Writer's Workshop: Identifying Text Structure
So far, we have discussed the biblical purpose of writing and examined the author's purpose and use of conventions as the two main components of writing. We have also gone over the basic structure of a Writer's Workshop. Now I'm going to start going over some of what you actually teach during a Writer's Workshop. Much of this will look more like reading lessons. Reading and writing are inextricably intertwined. The best way to learn to write well is to examine examples of good writing to see how the parts fit together. I would teach text structure during reading, for example. Once my daughter is proficient at identifying the structure of the narrative text, I would introduce it during a writing assignment. During the mini-lesson, I would provide a quick overview and focus my daughter for what she needed to concentrate on that day. This would extend each day until the work was finished.

Text Structure (Narrative)

This is a large aspect of writing that desreves a great deal of attention, although it is often neglected. Good readers are able to quickly ascertain the structure of a text and use that to guide their reading. They read narratives differently than lists, comparison papers differently than cause and effect. Poor readers do not. A good writer will choose the appropriate structure for his text to convey his purpose. If you think of building a house, the idea the author wishes to express is like the foundation, the text structure is like the frame and the actual words chosen are like the siding and drywall.

The most common structure your child will encounter is the narrative. It can be illustrated in a children's book, or even in a single chapter of a lengthier book. In the beginning, I prefer to teach these skills using quality children's literature. I return to the same books over and over to illustrate different qualities of good writing. The same things can be taught with a single chapter of a book. In fact, when I taught second grade, I had my students fill out a text-structure sheet on each chapter I read to them and we then looked at how they fit together to tell one complete story.

Here is a an excellent overview of the narrative text structure. I made a large chart very similar to the one depicted on this site and we filled it out for every story I read. With continued practice, even young children can describe the elements of the story quickly and they begin to identify them naturally. When writing, your child will need to learn to use the same structure to guide them. Practicing this regularly during your reading time will not only improve reading comprehension, it will give your child a good format for mapping out their own stories. This will provide the basis for all writing, so it is good to practice often. Later, I will provide links to a variety of graphic organizers to encompass all the main text structures your child is likely to need.

There is a unique text structure to each type of writing, whether it be narrative, cause and effect, descriptive, etc. It is important to teach children to recognize the differences in order to assist them in their reading and so that they will know which structure to choose when writing their own pieces. The next one I will cover will be descriptive writing, because it is rather foundational to all other types of writing.

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