Nonfiction Text Structures, We're Coming for You!

Most teachers know how important it is to teach students the structures of nonfiction text. But how should one approach this very daunting task?  It’s not easy!

Hopefully, this post can help you explicitly teach students how to identify and use nonfiction text structures.

With nonfiction, there are five common text structures:

  • Description

  • Sequence

  • Compare/Contrast

  • Cause/Effect

  • Problem/Solution

Pretty much every nonfiction text that a student reads (regardless of grade level) will follow at least one of these structures.

Wait. Why is it important to teach nonfiction text structures again? Asking for a friend.

Research shows that students who are explicitly taught nonfiction text structures become better comprehenders. If a reader is able to read closely to identify the text structure of an informational piece, s/he can get his/her brain ready to read, identify the author’s intent, and focus on how key details are related to one another. These are all critical reading skills, especially when presented with content-heavy nonfiction texts!

Makes sense…But HOW do I teach text structures?

As mentioned before, teachers have to be explicit in their approach to teaching nonfiction text structures. I find that it is best to focus on one text structure at a time, deeply immersing students in an exploration of it over a period of 2-3 weeks. That means creating an anchor chart (listing the targeted text feature, its definition, and an example) and incorporating a Gradual Release of Responsibility model to teaching:

  • I Do: (About 4-5 days, depending on level)

    • Teacher models, through Think–Alouds, how s/he identifies the text structure in a piece of text and how that identification helps him/her as a reader

  • We Do: (About 3-5 days)

    • Students are invited to help the teacher identify the text structure and explain how it helps readers

    • Exploration of mentor texts, where students work in pairs and read through various texts together. The goal is to identify the targeted nonfiction text structure and discuss how it helps them as readers

  • You Do: (About 4-5 days)

    • Independent practice of identifying the targeted text structure and discussing how it helps him/her as a reader; could also be done during Guided Reading

Do you have a free resource that I could use?

I’m so glad you asked!

You can click here for a free copy of the Nonfiction Text Structures Anchor Chart above.

NOTE: If you’re looking for more text structure goodness, you should know that anchor chart is part of a bigger Nonfiction Text Structures resource on my TpT page containing:

  • 35 pages of sticky notes templates, including nonfiction text structure graphic organizers, that you print on your 3x3 Sticky Notes (7 different sticky note templates for each nonfiction text structure)

  • 5 pages of teacher support resources (Common Core standard alignment; “What is Text Structure”; “Why is it Important to Teach Nonfiction Text Structures”; “How Do I Teach Text Structures”; “How Could I Use This Resource”; and directions for printing the Sticky Note templates)

  • 2 Nonfiction Text Structure Anchor Charts (includes the free one)

  • a 5-page Booklist, outlining mentor texts to use with each nonfiction text structure

The resource could be used in a variety of ways.

  • The Anchor Charts could serve as a teacher resource when planning /teaching lessons. You may also want to print out a copy for students to add to their Reader’s Notebook.

  • Students could use the Sticky Notes during the “We Do” or “You Do” phase, placing them on the respective pages during exploration. It would be best to scaffold the Sticky Notes, starting with the “I’ve Found a _____!” first and then moving onto the Sticky Notes containing the more complex graphic organizers.

  • The Booklist is designed to save you time so you can quickly find books that fit each text structure. You could use these mentor texts during your “I Do” Think-Alouds as well as during the “We Do” and “You Do” immersion studies. Picture books are fantastic because they are simple enough that 4th and 5th graders do not need to spend a lot of cognitive energy decoding them…leaving more room in their brains for identifying nonfiction text structures!

I hope you find this post useful. It has worked really well with my students and I hope it helps yours, too!

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila ☺

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco

I love, loVE, LOVE this book! There are so many wonderful things about Count on Me, written and illustrated by Miguel Tanco: the images, storyline, message…everything! It’s been awhile since I’ve read a picture book that seems to have it all. 

Count on Me is a story about a young girl who lives with a family of people who know their calling; her mom is a scientist, her dad is a painter, and her brother is a musician.  Through subsequent pages, readers begin to see the girl’s passion take shape. It’s math. Math is all around and the girl just can’t get enough. Even though her peers don’t fully understand her passion, it’s ok. Because she knows that everyone has his/her own way of seeing the world, and hers is through the lens of fractals, polygons, and the like.

Count on Me is a great read aloud for grades 2-3 and will be published on June 11, 2019.

Author/Illustrator: Miguel Tanco

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Tundra Books

I received this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

READcycle - A How-to Kit for a Class or Schoolwide Book Swap Literacy Event!

A few years back, a colleague of mine approached me about starting a schoolwide book swap event in our school. We eagerly dove in and implemented our first READcycle event…which turned out to be such a huge success that we do it every year! We try to schedule our book swap around Earth Day to reinforce the idea of “recycling” books. A book swap would also be fitting for Read Across America Week, Summer Reading Kickoff, or just because!

Benefits of Doing a Class or Schoolwide Literacy Event:

  • getting books into the hands of children

  • promoting reading

  • fostering a deeper sense of community

Since then, many teachers have reached out to me asking how to begin their own READcycle event in their schools. It’s no question that designing a class or schoolwide book swap event can be a valuable yet overwhelming event. As such, I have created a how-to kit for starting your own READcycle book swap event in your own school!

The how-to kit has all of the materials you need to successfully execute your own READcycle event, including:

  • 3-Page How Does READcycle Work? Teacher Guide

  • 2-page Frequently Asked Questions Tip Sheet

  • READcycle Print Checklist

  • READcycle To-Do List

  • EDITABLE READcycle Flyer (*PowerPoint is needed)

  • Certificate of Participation (Color & B/W)

  • Book Donation Record Sheet

  • READcycle Book Tickets (Color & B/W)

  • Check-Out Table Sign (Color & B/W)

  • Donation Box Sign (Color & B/W)

  • READcycle Pennant Banner

  • Grade Level and Genre Table Signs (Color & B/W)

Although this guide is primarily written to support a schoolwide book swap, it can easily be applied to a smaller-scale event (i.e. one or two classrooms).

This year, we will be holding our READcycle event after state testing, on May 20. I will return to post pictures of the event soon thereafter!

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila :)

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier

I recently came across this modern twist on The Little Red Hen and instantly fell in love with it.

Brenda Maier’s version tells the story of Ruby, a plucky little girl who designs an awesome fort (She Shed?) much to the dismay of her three older brothers who were always “too busy” to help her out. I love this version not only because it shows that girls can be engineers, but also because it emphasizes the grit needed to engage with the design process from start to finish.

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier would be a perfect read aloud for 2nd and 3rd graders, especially during a STEM/STEAM unit of study.

If you’re looking for materials to support a book study for this title, click here to go to my TpT page!

Yours in Literacy,


TpT for Schools

Teachers, I want to make sure you know about TpT for Schools!

Educators like you already turn to TpT to get resources to meet the needs of all types of learners — and now your school can support you in purchasing these resources! TpT for Schools is an easy, centralized way for your administrator to use school funds to buy the resources you need from TpT.

Learn more here about how your administrator can sign up:

Louisiana's Way Home

I remember 8 years ago when I finished reading Kate DiCamillo’s masterpiece, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I was in a cafe in Union Square, NYC. As I read the last chapter, I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. 

It was a beautiful moment.

Today, I had a similar experience. Sitting in a cafe in Montclair, NJ, I just finished Ms. DiCamillo’s latest book, Louisiana’s Way Home. Tears race down my face as a heaviness sits in my heart. But I feel hope. Just like with Edward Tulane, I feel hope. 

Louisiana’s Way Home picks up two years after Raymie Nightingale, a book that Ms. DiCamillo published in 2016. Louisiana Elefante has been woken up in the middle of the night by her grandmother, who insists that they must leave Florida immediately to escape the family curse. (This book stands on its own, even if you haven’t read Raymie Nightingale.) What follows is a “long and tragic story full of dark alleys and twists and turns and many unexpected happenings…and also curses. There are curses in the story.” Through all of this, Louisiana has to fight to remember that “perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down but who picks us up.”

Kate DiCamillo is a gifted writer. She can weave deep, sad stories by arranging and rearranging various combinations of twenty-six letters. 

Readers young and old, if you have never picked up one of Kate DiCamillo’s books, you must do yourself a favor and add that to your to-do list. Read one. Read them all. It doesn’t matter, as long as you experience the gift that is Kate DiCamillo.


Appropriate for grades 4-6.

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: October 2, 2018

I received this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.