Teaching Text Structures in Speech

As SLPs, an important part of our job is to support what the general education teachers are doing in their classrooms. One of the ways that general education teachers teach reading comprehension of nonfiction texts is through the use of text structures. Learning about text structures can lead to some fun activities in the speech room! Let’s take a look at what text structures are, why we need them, and what we can do in speech to support students learning about them. 

What Are Text Structures? 

“Text structures” are the ways that authors organize information and ideas in nonfiction text. Some common types of text structures include: 

  • Cause and effect
  • Description
  • Compare and contrast
  • Sequencing
  • Problem and solution

Some other, less common, text structures include things like time order and chronology, inductive and deductive reasoning, and investigation. Text structures are used by authors to provide clarity and order to their writing so that it can be more easily understood by the reader. 

Why Teach Text Structures? 

“Expository text structure instruction is an effective research-based reading comprehension strategy for a range of students' abilities and grade levels” 

(Pyle et al., 2017)

Research shows that when students understand text structures, their comprehension, memory, and writing skills increase. Text structures also help students to self-monitor their comprehension. Familiarity with text structure allows students to organize information and details they are learning in their minds, make connections among the details being presented in a text, and summarize the important details that were shared in a text. 

Additionally, teaching text structure is standards-based. Beginning in 4th grade, students are expected to “Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.5). As they move through upper elementary and middle school, must be able to describe the text structure(s) found in two or more texts as well as analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas. 

Obviously, the development of being able to identify text structures is very important! But what about students who aren’t quite ready to identify text structures yet? What do they need to know before working on this skill? 

What Do Students Need to Know Before Learning Text Structures? 

Younger students or some students with speech and language difficulties will not be able to identify text structures right away. They will need some work on preliminary skills before they are able to move onto the more complex task of identifying text structures. 

To begin, the students will need to understand that authors have specific purposes for writing. These purposes can be to tell someone about something, to try to get someone to do something, and just for fun! Working on Author’s Purpose (link Author’s Purpose blog post here) will help to lay the groundwork for identifying text structures. 

Next, students will need to understand that there is a main idea to everything that authors write. Finally, students will need to understand that different parts of texts can be related in different ways. This will lead to the preliminary knowledge needed to understand structures such as cause/effect and compare/contrast. 

Teaching Text Structures in Speech

No matter what a student’s speech goals are, there are lots of fun ways to practice text structures during speech! Here are some of my favorites, including what goal area they correspond to.  

Cause and Effect

  • Practice receptive language and articulation by having the student answer “wh” questions about the topic, and fill out a cause-and-effect graphic organizer. 
  • Practice expressive language by letting the student illustrate causes and their effects from the text, and then verbally describe them to you. 
  • Work on vocabulary by teaching cause-and-effect clue words. These words can include “because”, ‘since”, “so that” and more! 

Description

  • Practice fluency by having the student repeat descriptions back to you. 
  • Practice vocabulary by teaching description clue words. Description clue words include dates, times, adjectives, and character traits. 
  • You can also work on pragmatics by the student taking turns (either with a teacher or peer) describing something from the text. 

Compare and Contrast

  • You can practice expressive and receptive language, as well as articulation, by doing a sort of notecards with information from the text to compare and contrast. 
  • Many different goals can be addressed through the teaching of clue words. Clue words for comparing and contrasting include “as opposed to”, “both”, and “in contrast”. 

Sequencing

  • Ask the student what sequencing clue words he or she already knows! You can practice fluency and voice by challenging the student to say as many as they can. Sequencing clue words can include “first”, “second”, “next”, “then”, “last”, and many more. 
  • Have the student create a comic that puts text information in sequential order with panels. Students can practice articulation and expressive language as they describe their comic to you or a peer. 

Problem and Solution

  • Students can practice receptive language as they sort notecards or pictures of problems and solutions found in the text. 
  • Students can also practice vocabulary by learning problem and solution clue words. These can include “problem”, “solved”, “because” and more. 

If you need more text structures ideas for your speech room, click here to check out my Nonfiction Text Structure Sort Boom Cards!