How are Text Structures Organized in Nonfiction?

Writers organize nonfiction text into five text structures. They are description, sequence, compare and contrast, cause and effect, problem and solution. Most text that students read above grade 4 is nonfiction. Text structure graphic organizers are a great way for students to organize their notes.


Description is one example of a text structure. The text gives a detailed description about the topic.  For example, a description of a frog may include its body parts such as its webbed feet and tongue.  More details are given on how the webbed feet and tongue help the frog adapt and survive. Students can take notes as they read using a description web.

Sequence / Order

Another text structure is called sequence. This type of text is used when giving information about a topic that involves order.  This is used in science texts to show a process. For example, the water cycle has sequential steps and then the cycle repeats itself.  In social studies text, timelines are involved to show the order of events that have taken place over time. Sequencing is also used in biographies.

Compare & Contrast

A third type of text structure is known as compare and contrast. When reading about similarities and differences, signal words such as alike, different, and in contrast are used.  For example, a text might compare polar bears and grizzly bears.

Cause & Effect

Cause and effect is another text structure that is common in social studies and science texts.  A text about earthquakes might include the cause of an earthquake as well as what effects earthquakes have on their community.  Another example is a text passage about the food chain and how it effects the animals.

Problem & Solution

Sometimes there is a problem when reading nonfiction text. This happens in science and social studies text. For example, global warming and pollution are problems. Several solutions or suggestions will be given in the text.

Signal Words

Authors use signal words for readers to help identify the text structures. Some signal words for sequencing and order are first, then, and after that. As a result, consequently, and since are examples of signal words that identify with cause and effect text structure. I have students match the signal words to the text structure. This helps students become more aware of the signal words which can also improve students’ comprehension.

Supporting Students with Text Structures

How do students actively engage in reading nonfiction text?  One way for students to stay engaged is by studying text structures.  Have students take notes as they read to monitor their understanding. This also sets the purpose for reading. Students have clear learning targets and know the purpose of the assignment.

You may also be interest in reading, Why are text features for nonfiction important?

Text Structure Resources

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