Graphic Organizers for Literacy

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I highly recommend the use of graphic organizers. The purpose is to help students organize information with regard to different text structures:  

  • Compare and contrast
  • Cause and effect
  • Details / Descriptive
  • Problem and solution
  • Sequence

Graphic organizers are also helpful with standards such as:

  • Main idea
  • Summarizing
  • Character analysis
  • Story elements

Graphic organizers help organize the student’s thinking, and assist with note-taking. The visual pictures created help the student “see” the text structure, recall details, state the main idea, and summarize the selection.

Here are links to some sites I think provide good quality graphic organizers which can be utilized with a variety of situations:

  1. This one is more primary oriented: https://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/
  2. This one is oriented more for 3rd and above: http://www.educationoasis.com/printables/graphic-organizers/
  3. This one is a FREE resource at TPT (as pictured above) that supports each of the 5 text structures: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Non-Fiction-Text-Structures-Flip-Flap-and-Graphic-Organizers-Freebie-1777102

I have also linked these in “Instructional Resources” and in the categories list on my blog.  Enjoy!!

Text Structures Part 4: Sentence Frame Posters

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Today’s post is the result of a project I have been working on for awhile.  I created some posters you can use in your classroom which feature sentence frames connecting text structure to the skills of main idea and summarizing.

Here are samples of 2 of the Main Idea posters. Get the full set here FREE: Text Structure Main Idea Posters CE-2019  There are 10 posters (1 Main Idea and 1 Summarizing poster for each of the five text structures).  If you have suggestions for improvement, please let me know.  I want to make these usable for YOU!

Text Structures Part 3: Sequence and Descriptive

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to the third text structure post.  Today’s focus will be on sequence / chronological order and descriptive text structures. Here are some graphic organizers to keep in mind.

Sequence / Chronological Order

1. Sequence refers to a particular order in time. This can be:

  • Information presented minute by minute, hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.
  • Providing information by dates (a timeline)
  • Steps of how to complete something (first, second, third, etc.)
  • A retelling of events in the order they happened: First, next, then, finally or beginning / middle / end.  It may be helpful to use a “retelling rope”.   Use a section of rope or nylon cord (approx. 1 foot long). Tie several knots along the length of it (3-5). At each knot, retell part of the story or events in sequence.
  • Observing how things / people have changed over time
  • Non-fiction and fiction selections
  • Arranging events in order using pictures

2. Connecting sequence to strategies:

  • Predict what will happen next in the sequence.
  • Visualize the steps involved.
  • Make personal connections regarding your own experience with the sequenced topic.

3. Sequence / Chronological order main idea / summarizing sentence frames:  Suppose I read an article telling about the seasonal journey of a pod of whales.  Again, the topic is whales — but this is NOT the main idea.

  • (Main idea):  Whales travel to different locations each season to find food and a mate.
  • How to ________ step by step.
  • The timeline of _________________.
  • There are several steps to ______________. First, _________. Then, ___________. Last, ________.
  • The life cycle of __________.
  • Many things happened during _____________’s life.
  • (Summarize): Whales travel to different locations each season to find food and a mate. In the spring, they ________. In the summer, ______________.  In the fall, _____________. In the winter, _________.
  • To make ________, follow these steps: ________________.
  • The life cycle of a ___________ includes these stages: _______________.
  • Many things happened during _____________’s life. In (year), he/she_____________. After that, _____________. Then, ________________. Finally, ___________________.

Descriptive Text Structure

1. Descriptive structures give details.  These can be:

  • Details or descriptions about a person, a place, a thing, an idea, an animal, an event, etc.
  • A web graphic organizer is a good model to visualize, with the topic in the center and the supporting details branching outwards.

2. Connecting to strategies:

  • Visualize what is being described, especially if there are no pictures or photos in the text.
  • Ask questions about the topic such as:  “I wonder . . .”
  • Analyze the point of view:  What is the author’s point of view. Is he/she presenting a one-sided view of the details presented?
  • Make connections to the topic.

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Text Structures Part 2: Cause and Effect + Problem / Solution

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to part 2 regarding Text Structure.  As I mentioned before, pairing a text with a graphic organizer to help highlight the structure can be very helpful to frame the main idea and summary. When a graphic organizer is used often, then students begin to visualize them and organize their thoughts mentally as well.  And still better . . . combining text structure instruction with reading strategies such as visualizing, questioning, making connections, and predicting will lead to higher comprehension.

Today’s focus will be on two other text structures:  Cause / Effect and Problem / Solution.  These two are related, but often confusing to students. Look for some resources at the end of this post.

Cause and Effect:

Cause:  The reason why something happened.

Effect:  The result — what happened?

A cause / effect text structure can show 1 cause and several effects.  Example: An earthquake can be the cause of many events (damaged structures, ruptured pipes, injuries, accidents, tsunami, etc.).  When this is the case, it may be simpler to identify the cause first, then identify all of the effects.

On the other hand, a cause / effect text structure can show several causes for 1 effect.  Example: Some animals are endangered (effect) due to these causes: pollution, loss of home environment due to destruction of their habitat, weather, disease. When this is the case, it may be simpler to identify the effect first, then identify all of the causes.

Other notes about teaching cause / effect:

  • This text structure can apply to non-fiction as well as fiction texts.
  • Because many cause / effect relationships require defining the problem (which could be the cause and sometimes the effect as well), students often get confused and identify the structure as problem / solution.
  • Not all cause / effect relationships are about problems. Example:  I love my grandson’s drawings (cause), so I hang them on the refrigerator (the result / effect). No problem here!
  • While most anchor charts posted online provide key words for the cause / effect structure (because, reason, since, as a result, etc.), I would suggest limited use of them especially when first analyzing the structure. I have found when mentioning them first, students often just start looking for those key words and are not truly reading the text.  And . . . those words can also be found in almost any text anyway.  You don’t want kids to reduce this to a competition: “How many time did I find the word because?” Those words don’t even have to be there for there to be a cause / effect relationship.
  • Use a graphic organizer with an arrow connecting the cause to the effect.
  • Even young students can understand simple cause / effect relationships presented in stories.  Discuss the causes and effects and/or write them as a shared writing experience. See some resources below for great books on this structure.

Combining with strategy work:

  • Visualize actions of the subjects in the text to picture the causes and results.
  • Make connections to things, places, events in the text you have experienced. Make predictions based on those experiences regarding why things happened.
  • Help students ask questions about the text.  They should be wondering why certain things happen, or what caused what. Learn to read on (or check other resources) to see if those questions get answered.
  • Make inferences about the causes in the text. Read between the lines.

Connecting to main idea and summary. Supply some sentence frames so students are using compare/contrast language. Suppose an article describes the causes of beached whales. The topic is whales — but that’s NOT the main idea:

  • (Main Idea): There are many reasons a whale becomes beached.
  • (Summary):  There are many reasons a whale becomes beached such as low tide, changes in ocean currents, chemicals in ocean water, and disorientation due to man-made sonar devices.
  • (Main Idea):  There are many causes for _________________________.
  • (Main Idea): The main cause for ____________ is _______________.
  • (Main Idea): There are several reasons why __________ decided to ___________.
  • (Summary):  There are many causes for __________________ such as _________________.
  • (Summary):  When _______________ happens, the result(s) are ___________________.

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Text Structures Part 1: Compare and Contrast

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I have come to realize just how important knowledge of text structures is to almost all of the other comprehension skills and strategies. So that will be my focus for the next few posts — how this text structure connection relates to main idea, summarizing, note-taking, and writing. This post will feature the compare and contrast text structure (and some resources at the end of this post).

What are the text structures? Most sources consider the following 5: (Picture from Mrs. M’s Style. Here’s the link on Pinterest:  Text Structure Mini Anchor Chart)

  1. Compare and Contrast
  2. Cause / Effect
  3. Sequence
  4. Details / Description
  5. Problem / Solution

When I see reading texts that indicate the week’s skill is text structure, I cringe a little bit.  Why? Well, if you are teaching all 5 of them – that’s too much to digest in one week.  Here’s what I think is much more practical:  Teaching about text structures should occur with each and every reading selection — and refer to the structure that is most evident regarding that selection.

Here’s an example of what the teacher might say:  “This week we are reading an article titled Whales and Dolphins.  This article will compare and contrast whales with dolphins. Compare and contrast is a text structure in which the author will tell ways the whales and dolphins are alike and different from each other.”

How can I further connect this to comprehension and text structure?

  • Venn Diagrams or T-charts are helpful graphic organizers regarding compare/contrast text structure. Student can take notes using the graphic organizer. The idea is that with frequent use, students can eventually visualize this graphic organizer model in their head. Then this visual model serves as a thought organizer when they are not able to physically utilize one.
  • I can direct my questions to focus on this text structure such as: “On page 37, can you find one way the author compared whales to dolphins?”  “On page 39, the author told 3 ways the whales and dolphins are different. What did he say?”

How can I further connect this to help students with the main idea and/or a summary of a compare/contrast article?  Using information from notes on the Venn Diagram, students can use sentence frames like these:

  • This article compared _____________ to ______________.  (main idea)
  • This article compared ___________ to _____________.  Whales and dolphins are alike because _____________ and they are different because ___________________. (summary)

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