Textbook feature analysis


  • [Description is taken from Albuquerque Public Schools publication "Teaching and Learning with Text."]

  • In order to make ideas and information in books accessible to readers, authors use internal and external text structures. Strategic readers can use these structures to access information, monitor their comprehension and retain the most important information within the text.

  • External text structures include format clues such as italics, boldface and different colored print. They include organizational aids such as a table of contents, appendices, bibliographies and a glossary. Units and chapters also include headings, subheadings, graphs, charts, and reading guides.

  • Internal text structures are used by authors to logically connect ideas to one another. Strategic readers can look for four basic organizational structures in informational text: hierarchical (main idea and details); conceptual (central idea and supporting facts): sequential (chronological series of events); and cyclical (circular series of events).

  • When readers are aware of basic text structures, they can be more analytical in their interactions with text.


  1. Introduce a new textbook with a textbook feature analysis assignment.
    Example from a Textbook Treasure Hunt Activity, 8th grade science
  2. Help students identify text structures and then use graphic organizers to process the information .
    Venn diagram graphic organizer
  3. Teach students to look for signal words. Signal words tell the reader that a particular text structure will follow (e.g., cause/effect, a sequence, or compare/contrast).
    Cause and Effect signal words (From McDougall Littell Science Toolkit)


  1. The English Companion (has many graphic organizers; at the bottom of the page is a Textbook Feature Analysis)
  2. Text structure analysis (has examples of signal words and graphic organizers to use with different kinds of text structures)
  3. NEA Using Text Structure (description and examples)
  4. Literacy Matters (description, examples and links)
  5. Resource Room (signal words examples and lists)
  6. Montgomery County Community College (signal words list and exercises)
  7. Florida Online Reading Strategies (discussion, examples, downloads and additional references)