This activity helps students understand that science writing is organized in identifiable patterns called text structures. Understanding and using these different text structures help refine students’ abilities to both read and write in science.
Main Curriculum Tie:
English Language Arts Grade 6
Writing Standard 2 a.
Introduce a topic; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across Curriculum, by
Joanne and Richard Vacca (Pearson Allyn & Bacon, 7th edition,
July 9, 2001); ISBN 0321088107
- Physics of Sound (Bouncing Back), by Michael Burgan and Dona
Smith (Delta Education, FOSS™ Science Stories);
- Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a Scientist’s Microscope,
by Stephen Kramer (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston);
- The Solar System (Exploring the Universe), by Robin Kerro (Raintree
Steck-Vaughn); ISBN 0-7398-2817-7
- Kids Discover—Solar System, by Stella Stands, Mark Levin, 149th
Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. ISSN 1054-2868
- The Mystery of Mars, by Sally Ride and Tam E. O’Shaughnessy
(Scholastic, Inc.); ISBN 0-439-18027-9
- Seeing Earth from Space, by Patricia Lauber (Scholastic Inc., 1990);
- Can You Hear A Shout in Space?, by Melvin and Gilda Berger
(Scholastic Inc., 2000); ISBN 0-439-09582-4
- Yuck!: A Big Book of Little Horrors, by Robert Snedden (Simon &
Schuster, New York, 1996); ISBN 0-689-80676-0
- Microorganisms, Fungi, and Plants, (Holt Science & Technology);
Background For Teachers:
Informational text is written to tell, show, describe, or explain. A
good reader looks for structure in text and can easily make a distinction
between important ideas and unimportant ideas in informational text. As
teachers, we should help students identify text patterns that help them
make these distinctions. Five text patterns that seem to dominate
informational text include:
Informational writing is not written in neat, identifiable patterns.
Most informational text is written with a descriptive text structure.
Within text, the author may begin the passage with a problem, then go on
to describe the events contributing to the problem. Or perhaps the author
will compare or contrast the problem in relation to another problem.
Throughout the text, the author may present the solution in a descriptive
text pattern. These descriptions and explanations may be organized in a
sequence pattern. Therefore it becomes difficult to analyze the text
However difficult it might be, students must learn how to recognize
and use text patterns in informational text. When readers understand and
interact with text organization, they are prepared to comprehend and
remember the information.
Intended Learning Outcomes:
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
Invitation to Learn
Show a narrative and an informational text. Ask the students if they
can identify any differences between the two types of writing. Encourage
them to identify the text features that show differences. Some differences
that may be discussed include: real photographs, table of contents,
captions, indexes, glossary, informational charts, etc. These are all
external text structures that are important for students to understand,
however the internal text structures are more important to understand.
Internal text structures are patterns of organization that show, tell,
describe, or explain.
How do you teach students about text structures in science?
- Teach explicitly.
- Model reading and writing the various structures.
- Students must interact with various text structures (e.g.,
textbooks, trade books, Internet, etc.).
- Teach only one structure at a time.
- Reinforce structures all year long.
- Allow time for students to practice and apply the skills they
- Use time in the literacy block to teach literacy ideas using
Teachers need to use examples of content text to teach text structures.
Text structures represent different types of connections among important
and unimportant ideas in nonfiction text. Begin by defining each text
structure. As students understand and can identify the text structures,
they can begin to incorporate them into their own writing.
Definition: “Providing information about a topic, concept, event,
object, person, idea, and so on (facts, characteristics, traits,
features,) usually qualifying the listing by criteria such as size or
importance. This pattern connects ideas through description by
listing the important characteristics or attributes of the topic,
under consideration. The author describes a topic by listing
characteristics, features, and examples” (Content Area Reading).
Description Example: “All living things fit into one of six kingdoms:
Protista, Plantae, Fungi, Animalia, Eubacteria, or Archaebacteria.
Bacteria make up the kingdoms Eubacteria (YOO bak TIR ee uh)
and Archaebacteria (AHR kee bak TIR ee uh). These two
kingdoms contain the oldest forms of life on Earth. All bacteria
are single-celled organisms. Bacteria are usually one of three
main shapes: bacilli, cocci, or spirilla” (Microorganisms, Fungi,
Multiple Examples: Like living things, viruses contain protein and
genetic material. But viruses don’t act like living things. They
can’t eat, grow, break down food, or use oxygen. In fact, a virus
cannot function on its own. A virus can reproduce only inside a
living cell that serves as a host. A host is a living thing that a
virus or parasite lives on or in. Using a host’s cell as a tiny
factory, the virus forces the host to make viruses rather than
healthy new cells” (Microorganism, Fungi, and Plants).
Definition: “Showing the development of a problem and one or more
solutions to the problem. The author states a problem and lists one
or more solutions for the problem. A variation of this pattern is
the question-and-answer format in which the author poses a
question and then answers it” (Content Area Reading).
Problem/Solution Example: “Although human eyes cannot sense
infrared, there are ways of detecting it. One is to use film that
senses infrared. There are also electronic sensors that detect
infrared. They are carried on satellites-the Landsat series
launched by the United States and satellites launched by other
countries. The sensors scan the earth beneath them. They
measure the light reflected by the earth, both the wavelengths we
see and the infrared. The sensors are another kind of remote
sensing” (Seeing Earth From Space).
Multiple Examples: “What was the most famous repair job in space?
Fixing the Hubble Space Telescope. It didn’t work perfectly at
first. One of its mirrors was a bit too flat. This blurred the
images. Also, there was a slight wobble as the satellite traveled in
orbit. In 1993, NASA sent astronauts up in a shuttle to repair the
Hubble. They caught the telescope with a 50-foot (15.2 m) robot
arm and pulled it into he shuttle’s open cargo bay. Working in
space suits, they replaced some parts, added new instruments, and
launched it back into orbit. Four years later, NASA scientists
improved the Hubble even more by attaching several advanced
pieces of equipment to the telescope” (Can You Hear a Shout in
Definition: “Pointing out likenesses (comparison) and/or differences
(contrast) among facts, people, events, concepts, and so on. The
author explains how two or more things are alike and/or how they
are different” (Content Area Reading).
Compare/Contrast Example: “The Sun dominates our location in
space. It is quite different from the planets and all the other
bodies in the solar system. The Sun is a star, just like the stars we
see in the night sky, but much closer to Earth. It is a great ball of
very hot gas that gives out vast amounts of energy as light and
heat. In contrast, the other bodies in the solar system are made of
rock, ice, or cold gas. And they give out no light of their own.
We see them shining in the night sky only because they reflect
light given off by the Sun” (Kids Discover Magazine—Solar
Multiple Examples: “Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere that
protects all the plants and animals on the planet from the extreme
conditions in space. It shields us from the sun’s radiation, helps
us keep our planet warm, and contains the oxygen that many of
Earths creatures need to survive. Mars, too, has an atmosphere,
but it is very different from Earth’s. The Martian atmosphere is
very, very thin and is made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide.
Fine red Martian dust fills the thin air and creates a pink sky all
year round” (The Mystery of Mars).
Definition: “Showing how facts, events, or concepts (effects) happen
or come into being because of other facts, events, or concepts
(causes). The author lists one or more causes and the resulting
effect or effects” (Content Area Reading).
Cause/Effect Example: “When sound waves hit an object, some of
them bounce back toward their source. This bounce is an echo.
Some animals use this echo effect to help them survive. They
send out sounds that bounce off objects and other animals. (Many
of these sounds are too high-pitched for humans to hear.) The
echoes of the sounds then bounce back to the source animal. This
is called echolocation. The bouncing sounds help the animals “see.” Echolocation helps them find food and move around
without bumping into things” (Physics of Sound).
Multiple Examples: “If you spot some dust around your house you
probably think, Time for a clean up! But wait a second; is it just
dust that you’re getting rid of? Would you believe that you’re
disturbing a dust mite and maybe a few thousand more like it?
Now this doesn’t look like something you would want to upset,
does it? Except that there’s more here than meets the ordinary
eye. We’re going down the microscope into a dusty world
because of a little dust…” (Yuck!).
Definition: “Putting facts, events, or concepts in order. The author
traces the development of the topic or gives the steps in the
process. Time reference may be explicit or implicit, but a
sequence is evident in the pattern. The author lists items or events
in chronological order” (Content Area Reading).
Sequence Example: “Dennis lowered collecting bottles on ropes. The
bottles had triggers so Dennis could open them at different depths.
This allowed him to collect some water samples from near the
surface and others from deep in the lakes. The first water samples
the scientist collected showed that some of the lakes were
completely dead. Nothing had survived the heat, gases, and
choking ash of the eruption. Just a few weeks later, Dennis used
microscopes to look at new water samples he had collected from
the same lakes. He was amazed to see algae, protozoan, and
bacteria living in the water. Within several months, small
crustaceans—animals that feed on algae and bacteria—began to
reappear in some of the lakes (Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a
Multiple Examples: “The Planet closest to the Sun is Mercury, then
comes Venus, and next is Earth. We are number three. That
should be an Earthling’s loudest cheer. Because of Earth’s
distance from the Sun, it alone has the right temperature for liquid
water-vital to life. Just look at Venus. At 900 degrees Fahrenheit,
water turns to vapor. And on Mars, the next planet after Earth
from the Sun, all the water is frozen at the poles” (Kids Discover
- With your group, make a list of the signal words in the texts that
helped you identify the text structure.
- Provide a variety of textbooks, trade books, Internet pages, etc. to
help students identify the different text structures.
- Distribute blank Organizational Pattern Signals. See
completed Organizational Pattern Signals.
- Have students list signal words found in the sample texts.
- Can you get the paper circles in your tray to move, using only
your balloon, without touching the circles or using any air?
Describe what you did to make your paper circles move.
- Using the tools provided, make observations of your ice hand
every ten minutes and record your observations in a log. Describe
how your ice hand changed over time. (time sequencing)
- Create a model of the solar system using food. Your model should
be accurate in terms of relative size, distance, and color. Explain
how your model compares to the actual solar system.
- Create a microorganism museum. Your group will create a model
of your assigned microorganism and write a description for
museum guests. (description)
Once a text structure is thoroughly understood, students can use
curriculum content and the Organizational Pattern Signals to write their
understanding of each content concept. Informal assessment determines if
they understand the text structure.
Write expository compositions (e.g., description, explanation,
compare/contrast, and/or problem/solution) that:
- State the thesis or purpose.
- Explain the situation.
- Follow an organizational pattern appropriate to the type of
composition (e.g., if problem/solution, then paired).
- Offer persuasive evidence for the validity of the description,
proposed solutions, etc.
Created Date :
Nov 04 2004 13:34 PM