Lesson plan

Formatting Nonfiction Text

Text formatting can add a lot of richness to how information is explained. In this lesson students will explore the organization of nonfiction texts and go on a scavenger hunt for different kinds of text formatting features.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Understand Text Features pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Understand Text Features pre-lesson.

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

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(10 minutes)
  • Have students discuss in partners or small groups how the organization of information in the following three kinds of texts differs: narrative/story, instructions, and nonfiction.
  • Give a hint to get them started, if necessary, by telling one of the three structures.
  • Share out ideas as a class and discuss.
  • Point out that narratives have a beginning, middle, and end; instructions follow a series of ordered steps (often numbered); and nonfiction is organized by topics divided into subtopics.
(10 minutes)
  • Draw an outline or web as you explain the following concept.
  • Explain the structure of nonfiction text, telling students that the title is the overarching topic of the entire text.
  • Explain that each heading (or chapter) is a section of information that covers a specific topic within that main topic.
  • Tell them that each heading usually has subheadings.
  • Explain that each section that follows a bigger idea supports or tells more about that big idea.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Understanding Nonfiction Formatting.
  • Go over the information at the top as a review of what you just explained, and then preview the instructions for the next activity.
  • Fill out the title and the first section together, modeling examples as you go along.
  • Instruct students to complete the activity using a nonfiction textbook. Distribute textbooks for students to reference.
  • Ask students to describe, in groups, the text features they used to complete the Understanding Nonfiction Formatting worksheet.
(15 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Formatting Frenzy.
  • Preview the instructions as a class and go over each kind of feature. Provide examples from the internet or a textbook if necessary.
  • Instruct students to complete the activity by going on a text formatting scavenger hunt.


  • Do the entire first activity together as a class.


  • Invite students to take a page from their textbook that is all (or mostly text) and determine what additional features would most improve the telling of the information on the page.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students open to a new chapter in the nonfiction text that they used during the exercise.
  • Name different formatting features and have students point to an example in their text.
  • Survey the class for accuracy.
(5 minutes)
  • Invite students to share their observations from the scavenger hunt activity.
  • Ask the following questions:
    • Which text features were the easiest to find?
    • Which were the most challenging?
    • Can you describe your favorite text feature?

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