Micro-comprehension: Applying Text Structure

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As I continue my series about micro-comprehension, text structure processing is next in line. Earlier, I wrote about sentence structure processing. The process of analyzing sentence structure and text structure shares similarities. However, analyzing at the sentence level gives a close up picture of the meaning of the sentence; whereas, analyzing text structure provides the bigger picture of an entire essay or any  longer piece of writing.

Many fluent readers seem to automatically process text structure, but it is probably subconscious. Take a look at this short list of text structures students encounter:

  • sequence/chronological order

  • compare/contrast

  • description

  • cause/effect

  • problem/solution

 

Unfortunately, a lot of readers miss out on whole chunks of meaning because they get caught in the muck and mire of wading through too much information. Tunnel vision sets in, and students simply gloss over the purpose for the passage. Understanding the overall structure of the text can help students avoid some of these struggles. So…how do we teach students to recognize these text structures?

 

Look at the list of text structures again. Luckily, these types of text structures come with signal words and phrases that you can directly teach students to recognize. Then, as they read, these words clue them in as to which textual structure they are reading. The NEA published an excellent chart to illustrate this.

 

With practice, students can identify the structure, which prepares their brains to comprehend and retain the information. Students who can readily determine an author’s text structure will have a much clearer mental model of the goings on in a piece of text.

 

Now, here’s an interesting approach that will also inform your reading instruction. First, Shurley English provides graphic organizers (also called advance organizers and prewriting maps) that help students determine the kinds of text they want to write. Since we show students the ins and outs of how to write various text structures (depending on the purpose of the writing and the audience), it isn’t a huge leap for them to analyze what they are reading, based on an author’s chosen text structure. And, they can use our graphic organizers to help them do it! It’s almost like reverse engineering, using texts and graphic organizers.

 

Now, it’s your turn…

  • Select a short passage—any grade appropriate prose will do.

  • Provide your students the appropriate Shurley English prewriting map, or have them select which map will best work for the text.

    • use  a Venn Diagram for a comparison/contrast structure;

    • use the Descriptive map for a descriptive text structure;

    • use the Persuasive/Argumentative map for a problem/solution text structure, etc.

  • Read the passage aloud or have volunteers read it aloud.

  • Have students listen carefully and fill in the information on the map as they hear or read the text.

 

I love using reading and writing skills interdependently because that’s the way those processes actually interact in the brain. Each lends itself to the other as confirmation that the meaning is getting through! As students begin to identify text structures in their reading, you build onto that knowledge to shore up their writing, and vice versa.

 

In my next article, I will conclude my series on micro-comprehension with a discussion about comprehension monitoring. Please join me!

(This post is part of a series on Micro-Comprehension. To start at the beginning, click here.)

What is a contronym?

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Have you ever noticed that several language arts terms have the letters o-n-y-m in them?  I’m talking about words like synonym, antonym, homonym, heteronym, acronym, etc.  Of course, the list goes on, but here’s what you need to know about all of these words:

Onym is actually a Greek root word that means “name.”  So, in context, when you see a word with this root, you can conclude that it names something; you just have to figure out what!      

Most 1st -8th grade curriculums purposefully teach students about synonyms and antonyms as a way to (a.) increase their vocabulary, (b.) improve their reading comprehension, and (c.) learn effective strategies to improve and expand their writing.  These two categories are not only imperative to learn about concepts in other subject areas; they are also tested on the SAT and GRE.

A synonym is the name of the category of words that mean the same or almost the same thing.  An example might include words like “intelligent” and “smart.”  An Antonym, on the other hand, is the name of the category of words that have opposite meanings like “hot” and “cold. “ 

The purpose of this blog is not to define every onym word for you, so allow me to fast forward to my big ah-ha moment…

As I continued to review the list of language arts related onym words, I stumbled on one that intrigued me: contronyms.   As a teacher, I had never taught this term much less required my students to learn about them or identify them in a sentence. That’s why I’m sharing them now! 

A contronym is the name of a category of words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same yet are opposite in meaning. They are described as words that are their own antonyms.  To further explain, let’s use the contronym bill as an example.

Contronym: bill

Description: You can have a $50 bill in your pocket, or you can receive a $50 bill for some sort of service you obtained.

Explanation: In the first example, “bill” means a piece of paper money; a $50 credit. In the second example, “bill” refers to an invoice you receive that tells you how much money you owe. In other words, it means that you have a $50 debt. Bill and bill are contronyms.

Rational: Even though the word “bill” looks the same and sounds the same in both sentences, it means the exact opposite in each. Bill describes money you can spend in the first example, while bill describes a debt that you owe in the second one.

You can give your students the knowledge, skills, and practice they need to know and use contronyms, starting with the list of contronyms below:

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Writing Time: Let's start a blog!

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Journal Writing is an activity that is implemented very early in the Shurley English curriculum.  Students are taught how to create a written journal to record their thoughts and feelings.  Then, throughout the school year, they are encouraged to respond to specific prompts in their personal journals. (If you’re wondering about the benefits of journaling, please check out my previous blog, “The Value of Journal Writing (…and how to get started).”)

Today, I’d like for you to think beyond the written journal and consider developing a classroom wall blog.  This type of activity affords you an opportunity to support your classroom instruction and teach your students how to become responsible writers. 

To begin, here’s a blog for you and your students to read:

Hello, students! Have you ever been in class and felt as though you had something important to say, but you just couldn’t raise your hand to speak up?  Me too! 

Sharing your voice is not always easy.  Writing in a journal is an excellent way to get your thoughts out of your mind and onto paper without speaking in front of anyone.  When you journal, you can record your thoughts and feelings about people, places, things, or events that are important to you. Journaling gives you an opportunity to express yourself!

Did you know that you can also journal online?  It’s called blogging, and it can be a lot of fun! A blog is a journal that you share with others. When you write a blog, you express your own thoughts and experiences, knowing that others will be reading your words.

A fun way to start blogging is to participate in a Classroom Wall Blog!  It is a great place to practice and improve your communication. Remember, when you write your blog….

  • Always take responsibility for how you express yourself when writing in a place that others can read.

  • Don’t write anything private, rude, or unkind.

  • Have FUN sharing your voice!

 

Activity Time:  Classroom Wall Blog

Teachers, this Wall Blog activity is an awesome way to get your students more engaged in journaling, support your grammar and writing instruction, and create a closer sense of community in your classroom. 

1. Define your wall blog space with butcher paper or poster board.

2. Create a fun name for your Wall Blog.

3. Discuss what topics are appropriate for student blog entries.

4. Encourage students to express their thoughts about what is going on in their classroom, family, school, and community as blog topics

5. Have students write their blog entries on notebook paper and hang them on the wall.

6. Incorporate time in your weekly schedule to discuss hot topics posted on the Wall Blog.

After your students practice their blogging skills by contributing to the wall blog, you may consider creating a private, online classroom blog. This will afford your students the opportunity to develop good digital citizenship while under your supervision.