What are Informational Texts?
What are informational texts? Informational texts make up a category of nonfiction resources. They focus on one specific topic. Informational texts are informative and composed of facts. The title will tell you exactly what that informational text is about. The purpose is to inform the reader to better comprehend the science and social world. For instance, a book all about the solar system or a manual titled “How to Recycle”. Informational texts include articles, graphs, maps, and brochures. Unlike fiction and literature, informational texts do not use characters or anything made up (fictional). Different from narratives that tell a story across time sequentially, informational texts are often non-linear.
Why are informational texts important?
Exposing children to informational texts helps them find information, a beneficial skill. Through the use of informational texts, children will learn how to access things such as a table of contents, index, and glossary, which will serve them well in the future when these texts are more widely used. According to the Common Core Standard, by fourth grade, 50% of what students read should be informational. By eighth grade, it should be 55%. And in twelfth grade, the rate is 70%. Informational texts make up the majority of printed material adults read such as textbooks, newspapers, reports, directions, brochures, technical manuals, etc.
Informational texts use a variety of text features to help the reader find and understand the information they need quickly and efficiently. Below, you’ll find some of the most widely used text features. These include the following:
Table of contents
A table of contents, located at the front of the book, makes it easy for readers to quickly see where they can find specific information. Therefore, the table of contents is where you will find
An index, located at the end of the book, lists all of the topics and the page numbers that indicate the location of those topics, in an orderly way. Therefore, if you are looking to find something particular in an informational text or book, the index would be the best place to guide you.
A glossary, located at the end of the book, is a list of important words that are found in the book with their definitions.
An appendix is a section at the back of a book or document that gives additional information. For example, this might include a timeline, map, or photos related to the text.
A caption is words, phrases, or sentences, separate from the main text. They are located underneath or beside a photograph, diagram, chart, or graph that describe what it is or what it is about.
Charts or tables
A chart or table is a visual representation of data.
A graph is a visual representation that shows how two or more variables are related to each other. For example, a graph might show related variables with the use of points, lines, or differentiated parts of a whole (pie graph, line graph, bar graph).
A diagram is a labeled illustration that explains how something works or shows the relation between the parts. In fact, diagrams are a great way to represent ideas and information for students who are visual learners!
Bold and italic print
Bold print is text that is heavier and darker than the rest of the text. It can be used to show which words can be found in the glossary. Italic print is text that is slanted to the right. Similarly to bold print, italic print can also be used to show which words can be found in the glossary. Both types tell the reader, “this is important”.
Headings or subtitles
These organize the text so that the reader can more easily identify the main idea for that section of text.
Informational text structures
There are five types of informational text structures. In every type of text, the author uses at least one of these text structures. Therefore, readers must be familiar with these 5 text structures to properly understand and analyze informational texts.
A text that uses this structure simply describes something. Moreover, it helps to give the reader a mental picture. For example, a book may describe what the climate is like in a particular region.
A text using sequence focuses on order. This could be step-by-step instructions, chronological events, or presenting arguments in order of importance. Specifically, in a book about World War I, the book might list the events leading up to the war. Students must know certain words that indicate the sequence structure is being used. Students should look out for the following signal words: ‘finally’, ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘third’, and ‘eventually’.
Compare and contrast
A text using compare and contrast takes two or more things and explains how they are alike and different. For example, in an informational text about cloud types, a cirrus cloud may be compared to a nimbus cloud. Students should be mindful of words like ‘both’, ‘unlike’, ‘instead’, and ‘comparable’ since they indicate the use of the compare/contrast structure. Students could demonstrate they understand this by filling out a Venn diagram with the information from the text.
Cause and effect
This text structure is most often used in historical texts. Just like the name suggests, it explains causes and effects. To illustrate, in a weather report, weather patterns could be described to explain why a snowstorm is expected. Students should look out for words such as ‘cause’, ‘result’, ‘reason’, and ‘consequence’.
Problem and solution
In this text structure, the author outlines a problem and specifies the solution to that problem. For example, an article titled “The Crisis in Africa”. In the problem/solution structure, other structures are required. For example, the author needs to describe the problem. Similarly, it may also be necessary to include the causes and effects of the problem. Some clue words are ‘concern’, ‘solve’, ‘prevent’, ‘challenge’, and ‘answer’.
Examples of informational texts for kids:
- National Geographic Kids
- OWL Magazine
- Children’s Dictionary
- A Kid’s Guide to Global Warming
- Any textbook used in school
Examples that are not informational texts:
- A biography
- A text with characters
- A book of jokes or poems
- A cookbook