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Expository Text Structure


All readers are better able to understand texts that are familiar to them, both in form and in content. However, many students struggle to identify the various structures that text can take, and they are unable to use a familiar form to provide context for learning. Expository structure has unique features and conventions, and students can study these in order to strategically direct their own learning of expository text. Students can learn to classify expository texts by their rhetorical structures, including: • classification • illustration • comparison/contrast • claim-counterclaim • cause-effect • collection • problem/solution • procedural description When students are able to identify these structures, they can use them to process, organize, and ultimately understand and retain content.


Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Metacognition
  • Visualizing
Analyzing Literary Elements, Text-Self / Text-Text / Text-World Connections

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Metacognition


  • Determine which rhetorical structure(s) you want to focus on.
  • Identify the target text.
  • Consider how you want students to represent information visually. Consider making an outline or graphic organizer for them, or creating several models of ways to organize information from which they can choose.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher introduces or reviews the concept of expository text, and the concept of rhetorical structures.

    An expository text is generally one that attempts to inform or persuade, and it is structured through a series of ideas or pieces of information rather than events.

  2. Teacher introduces or reviews the rhetorical structure(s) included in worksheet or graphic organizer.

    Most students will benefit from learning the different rhetorical structures incrementally. Students will require extensive modeling of each structure in order to master it.

  3. Students read text.

    Students can read the text either in class or ahead of time. The length and difficulty of the text should correspond with the skill level of the students. If this is the first time students are completing this activity, you may want to pick a text several grade levels below their reading level.

  4. Individually or in small groups, students identify the target rhetorical structures in the text. They create an outline or graphic organizer that represents the content of the text through the organization of the rhetorical structure.

    Here, you want students to reorganize the main ideas of the text to reflect the target rhetorical structure. For example, they could make a timeline, a T-chart, or an outline structured according to cause-effect relationships. Lower-level students may benefit from your providing them with a blank outline to complete.

  5. Students are paired with a partner and look over each other’s outlines. They discuss similarities and differences, and areas of improvement for each.

    Students can also share with the larger group at this point, or their worksheets can be displayed and students can do a gallery walk.

  6. In pairs or individually, students reflect on their learning process either in conversation or in writing. Students answer questions including: · What is a rhetorical structure and why do writers use them? · How might it help a reader to identify rhetor

    Students may complete this step in a journal, in a class discussion, or on an exit ticket.

Downloadable Resources 
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