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.)

Can I teach Shurley English out of sequence?


The Shurley English curriculum is uniquely designed to teach students about language arts in a logical, sequential, and systematic way.  Each feature of the curriculum scaffolds into the next as students learn how to make the connection between grammar, writing, speaking & listening, and reading.  So, have you ever wondered if a lesson could be taught out of order? As a consultant, I’ve heard this question before, and the short answer is: Teach it in sequence. Let me explain.   

Periodically, you may need to locate a specific English Language Arts (ELA) rule or to teach a skill in isolation, and that is fine; however, you must realize that Shurley English follows a distinct scope and sequence.  The scope includes the depth and breadth of ELA skills being taught in a specific grade level and the development of that content across grade levels.  The sequence includes the order in which the ELA skills should be taught within each grade level and across grade levels.

Most ELA skills are taught and practiced in ways that are unique to Shurley English.  The techniques for teaching these English skills have been carefully developed to make sure students understand the entire thought process necessary to learn a new skill.  The curriculum is designed to provide ample practice so that students can master concepts.  

The Question & Answer Flow (Q&A Flow) is a multi-sensory strategy that teaches students how to identify and label the role of each word used in a sentence.  The Q&A Flow must be taught in a succinct, consistent order for abstract language arts concepts to become clear and logical to all learners.  Teachers must follow the oral classification scripts provided in the teacher’s manual with fidelity.

Shurley English writing instruction uses student-friendly writing scaffolds that pave the way for exceptional writing.  Chapter 4 (in most grade levels) teaches students about the traits of effective writing as well as the six steps of the writing process.  Once students learn how to engage in each step of our standard writing process, it is okay to teach any particular purpose for writing out of sequence if the need arises.  In some states, one particular writing genre might require attention earlier in the school year than it is taught in the curriculum. As long as the writing steps have been mastered by your students, just use your best judgment about teaching the genres out of order to fulfill those requirements.

So, let’s get back to the original question of teaching Shurley English out of order.  While some teachers may know the curriculum through and through, it is best to teach Shurley English curriculum in sequence.  That way, you won’t miss any of the phenomenal growth and success your students will have when they learn English the Shurley English way!

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Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.


Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.