A couple of months ago I was watching the movie Fargo without knowing anything about it ahead of time. At the beginning it says that it is based on a true story. So as I watched, I was paying close attention to the crime as it was laid out, trying to piece it all together. By the end of the film I wasn't very impressed and couldn't figure out why it was critically acclaimed. I obvious didn't "get it." I looked up some reviews online and realized that the intriguing part of the movie was supposed to be the idiosyncrasies of the culture in Minnesota. If I had been looking more for the humor and the culture I would have enjoyed the film and understood it's true intent.
Our students have this same experience when they pick up a new text without much/any background knowledge. If we want to help them comprehend nonfiction text, we need to teach them to look for the text structure. If students realize that the author is using compare and contrast they can start looking for important similarities and differences. If they notice a sequence they can look for important steps or events and the order in which they are presented.
Here is a free anchor chart to help students identify the 5 common text structure in nonfiction text. It's perfect for putting in a reading notebook, projecting in front of the class, or using with a small group. Click on the picture to download it.
Have a great day!