EL Support Lesson

Understand Text Features

Let's practice reading nonfiction texts! In this lesson, teach your ELs about identifying and describing text features. This lesson can be taught on its own or used as support for the lesson Formatting Text Features.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Formatting Nonfiction Text lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Formatting Nonfiction Text lesson plan.

Students will be able to identify and describe text features in a nonfiction text.


Students will be able to describe text features with verb phrases using sentence frames and visuals.

(5 minutes)
  • Separate students into groups and distribute a sticky note and a different vocabulary card to each group with the word and meaning cut off. Gather information about their background knowledge by asking students to label the picture and write down all the information they learn from the picture with their group members on the sticky note.
  • Allow each group to paste their vocabulary card, along with their sticky notes, on the board.
  • Tell students they'll learn about and describe text features in this lesson.
(8 minutes)
  • Distribute the complete Vocabulary Cards (i.e., the cards with the picture, meanings, and definitions) to the students and have the groups from the introduction meet again to determine if their original label was correct.
  • Allow each group to share their findings and read the correct name and definition of the term aloud to the class. Ask students to tell if their answers were correct and adjust their definition with new sticky notes next to their old sticky notes. Provide the new sticky note and the sentence frame, "I thought____was____, but now I think it's____."
  • Distribute the Glossary and read the terms and definitions for each student. Allow students to add their home language definition for each term in the last column if appropriate.
(7 minutes)
  • Tell students they've been learning the definitions of the terms, but now they'll describe the terms aloud so they can find them easily in a text.
  • Write the following sentence starter on the board: "The ____ (noun) has ____." Tell students the noun in the sentence would be the name of the text feature, but they would use the verb phrase "has____" to describe the graphic organizer.
  • Provide a few common examples using the verb phrase when describing nouns (e.g., "A school has many classrooms filled with students."). Then, provide an example using the verb phrase with a text feature.
  • Display Part 2 of the Text Feature Descriptions worksheet. Give an example of a definition and how to describe a text feature for the first two text features from the table. Make sure to use the sentence frame from the board.
  • Allow students to separate into pairs and complete the rest of the table together. They can use their vocabulary cards and glossary as a reference.
(7 minutes)
  • Tell students they can use text features as a pre-reading activity to guess information about a text and to learn information about the text (e.g., sidebars). Tell them you'll preview Part 1 of the Text Feature Descriptions worksheet with them and have them label the text features.
  • Ask students to separate into groups and describe what each text feature looks like in the worksheet. Write the following sentence starters for assistance in their discussion:
    • "The____has____."
    • "It looks like____."
    • "____tells about____."
  • Have students make predictions about what they're going to read in the text and share which text features gave them an idea about the text.


  • Allow students to match definitions with the visuals and give descriptions in their home language (L1). Ask them to draw visuals for the missing vocabulary terms on the Glossary.
  • Have ELs practice identifying the text features with the Text Features game.
  • Place ELs in groups to read the text in Part 1 of the Text Feature Descriptions worksheet and then answer the comprehension questions orally.


  • Ask the students to choose one of the text features for the Text Feature Descriptions worksheet and write about the information the text feature gives the reader and how the text feature is relevant to the paragraph. Provide sentence starters for their paragraph.
  • Choose them to share their descriptions before ELs with lower proficiency levels.
(8 minutes)
  • Ask students to read the text in Part 1 of the Text Feature Descriptions worksheet and answer the questions.
  • Prompt students to verify or reject their predictions about the text from the Discourse Level Focus and share their answer with their partners.
  • Have them explain in partners how the text features in Part 1 helped organize and prepare them to read the text. Provide the following sentence starter: "The text feature helped me understand the paragraph because it ____."
(5 minutes)
  • Remind students that text features can help students understand more about the text they'll read and provide additional information about the text.
  • Ask students to think about the format of the Text Feature Descriptions worksheet. Prompt students to focus on the worksheet as a whole when looking for the text features. Then, choose students to point out the heading and subheadings that are present in the worksheet.
  • Call on students to share how the format of the actual worksheet helps them understand the worksheet (i.e., bolding, headings, and subheadings organize the information).
  • Ask students to turn and talk to their partners about which one of the text features from the worksheet was the most helpful in understanding more about tornadoes.

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