza?
      • What does this sentence/chapter/scene/stanza tell us about the character/setting?
      • How does this sentence/chapter/scene/stanza support the theme?
    • Learn more about Think, Pair, Share in this TIP Sheet.
  • Plot Frame: When reading a story, have students fill out a plot story frame as they read:
    • In this story, a problem begins when _________________________________
    • After that, ____________________________________________________________
    • Next, _________________________________________________________________
    • Then, _________________________________________________________________
    • The problem is solved when _________________________________________
    • The story ends when _________________________________________________
  • Grand Conversations: Gather students to engage in a conversation about chapter books. Ask questions that help students identify the structure of a chapter book. Questions may include:
    • Where does a new chapter begin in a text?
    • What is the purpose of a Table of Contents?
    • How do chapters help readers understand the book?
    • Why do you think the author included chapters in this book?
    • 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?
  • Think Aloud: Model how to analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of the text, or read aloud of text. As you read aloud, explain your analysis.

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

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • allow students to vote on which text to read from a choice of approved texts
  • allow students to work in small groups, partners, or individually to increase engagement
  • connect the content to existing communication boards and experience books
  • share a clear purpose for why the content or skill matters in the “real world”

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 Features: Not every text will have the same text features. It is important to recognize that some texts will offer more support and organization through text features such as headings, highlighted text, etc. while other texts of the same type may offer fewer supports. When determining text type, it is important to evaluate multiple characteristics.
  • Text Structures: Students sometimes disregard 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.

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?

Seventh Grade: Analyze how the structure of a text develops literary elements (meaning) (RL 5)

Eighth Grade: Analyze how the structure of a text develops ideas within the text (RI 5)

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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