Chart to Understanding

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.5; RI.2.5

What you need: Chart paper, marker, resources with text features
What to do: To introduce text features, draw a four-column chart on chart paper and label (see example at left). Browse through nonfiction books, magazines, and other resources to identify features that make the texts different from fictional stories. Pause to point out each text feature and write its name in the appropriate column. The list might include headline, photo, caption, chart, bold or italic word, table of contents, glossary, etc. Examine each of the features in context and discuss what it is, as well as its purpose in the text. Use this information to fill in the second and third columns. Then complete the fourth column by either pasting a cutout example or drawing a quick sketch of it. Reference all year.

Tour Your School

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.I.5; RI.2.5

What you need: Camera, printer, construction paper, markers
What to do: What do back-to-school time and text features have in common? A lot, according to first- and second-grade teacher Susanna Westby. The educator at Whonnock Elemen­tary School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, teaches an activity that introduces students to both their new school environment and text features.
Westby takes students on a tour of the school. They stop at specific areas, such as the playground and the gymnasium, to talk about the purpose of the area and any relevant rules. Then, a student takes a photo. When all parts of the school have been visited, the class prints the photos and glues them on construction paper. Students then add nonfiction text features around the pictures, including captions to describe the areas, labels on equipment, and bulleted lists of rules. The class assembles the pages into a book, complete with a table of contents and a glossary. “By introducing students to text features with images from their immediate surroundings in a meaningful way, students confidently take ownership of this way of conveying information,” Westby says.

Scavenger Hunt

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.I.5; RI.2.5
What you need: Old magazines, scissors, glue, notebook or text-feature graphic organizer
What to do: Genia Connell, a third-grade teacher at Leonard Elementary School in Troy, Michigan, sends her students on a hunt for text features. “Students scour old copies of Scholastic News looking for as many text features as they can find,” she explains. They cut out features such as headings, charts, bold words, and sidebars. They then sort and glue them into graphic organizers (available for download). (Alternately, the clippings can be glued in a “nonfiction notebook,” with labels for each text feature.) “When students can’t find a particular text structure, they illustrate it themselves,” Connell says. To see the finished product and to access more of Connell’s activities, visit

Text on Display

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.I.5; RI.2.5
What you need: Resources on a similar topic, bulletin board, art supplies
What to do: Stephanie Darragh, a second-grade teacher in the South Kitsap School District in Port Orchard, Washington, has her students do a class research project. Then small groups create nonfiction features that educate others about the subject. All of the features are displayed on a bulletin board. “One year I had a class that had a particular interest in the Titanic,” Darragh says, noting that groups made a glossary of key terms, wrote captions for interesting photos, and labeled a diagram of the ship. Depending on the topic, groups might also label a map or create a pictograph. 


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Image: Roger Hagadone