Beyond Words: How Text Features Enhance Understanding

Students struggle using text features when reading expository text. We need to provide students the tools to understand what they are reading. How do we do that? We use text features to guide their thinking and improve their understanding.

Text Features help teach Vocabulary

Vocabulary is critical in the content area. Text features for vocabulary include bold words and a glossary. Have students use these tools to guide their thinking. Students can take 2 or 3 column notes as they use these tools. Students can use a notebook and label the columns vocabulary word, meaning, and use in a sentence. A four square organizer helps organize students’ thoughts. Students can self select a word from that unit. These activities are great to assess students’ use of vocabulary in the content area.

Headings and subheadings

Content area textbooks are organized by units and chapters. Students can use headings and subheadings to monitor their reading. Headings and subheadings have different font size and in some cases different font color. Have students write the subheading in their notebook as questions. For example, instead of writing cell structure, students could write What is cell structure? Then, students could write what they learned in that section after they read. This works well for small group and class discussions after reading. It also can help when studying for an assessment.

Visuals improve Content Understanding

Many text features are visuals such as a map, diagram, photograph, or chart. There is valuable information in these visuals that we don’t want students to overlook. Analyzing the visuals in a chapter are a great pre-reading or post-reading activity. Students can explain why a visual was included in the text. It is important to include the visuals in the content area because many students are visual learners. Also, the visuals usually capture a lot of the main ideas of that section or chapter.

You may be interested in reading, “Why are text features for nonfiction important?”

Literacy Tips and FREEBIES
Join other educators and receive literacy updates.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.