text features

Text features are valuable teaching tools to help learners understand and improve their text comprehension. Readers will easily ignore text features if they weren’t taught the importance and value of using text features for reading and learning.

What Is A Text Feature?

Text features help readers better understand the content in the main body of the text. Text feature components aren’t part of the main text but offer information for students to easily understand the fiction and nonfiction books and articles. Students understand nonfiction material more efficiently when they know the essential text features and how to locate them. 

When introducing text features, students learn the goal and purpose of text features. Each text feature has a function that assists students in quickly gaining access to information for better comprehension.  

Although there are numerous text features, there are basic text features every student should know. 

Nonfiction Text Features

Text features are generally more visible in nonfiction than fiction text. These are the most common text features in research articles, newspapers, magazines, and textbooks. However, book title, chapter title, table of contents, bold words, and italics are text features found in fiction books; picture books and chapter books contain pictures and diagrams.

Book Title And Chapter Title

The book title tells students what the book is about, and each chapter title indicates to students what they will learn about in that chapter. Nonfiction text features like titles and subtitles teach students new vocabulary words and concepts that allow them to think about the meaning of the text. 

Table Of Contents

The table of contents breaks down the entire book to help students find specific chapters. Students can turn to the relevant pages indicated in the table of contents without paging the entire book. Table of contents saves time when students study specific chapters for tests and need to find related content for homework assignments. 

table of contents text feature image.  Mot people don't think of ToC's as being text features.

Headings And Subtitles

Headings and subtitles break the nonfiction text into sections and subsections. Using these types of nonfiction text features students find specific information quickly in nonfiction books and articles by scanning the headings and subheadings. 

Graphics As Text Features

Graphics are pictures, maps, and diagrams found in a nonfiction book. Teaching students using common features engages students more; a graphic text feature explains the nonfiction text from a different perspective. 

  • Charts and tables visually represent data and information in an easy-to-read way. 
  • Diagrams explain how things work or show the relationship between things. Diagrams are helpful in STEM subjects.  
  • Maps show locations where things occurred. Students read a map to locate places mentioned in nonfiction text like history books. 
  • Photos and illustrations are nonfiction text features that create interest, make the nonfiction texts more interesting for students, and emphasize key points in the informational text.  
world maps in many designs
Maps like this are text features. This caption is a text feature. Very meta.

Captions Are Text Features

Captions text features explain the graphic, picture, map, or diagram. Placed close to or inside the graphic, students understand which graphics the captions belong to.  

Glossary Text Features

A glossary is a common text feature that helps students understand the meaning of difficult words. A glossary teaches students new vocabulary words. The glossary word list is added to the end of a chapter or the book’s end. 

Index Text Features

An index is an alphabetical list of important words, places, names, and objects in the text. The index contains page numbers that help the reader quickly locate the pages and the words in the informational text and other nonfiction texts. 

Bold Words And Italics

Nonfiction text containing a glossary often bold words in the main document indicating to students that these words’ meanings are expanded on in the glossary. Bold words are words or phrases that form an integral part of understanding the content of the nonfiction text. The darker and thicker font of bolded words draws students’ attention to these important words.  

Another nonfiction text feature is a word in italics. The font slants to the right and identifies proper nouns and phrases that require emphasizing when students read the text. Words in italics are also found inside the main body text. 

A sidebar and breakout box provide students with concepts, facts, and ideas related to the main content that don’t fit in the non-fiction chapter text. These common nonfiction text features vary in word length. A sidebar contains a brief article next to the main text, and a breakout box features related text like a quotation, list, or fact that isn’t long enough for a sidebar article.

Diagram With Labels

Labeled diagrams show visual objects in detail, with text labels identifying each part. Teachers use text features like labeled diagrams when introducing students to new topics to help learners understand the text better. 

Teaching Text Features In The Classroom

Teachers use various text features and text feature activities to teach students what a text feature is and how to use text features to maximize their learning experience. 

Teaching Text Features In Fiction Books To Kindergarten Students

Text features in fiction text aren’t as many as nonfiction text features. Often teachers won’t spend an entire lesson on it but incorporate identifying and using text features while reading a story. For example, before starting a new chapter book, the teacher shows kids the table of contents and asks what the page is called. By reading each chapter title, kids can find the page number for that chapter. 

Text Features Picture Walk For Fiction Books

Young kids in lower grades use a picture walk to practice comprehension strategies. Kids use the pictures as clues to understanding what the story is about and to learn unfamiliar words.

  • Looking at the book cover and reading the title, the classroom discuss what they think the book is about.
  • Paging through the book, the teacher asks readers questions about each picture.

This prereading exercise engages the reader’s imagination, and kids are more inclined to listen and discuss the story actively.

Text Feature Walk Structure

The Text Feature Walk strategy for nonfiction text features is similar to the picture walk prereading exercise used in fiction books. Kids should be familiar with the text features before starting the text feature walk strategy.

  • Start by modeling the structure; use examples to show readers how to describe and predict texts using text features.
  • Avoid giving learners too much text to read and discuss at a time.
  • Use topics learners are familiar with to teach them the process.
  • Readers should then participate by reading a text feature, identifying it, explaining its specific purpose, and how the information contributes to understanding the related content.
  • Complete the entire text feature walk before the student reads the main body of the text.

More Fun Text Feature Ideas To Practice Text Features

Text Feature Scavenger Hunt Idea

A scavenger hunt is a fun teaching method to engage readers to find text features. Teachers provide students with text features that learners hunt for in textbooks, magazines, newspapers, and articles. The pupils learn how to find and use text features to gain access to information in the texts.

Text Feature Bingo Idea

Bingo is another fun teaching game to help the reader reinforce text features. Create laminated bingo cards and buttons, beans, cubes, or pieces of paper as markers. You can even have a prize box for winners.

Text Features Activity Idea

Spread enough books (a number card next to each item) in the classroom. Each reader has a checklist with a list of nonfiction text features. Children enjoy a fun walk through the classroom by checking off the nonfiction text features they found in each book.

Kids have an aha-moment when they realize how much more information text features disclose about the main body of text. Do you have a fun way to teach a reader text features?

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