Different types or ‘genres’ of texts have recognisable structures. Text genres are useful to learn because the reader will know what to expect, and where to look for certain types of information.
Stories, informative (or expository) texts, fairy tales, news articles, timetables, blogs and emails are all different genres. Each genre has one or more conventional structures, which can influence comprehension.
A major distinction in text genre is that between narrative (typically, stories) and informative
(expository), where the purpose is to inform, describe or explain content.
Narratives concern characters, their actions, their mental states and emotions, their
interactions with others in the text and also with the physical world of the narrative, and have
a narrative ‘point of view’. There are several features common to a typical story: an introduction
to orient the reader, which usually describes the main characters and setting; for example, a
teenager living in a big city in America; an initiating event, such as getting lost; the character’s
goal to find their way home and the motivation for that action, because they were worried about
being unsafe and alone; often there is a problem or a conflict that must be resolved so that the main characters can accomplish their goal, for example trying to remember familiar buildings and streets to work out the way.
Informative texts can have a range of structures, such as description, sequence, compare and contrast, problem-solution and cause-effect, and often a text will combine two or more of these structures. Because informative texts often contain unfamiliar concepts and vocabulary, they can require high levels of inference skill. Therefore, an appreciation of the structure and how it signals connections between ideas is crucial to successful understanding of these texts and also to learning from them. Thus, early exposure to informative texts is recommended (Duke, 2000).
Knowledge of text structure can help children to sequence information when reading and listening. It can be taught in the classroom.
Students can be taught to recognise the key elements of narrative texts using the ‘five finger trick.
Instruction about informative texts does not only take place in literacy lessons. I can also be embedded in lessons when students are learning from texts in other curriculum areas. Lesson content might include:
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