Teaching Text Structure: A Simple Routine for Upper Elementary

As upper elementary teachers, we are always looking for ways to help our students increase their reading comprehension skills, especially when it comes to reading nonfiction informational texts. We can help our students better understand the nonfiction passages and materials they read by helping them understand and differentiate between different text structures. 

👉 5 Text Structures Upper Elementary Students Face as Readers:

  • cause and effect
  • sequence
  • description
  • compare and contrast
  • problem and solution

Text structure refers to how content in a text is organized to help readers understand the content they are reading. Understanding the five different text structures helps readers dive deep into the text to understand important ideas, identify the main idea, infer, and monitor comprehension.

Research tells us that understanding text structure is a guiding force for comprehension and guides students in understanding how the information is laid out, ultimately understanding the purpose of the piece. Teaching students how to differentiate between text structures empowers them with the tools to comprehend, analyze, and communicate the information they are reading effectively. It also helps them identify bias as they read more complex nonfiction texts.

How to teach text structure to upper elementary students...

1. Explain, Teach, and Give Visuals

When it comes to getting started, be sure to explain these three things: why each text structure is used, keywords that help identify each text structure, and showing/modeling with coordinating text structure graphic organizers. Spend time explaining the differences between each text structure. Create anchor charts that show these three pieces of information. Grab a free ancho chart at the bottom of this post to get started!

👉 Read more about teaching text structure and tips HERE.

2. Read a Picture Book to Bring Text Structure to Life

A great way to show students different text structures is to read different picture books, at least one from each text structure. This is a great way to bring in a visual and a real-world connection to this tricky concept. Don't worry; you do not have to scour the internet to find the best text structure picture books for upper elementary, I already have a list made for you broken down by text structure!

👉 Read about my favorite text structure picture books HERE.

3. Get Into a Routine

Provide students multiple opportunities and exposure to different text structures to help them build their comprehension toolbox for nonfiction texts. One way you can do that is through daily practice. I have created a daily routine that provides students with many opportunities to read a variety of informational topics written in different text structures. It is simple to use and of high interest to students! Plus it goes beyond just practicing text structure, it also provides vocabulary, critical thinking, and written response practice.

By reading and working with all five text structures on the same topic, students can identify the different characteristics of each structure more simply. This format takes a tricky concept and makes it manageable for our students, especially when they are just learning about text structures.

This routine uses the Text Structure Comprehension Foldables. Simply print back to back and fold. Everything you need to teach and practice text structure daily is included.

Take a look at how to use these foldables to teach text structure for upper elementary students!

Try this schedule to add to your morning work routine to provide daily opportunities for your students to engage with different text structures.

If completing these text structure activities each morning is not an option, you can add these Text Structure Foldables to a center, use them during small group instruction, or sprinkle them into any time you have. Since these packs have five different passages in five different text structures, all on the same topic, students can truly differentiate between the different structures. 

Get started with teaching text structure with this FREE text structure starter kit!

The more time students spend reflecting on the text structure of nonfiction reading materials, the more they can identify the text structure in their own independent and real-world reading. By understanding the text structure, students are better able to pull out the important information, make inferences, and understand the topic at a deeper level. So why not give this routine a try today!? 

You will also love to read:

Using Reading Strategies to Help Readers Grow

Teaching Students Summarize

Quick Tip to Differentiate Summarizing Instruction 

Must Try Inferencing Lesson for Upper Elementary

Check out these Text Structure activities HERE

Like these Text Structure Foldables to just add to your daily routine!

LOVE these ideas? Pin to save!


*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


7 Solar Eclipse Activities for Upper Elementary

7 Solar Eclipse Activities for Upper Elementary

Ready for the 2024 solar eclipse in your upper elementary classroom?

When learning about phenomena, upper elementary students dive right in! Their curiosity lends itself to conversations that help them understand tricky concepts like solar and lunar eclipses. That is why I love bringing current events into the classroom!


What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon positions itself and passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow that either partially or completely conceals the sun's rays. This is considered a rare and extraordinary event because the moon does not orbit in the exact same path as the sun and Earth do.


Teaching about Solar Eclipses

Since solar eclipses are rare, bringing them into the classroom is a great way to make learning authentic and harness your students’ excitement into meaningful activities. Not sure how to get started teaching about solar eclipses? Try these ideas! From hands-on experiments to creative and art-inspired tasks, each activity is designed to not only ignite your students' curiosity but also deepen their comprehension of the upcoming solar eclipse. 

1. Read a Picture Book About the Solar Eclipse

I love turning to picture books when kicking off any new unit, especially tricky science concepts! Since solar eclipses are rare, I can feel confident that the books I select to share with students will be new to them and help them visualize and see eclipses through the books' illustrations before the big event occurs! Reading picture books aloud to upper elementary students helps build background knowledge, allowing all students to have some understanding of the concept or phenomenon before our learning begins.

👉Here are three of my favorites for upper elementary...

Solar Eclipse Books for Upper Elementary
*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Purchasing does not cost extra for you and recommendations are real

2. Compare and Contrast Solar and Lunar Eclipses

Bringing nonfiction reading passages to your science lessons is a great way to connect content with informational reading skills. When I taught fifth-grade science, I saw firsthand the disconnect students had with using different nonfiction reading strategies they had learned throughout the years with science content materials they were resading. Since then, I always find ways to bring nonfiction reading skills into science class. One easy way to do that is to use informational passages to help students understand eclipses.

Want to give it a try? One way you can try using nonfiction strategies like a study of text structure during your solar eclipse study is to have students focus on comparing and contrasting solar and lunar eclipses. This one idea will have your students comparing, contrasting, critical thinking, and most importantly, understanding the differences between the two. 

💡Follow these three steps to compare solar & lunar eclipses:

  1. Read nonfiction passages about both lunar and solar eclipses.
  2. Have students interact with the text by highlighting important information about each eclipse in a different color. This will help them complete a Venn diagram easily about the two different eclipses.
  3. Sketch! Bring out the colored pencils and have students create sketch illustrations with pictures to show the difference between these eclipses. Go one step further and have students include labels and captions for their illustrations.

solar eclipse printable reading passages upper elementary kids

3. Watch a Video About Solar Eclipses to Visualize

Lunar and solar eclipses are tricky concepts!

Help your students see eclipses in action by weaving kid-friendly videos about lunar and solar eclipses into your unit. You can easily show these before any lesson, during snack, or after recess. Go one step further by having students write on sticky notes four important concepts from the videos. Collect all the students' sticky notes when the video ends and add them to a chart paper. Share the ideas that the students recorded, looking for patterns or repeated information. This will help you zoom in on the important concepts from the videos.

Try one of these lunar and solar eclipse videos:

Kindly note: As with any video you show your students please preview the video to ensure they are appropriate for your cohort of students!

4. Map Out the Totality

Discuss the path of the 2024 eclipse using a United States map to track it, discussing its totality. Totality is a rare and captivating occurrence that occurs only in specific locations along the eclipse path.

Totality refers to the brief and spectacular phase of a solar eclipse when the moon completely covers the sun, casting a shadow on Earth and sending the immediate surroundings into darkness. During totality, the sun's bright disk is entirely covered, revealing the solar corona—a halo of hot, ionized gas surrounding the sun. This unique and awe-inspiring moment allows observers within the path of totality to witness the sun's outer atmosphere, experience a temporary twilight-like atmosphere, and marvel at the celestial alignment of the moon and the sun. 

How to dive into the totality:

map of solar eclipse free printable for upper elementary kids

Grab the FREE solar eclipse mini pack here:

5. Get Up and Moving with a Simple Experiment

What better way to explore science concepts than with hands-on science experiences! 

💡Try this idea:

Simulate the phases of a solar eclipse using the students as models. Have each group of three students color and create a sun, moon, and earth using different size paper plates. The largest paper plate is the sun, the smallest paper plate is the moon, and the middle plate is the earth. Students can use construction paper or markers to decorate each plate. Once each plate is created, have students hold them over their heads and demonstrate how the moon blocks the sun's light during the eclipse, ensuring that all three students stand in the right positions. Have them sketch how they stood to show the solar eclipse in action!

6. Solar Eclipse Writing Prompts

Learning about any topic during science certainly lends itself to writing informational pieces. Students can write informative writing pieces to show or explain what they learned, share their opinions, and explain how something works. You can also get more creative with writing projects during science. Have your students go outside the box and write and create acrostic poems, descriptive paragraphs, and narrative pieces that weave in facts they learned. 

Try some of these prompts during your solar eclipse unit, and don't forget to grab the free solar eclipse acrostic poem template and these prompts above.

  1. Imagine you are an astronaut exploring outer space. Write a journal entry about the solar eclipse you witnessed from your spaceship.
  2. Pretend you are a scientist studying the solar system. Write a report explaining why solar eclipses happen and how they affect Earth.
  3. If you could travel to the moon during a solar eclipse, what would you see and experience? Describe your lunar adventure in detail.
  4. Create a dialogue between the sun and the moon during a solar eclipse. What do they say to each other? How do they feel about this rare event?
  5. Write a free-form poem inspired by the beauty and mystery of a solar eclipse. Use descriptive language to capture the emotions and atmosphere.
  6. Draw a picture of a solar eclipse and write a short paragraph explaining the different phases. What happens during each stage?
  7. Pretend you are a news reporter covering the solar eclipse for a kids' newspaper. Write an article detailing the important facts and interesting aspects of the event.
  8. If you were a superhero with powers related to the sun and moon, how would you use them during a solar eclipse? Create a superhero comic featuring yourself as the hero.
  9. Write a persuasive essay convincing your classmates that everyone should take a break from their regular activities to observe a solar eclipse. What makes it a special and educational experience?
  10. Write a letter to an alien pen pal explaining the concept of a solar eclipse on Earth. How would you describe the event to someone from another planet?


7. Get Creative with Solar Eclipse Art Projects

I love to have students use creative thinking and their art skills to show what they learned! Wrap up your unit on the solar eclipse with one of these ideas to help synthesize their learning.

solar eclipse creative art activities 3rd 4th 5th grade

The world of solar eclipses is fascinating and mysterious, especially for our upper elementary students!  Whether your students are aspiring astronauts, budding scientists, or someone who loves a good adventure, witnessing a solar eclipse is a memorable experience and one we should support as educators. Add different hands-on activities, art-inspired tasks, and outside-of-the-box writing projects to your solar eclipse lesson plans to help inspire students! Mark your calendars for the April 2024 eclipse, try some of these activities, and watch your students be inspired to learn as much as possible!

Happy teaching! : )

You will also love reading:

Check out these solar eclipse activities HERE.

solar eclipse reading passages lesson ideas 3rd 4th 5th grade

LOVE these ideas? Pin to save!

teaching solar eclipse for 3rd 4th 5th graders

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


Teaching Text Structure Upper Elementary

Teaching Text Structure Upper Elementary

When it comes to reading nonfiction material, students can never get enough practice! While many students enjoy reading nonfiction and informational articles, they often focus on the cool or new facts they learn. While that is a great way to get students engaged and excited to read nonfiction, we must ensure our upper elementary students are diving deep into the structure of informational text to help build their comprehension skills.

What is Text Structure?

Text structures refer to the way authors organize information in a text. Mastery of these structures allows students to comprehend and analyze nonfiction texts more effectively and deeply. The five key text structures our upper elementary students face are cause and effect, description, sequence, compare and contrast, and problem-solution.

Understanding text structures matters! Research shows that understanding text structure is a guiding force for comprehension. According to findings from educational psychologists (e.g., Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995), explicit instruction on text structure significantly enhances students' ability to grasp the relationships between ideas and the overall comprehension of the text. It is like providing students with a roadmap showing them the way to understand the nonfiction text that they are reading.

Why Teach Text Structure?

There are so many benefits that come along with understanding text structure as readers. When you engage your students in nonfiction studies focused on understanding text structure, you will see...

Enhanced comprehension - Understanding text structures helps students make sense of information by recognizing patterns and relationships between ideas.

Improved critical thinking -  Analyzing different text structures encourages critical thinking as students learn to evaluate and compare information in various ways.

✅ Increase in communication skills - Mastery of text structures supports students in expressing ideas clearly, both in writing and verbal communication.

Sharpened skills for success -  Proficiency in text structure is a foundational skill that prepares students for more complex reading and writing tasks in higher grades.

Real-world Application -  Recognizing text structures is not just an academic skill; it is a practical skill that students will use in different aspects of their lives, from reading news articles to understanding procedural manuals.

How to Teach Text Structure

Teaching nonfiction text structures is an important step in developing strong reading comprehension skills in upper elementary students. Try these go-to ideas for teaching text structure in your upper elementary classroom!

1.  Teach Each Text Structure in Isolation

Use anchor charts to help teach this tricky concept! Begin by introducing each text structure separately. This ensures that students grasp the unique characteristics of each before moving on to more complex tasks and critical thinking about text s. Three things to make sure that you include in your anchor charts and introductions are:

✅Why each text structure is used

✅ Keywords that signal each text structure

✅ A visual {graphic organizer} to connect to each text structure


Teaching Text Structure Anchor  Charts for Teachers

Grab the FREE Text Structure Starter Kit right here!

2. Utilize Graphic Organizers as Readers and Writers

Using visual aids like graphic organizers is a great way to help students organize information and visually differentiate between the different text structures. These tools provide a clear visual representation of how information is structured in a text and helps them collect important information. When students complete the graphic organizer about a specific text, they are collecting information that will help them prove which text structure they are reading. Doing this helps them better communicate with others about their reading and convey the author's purpose and message.

Teaching Text Structure Graphic Organizers

3. Read Multiple Texts on the Same Topic

To deepen understanding, have students read five short texts on the same topic, each utilizing a different text structure. This activity enables them to compare and contrast how information is presented and identify the distinctive features of each structure. Students will collect a lot of information about one topic and show students that the longer informational books and passages they read can have more than one text structure within them.

💡Teacher Tip: Go one step further and have students respond to a prompt and write about what they learned about the given topic to synthesize their learning!

Teaching Text Structure Reading Passages Nonfiction

4. Real-World Sorting Activity

This is a fun way to kick off a text structure unit or wrap one up

Encourage students to collect reading materials from the real world, such as newspaper articles, brochures, directions, ads, informational pamphlets, and really anything! I always have a stash ready to show students how to sort the reading material. I use hula hoops to sort each text structure, but you can use chart paper or just a table to group the reading materials. The concept is simple, just label each hula hoop with each text structure. Then, share reading material like directions to a game. Have students decide which text structure it was written in through discussion and debate. Then, select a student to put the directions read into the matching hula hoop! This hands-on activity connects classroom learning with real-world reading, and the kids love it!


5. Create Collaborative Projects

Foster collaborative learning by assigning projects where students work together to create a presentation or report using a specific text structure. This not only reinforces individual understanding but also promotes teamwork and communication skills. We have done collaborative class projects for text structure on one topic, such as Earth Day. Each group was assigned a text structure. Then, they worked together to develop a presentation for the class on an Earth Day-related topic in the assigned structure. 

Here is what the kids came up with: 

  • Compare and Contrast: Solar Energy VS Electricity
  • Sequence Order: The Process of Recycling
  • Description: Enjoy Visiting a National Park on Earth Day
  • Problem and Solution: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Cause and Effect: Save the Mountain Gorillas from Extinction

Teaching nonfiction text structures is a fundamental step in developing strong reading and comprehension skills in upper elementary students. By focusing on cause and effect, description, sequence, compare and contrast, and problem-solution structures, we can help strengthen our students' understanding of informational texts. Implementing these tips will make the learning process engaging and empower students with essential skills for academic and real-world success. Plus, research shows that understanding text structure helps students succeed as readers of nonfiction texts, so get started with some of these ideas today!

You will also love to read:

Using Reading Strategies to Help Readers Grow

Nonfiction Teaching Ideas and Strategies to Hook Upper Elementary Readers

Must Try Inferencing Lesson for Upper Elementary

Check out my favorite Text Structure activities HERE

Like these Text Structure Foldables to just add to your daily routine!

Teaching Nonfiction Text Structure 3rd 4th 5th Grade

LOVE these ideas? Pin to save!


Teaching Text Structure ideas for Teachers

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)

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