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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Effective instruction

Effective instruction

Knowing how different texts are organised is very important for reading and writing.

Organisational features of texts include:

  • headings
  • sub-headings
  • topic sentences
  • visuals
  • captions
  • words in bold
  • labels
  • introductions and conclusions.

Surveying these features before reading helps students gain a general overview of the key ideas of the text, and an understanding of where key information is located. This helps activate a student’s schema and helps them form hypotheses about texts. It is particularly important at secondary school because many texts are not organised sequentially.

Organisational features of text

When students understand the hierarchical nature of organisational features of a text they may also be better able to separate main ideas from extraneous detail.

One powerful way to show students how an effective reader uses organisational features is by modelling a ‘think aloud’. For example:
“My purpose in reading this newspaper is to get an overview of some news I might be interested in. The first thing I do is scan all the headings. Usually the bigger the headline, the more important the story is. By reading the headline, the photo and the caption I can quickly tell what this story is about... I decided to stop reading it after the first paragraph because that is where the most important information in a news story is and I only wanted to get a general idea of what had happened.”

Read more about how  understanding text features benefits reading comprehension

Examples of skim reading tasks:

Read an example of an Assessment Resource Bank task about  identifying text features of a scientific article.

Common text forms

Teaching about text forms can help students understand how text is structured and why. Teachers need to be careful, however, to be flexible about the features in a text forms as authentic text forms are often mixed.

Learning about organisational features of text also provides an important interface between reading and writing. For example, students can use the organisational features of texts they read to provide a framework for making their own written summaries of the text (McDonald et al., 2008).

Research in writing by Wray and Lewis (1997) shows that when students understand the structure of texts they have to write, they are more able to generate ideas and to organise those ideas coherently and logically (Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 131).

Learn more about  writing frames.

Important text forms include:

Instructional tools

Graphic organisers and structured overview are instructional tools used to help students think about and use text patterns and structures.

Some key questions to focus teachers’ inquiry about students’ knowledge of organisational features of text

  • What are the key organisational features of this type of text?
  • How familiar are my students with the organisational features of this type of text?
  • Are they able to use their knowledge of these features to enhance their reading, e.g. by surveying features before reading to gain an overview of the text?
  • Are they able to use their knowledge of these features to enhance their writing, e.g. by knowing common ways of structuring writing for a particular purpose?
  • How much teacher support do they need to identify organisational features of texts by reading, and then use these features to structure their own writing?

Published on: 08 Jan 2018