Teaching and Assessing Understanding of Text Structures Across Grades

Text complexity is often difficult to describe and even harder to attend to in meaningful ways in large-scale reading assessments. This paper provides a research synthesis that sheds light on the impact of different text structures on overall text complexity.

What is Text Structure?

Text structures are the organizational structures used within paragraphs or longer texts, appropriate to genre and purpose. Examples of text structures include: sequence/process, description, time order/chronology, proposition/support, compare/contrast, problem/solution, cause/effect, inductive/deductive, and investigation. Research in literacy learning over the past two decades indicates that: a) an understanding of various text structures and their purposes enhances student’s ability to comprehend what is read; and b) that some text structures are more easily learned and understood before other more complex structures.