Posted in comprehension, genre study, writing

Teaching Text Structures for Comprehension and Writing


The chapter on Essential Elements of Fostering Reading Comprehension provides teachers with several questions for reflection . The following question made me think about my experiences teaching students in elementary through high school:


“Based on your experience in schools and classrooms, which of these elements are most neglected, and what factors do you think contribute to their neglect?” (Duke, 2011, p.85).


Based on my experience, I think that instruction in sentence-level text structures is most neglected. Instruction in text structures includes the teaching of structures at the sentence level, paragraph level, and text level. Examination of structures at all levels can be especially helpful for student writing because problems at the sentence level may also occur at the paragraph and text level. Upon reflection, I think my teaching needs to include a wider range of the different text levels. While we cannot or should not teach every text structures for every genre, students need to know two things:


  1. Text has a structure and
  2. How to analyze text structure as a part of a genre or meaning of a text

(Duke, 2011, p. 71).


Genre study  is one way to incorporate study of text structures from the word level to the text level. One of the benefits of genre study is that it supports many of the other essential elements described in the chapter. In genre study, both implicit and explicit teaching are at hand: students are immersed in the works of the genre and, with teacher support and scaffolding, they make conclusions about the genre. At the sentence level, sentence combining is an effective teaching practice. A useful resource is Bruce Sadler’s  Teacher’s Guide to Effective Sentence Sentence Writing (2012). It is filled with exercises that help to practice different sentence structures.


Schools are providing students with more texts from different genres; student access to a range of texts is one of the ten essential elements listed in the chapter. This shift is promising because skilled readers are experienced with texts from different genres. Yet “reading success does not necessarily transfer between different genres” (p. 59). Explicit teaching of text structures should help students to read different texts differently. Moreover, this should help students with genre writing.