This article may be the fifth within our blog series Close Reading Isn’t Just for Novels: Teaching Students to see Nonfiction. Click the link to see all of the posts in the series. Because of our series sponsor, Renaissance Learning.

1. Show How Text Features Help Us as Readers

Kristin Riley, reading specialist at a Title 1 Elementary School, has her students develop a graphic organizer with three columns. In the first, they write the text feature. In the second, they explain the things they learned. And in the third, they write the way it helped them as readers. As students find out more about themselves as readers, they are able to discuss which are their preferred text features and why.

2. Focus on Visuals

Taking time to analyze the visual features-illustrations, photos, maps-in a text can help build students’ background knowledge. Illustrations provide clarification (a painting of a historical figure that shows what he appeared as if) and extend content knowledge (a map showing the route an explorer took).

Before students read, ask them to pick one visual text feature. They’ll write down three information and three wonders or questions. After they read, they can return to which include to discuss how their understanding has developed and what new ideas came up.

3. Create Question Banks

Use captions, images, graphs and other text features as the starting place for student questions. Post just the feature and also have students write questions that come in your thoughts. For example, if students are considering a diagram of the heart, they can get rid of questions about the vocabulary (What does pulmonary mean?) and content (How can hearts pump?). Once students have a bank of questions, they’re ready for purposeful reading of the main text.

4. Fill in the Blanks

Remove all one type of text feature-such as the headings or captions-and have students add their own. Then, compare their versions with the authors’. How were they similar? How were they different? This shows students how purposeful authors have been in deciding on the text that sticks out around the page and how headings particularly are attached to the big ideas in a text.

5. Zoom In

Text features, says Janelle Turnier, fifth-grade teacher in Reno, Nevada, help students break down the data around the page. Usually, she highlights, text features give you the key points. Have students zoom in on a single text feature at any given time by having them cover other parts of the page (with note cards or paper cutouts). Exactly what do they see when they’re only reading that one slice of text? And achieving zoomed in on that taking care of, when they zoom back out, so how exactly does their perspective change?

6. Connect Text Features to Structure

Look at nonfiction with assorted structures-problem and solution, compare and contrast, chronological-and make lists of the types of text features which are at their peak in every. Which text features help us understand problem and solution? That are most helpful in understanding sequence? Which do almost all authors use?

7. Text-Feature-Dependent Questions

As students will work with text, ask them questions that may only be answered with the text features. This can, first, direct students to text features and, over time, get students to see text features as sources of information. Eventually, they’ll ask one another questions derived from the text features.

8. Track the Page

Give students a photocopy of a page and have them draw a dot where their eye goes first, along with a line that follows how their eye tracks the page. This activity shows students that there’s no “right” method to approach text, which spending time with text features can offer different experiences with the text.

9. Make your Own

As students become familiar with the methods authors use text features, after they’ve read a piece, have them produce a text feature based on a question that they have concerning the text. For instance, if after reading about American explorers, students wonder what went down towards the Indigenous peoples, they are able to research and make up a graphic that shows how exploration displaced native populations.

Far from pictures that occupy space in books, text features are integral to informational text. Taking time to dig in to text features means they are an element of the reading experience and teaches students how you can maximize every word.

Did you realize? There’s a new version of Accelerated Reader called Accelerated Reader 360 that specifically helps kids discover the skills they have to read nonfiction. Learn more about Accelerated Reader 360 by visiting