Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Text Structures

“What is it that can awaken a mind to the meaning of a text?  When is the moment that the heart is moved by its beauty?”
The Book of Rhino

According to Webster’s dictionary, text is the main body of matter in a manuscript, book, newspaper, etc., as distinguished from notes, appendixes, headings, or illustrations.  There are five basic expository text structures:  description, sequence, comparison, cause and effect, problem and solution.  Recognizing a particular text structure in a piece of writing always enhances my appreciation of the text.

The author describes a topic by listing characteristics, features, and examples.  Cue words are:  for example, characteristics are.
Sample passage
Trees are the largest of all plants.  Trees can be divided into six main groups:  broadleaf, needleleaf, palm, cyad, ferns, and gingko.  Although the trees differ with respect to whether or not they have flowers, fruits, or cones, they all try to get along.  The exceptions are the palm and the cyad.  They are the Montagues and the Capulets of the tree world.

The author lists items or events in numerical or chronological order.  Cue words are:  first, second, third, next, then, finally.
Sample passage
Most trees begin life as a seed.  First the female part of the tree comes in contact with male pollen, fertilizing the seed.  Then the seeds are scattered by the wind, or by birds, or by a friendly squirrel.  Unfriendly squirrels can’t be bothered.  (The trees take note of this and exact a terrible revenge.)  The young tree that develops from the seed is called a seedling until it reaches a height of six feet or more.  At this point, it is granted sapling status and can legally buy mulch.  It finally achieves full treehood when it is as tall as the other trees in the community.

The author explains how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different.  Cue words are:  different, in contrast, alike, same as, on the other hand
Sample passage
A tree differs from other plants in that trees grow at least 15 to 20 feet and have one woody stem, which is called a trunk.  Plants, on the other hand, have a soft, juicy stem.  Trees and plants are alike in that they both have leaves, but trees consider their leaves far superior to those of plants.  Naturally, some plants chafe under their supposed inferiority and try to compensate.  Seaweeds, for example, grow their stems 200 feet tall, but they cannot stand out of water, much to their chagrin–and the secret amusement of trees.

Cause and Effect
The author lists one or causes and the resulting effect or effects.  Cue words are:  reasons why, if…then, as a result, therefore, because
Sample passage
There are several reasons why people love trees.  Their leaves provide shade from the sun and the fruit of some trees can be used for food.  Trees help conserve soil and preserve the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen gases in the atmosphere. Their trunks are harvested for lumber and paper.  For thousands of years, trees have played hide-and-seek with children and have been something to lean on when you’re having “that sort of day.”  As a result, trees have been praised in poetry, worshipped in dance, and appeased with an occasional human sacrifice.

Problem and Solution
The author state a problem and lists one or more solutions.  Cue words are:  problem is, dilemma is, puzzle is solved, question…answer.
Sample passage
Trees require enormous amounts of water.  A large apple tree in full leaf may absorb as much as 95 gallons of water every day.  This is not an issue when a tree is among other trees in a forest or field.  But in suburban areas, this is a real dilemma.  Without a nearby source of water, a tree will send its roots far and wide searching for it, invading swimming pools and septic tanks, if necessary.  Humans do not like this; a root invasion in a septic tank is no joke.  The solution is to provide each tree with its own swimming pool or septic tank so it doesn’t have to drink from yours.

This particular text is a description; I hope you found it interesting.  Do you know of other expository text structures besides the one listed?  If you do, please share in the comment section. I would like to know because I’m always curious.

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