Today, I wanted to come to you today to discuss teaching text features. It is one of my favorite standards to teach simply because I LOVE nonfiction text and all the colorful/helpful text features!
Common Core Standards
So let’s take a peek at what Common Core lays out for primary students. Here are the first, second-, and third-grade standards.
- 1st Grade: Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
- 2nd Grade: Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
- 3rd Grade: Use text features and search tools (e.g., keywords, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
In a nutshell:
- KNOW text features
- USE text features
Not only can students recognize these text features, but they can use them in their reading to further improve their understanding.
Start by Teaching Vocabulary and Text Features
Before diving into texts and passages, spend a few lessons and activities simply teaching the text features themselves. Of course, while teaching these text features, it will be necessary to pull in texts and passages as examples. But focus for a bit on learning each of the text features and becoming familiar with the terminology.
Start with simple anchor charts where you discuss what text features students have seen. I like to categorize text features into four types: Text changes, visual elements, charts and graphs, and helpful additions. So, in your whole-group lesson, have students share which text features they already know. Or, you can use a similar chart to sort the types of text features (in printed examples) into the correct category.
Next, you want to have hands-on practice. Have students find examples of text features and use those to create an anchor chart guide. Keeping a stash of old magazines and newspapers is a great idea for this! Always providing the students with a real example is a great practice to help solidify their knowledge of terminology. This can be an activity you do with students or it can be a point of reference throughout your text features unit.
This is a mini-lesson that is included in my RI unit for each grade level. The activity is to help the students identify pictures of each text feature that you teach. For example, the word diagram they will pull from a pile of text feature terms. Then, they will search through the pile of text features pictures to match up the diagram word card to the diagram picture card. The links for grades 1-4 are listed at the bottom of this post.
A great introduction to any skill unit is a BrainPop or BrainPop, Jr. video. This video talks about glossaries, table of contents, photographs, bold print, captions, and more! It’s a basic ‘teaching nonfiction’ video but covers a lot of important text features as well. Check out this video that puts nonfiction reading into easy steps for the students.
Focus on Explicit Teaching of Text Features
Explicit teaching of text features is incredibly important. Diving into texts will be your next step, but first, you really must give students an opportunity to learn, understand, and memorize each text feature. If you allow them to easily recognize the text features outside of texts, it’ll be easy for them to find them within texts. Above, you see pictures of my hands-on lessons and graphic organizers. These provide students with explicit instruction of text features on their own.
Bring many mentor texts into your lessons
(Source: Informational Mentor Text Blog Post)
I wrote a blog post in 2016 that suggested five or six read-alouds or mentor texts for each informational and literature standard. Each of these suggested texts are affiliate links from Amazon. Specifically, for teaching text features, I grabbed six books that I have used in my classroom library before. I know each has a few different text features.
- National Geographic Readers: Planets by Elizabeth Carney
- Wildlife Photographer by William David Thomas
- I Wonder Why the Sea is Salty by Anita Ganeri
- How Things Work: In the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst
- National Geographic Readers: Pandas by Anne Schreiber
- Little Kids for Big Book of Why by Amy Shields
Have a scavenger hunt with real texts
When teaching text features, it’s crucial to include real examples of text features from magazines, passages, and texts. Check out these activities that allow students to hunt on their own!
This amazing blog post from Scholastic shows a classroom full of eager kiddos diving into kid’s magazines to find text features. They also make a (free!) two-page folder or presentation of what they’ve found. It asks the students to find specific text features within the Scholastic News!
(Source: The Teaching Oasis)
This is a wonderful free file folder activity that The Teaching Oasis has her students complete. They use a real text from their classroom library and illustrate or write about the text features they find in that text. This is a great way to hunt and search for text features within informational texts.
Allow them to practice in many ways
It is very important to give your students many different hands-on ways to practice their new skills. Here are a few ideas that can help your students during your ELA block. Students learn in all different manners, so giving many different options to learn is great.
This image is from the same blog post that I discussed earlier. Here, the students are making classroom posters for each of the different text features. This is a great way to tie in speaking and listening skills as well as technology skills.
On the left, you see text features passages, and comprehension activities. Each of my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-grade sets comes with Lexile-leveled passages and graphic organizers to use with any nonfiction text, whether it’s a text or passage.
In the picture on the right, you see task cards and interactive notebook pieces. These task cards are included in any of the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade sets, too! Task cards and notebook pieces can be used independently or with a partner/group. They can be used with any text.
Don’t forget text online and web text features in grades 3+.
3rd & 4th grade standards are a little different from 1st and 2nd grade because they bring electronic menus and Internet lingo into their learning. If you teach 3rd or higher, make sure to give many opportunities to learn about webpages and their specific text features, too!
Apply Skills Independently
And finally, in my teaching text features post, I’m going to discuss ways to practice independently. We’ve discussed ways to learn the text features, how to search for text features within a text, and how to use these text features to help their learning. Now, here are a few ideas on how to give your students continued practice in ELA centers where they can use their new text feature knowledge on their own.
(Source: Text Features Digital Activities)
These ready-made digital activities are perfect for hands-on learning. They allow students to practice all skills involved with text features. First, they range from simply identifying text features. Then, they dive deeper into explaining their purposes. And finally, students are using text features to learn more about the topic at hand.
- GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS: The Brain Pop Jr. video above, discusses the importance of taking notes and using graphic organizers. These graphic organizers that are included in my text features packs can be used on a variety of different texts and passages. It helps the students use and understand text features and keeps their learning meaningful.
- PASSAGES: Each of my text features units have 6-7 passages for each specific grade level. This is for students to practice using text features and their comprehension all at once!
These can be used in small groups, independent reading, partner reading, homework, morning work, and more!
Stock up on suggested resources
Want to dive even deeper into VIRTUAL ideas for text features?
In this YouTube video for Teaching Tips in 12 Minutes or Less, we’re discussing 3 lesson and activity ideas to make text features engaging and interactive for students virtually. Whether you’re teaching in-person, hybrid, or virtually, this text feature video for kids should bring you inspiration for your lessons!
Want a free activity to kickstart your text features unit?
FREE TEXT FEATURE ACTIVITY
Get this fun activity sent directly to your inbox. This free digital activity comes with links to Seesaw and Google Slides for your students. They will practice their text feature skills.