Text Feature Lessons

Lesson Ideas for Teaching Text Features

All Dolled Up and Plain Text

Type out the text of a double page spread in a non-fiction book (something very visual and with lots of text features) so that the finished product does not include any text features. Show the students the plain text version and then show them the dolled up version. Have a discussion about which text features were most effective in helping the reader understand over the plain text version.

Anchor Chart

Create an anchor chart where your class can track the text features they find in different texts. (Name the text feature, what it looks like, how it helps you understand the rest of what you’re reading)

Point out Text Features

Introduce the text features as they appear in books your students read. Explicitly teach the purpose of these features and the effect that they have on the reader.

Class Chart

Have students browse through a variety of books to identify different text features they can use to construct a class chart.

Ask students to record text features they find before, during, or after reading.

Try Out Specific Text Features

List 5 text features that students can use. Provide them with a small piece of plain text and have them use those features to improve a reader’s understanding of the main idea.


When introducing a content-rich book, select one or two text features to highlight. Choose features that are helpful for determining the important ideas in the text or understanding its organization.


Look at an example of a double page spread rich with text features. Categorize which text features are structural, navigational, organizational, typographical, illustrations or design-oriented. Discuss which category has the most influence over a reader’s understanding.

Main Idea

Pick several text features that don’t help the reader understand the main idea. Justify your choices.

Individual Text Feature Table

Provide each student with a photocopy of a text features table where he or she can independently track the features he or she finds and note how each aids his or her understanding.

Pose Questions

Pose questions that help students recognize the functions of text features.

After reading a text, reflect as a class on how the feature(s) helped explain or reinforce the text, or how the feature helped you find the information you were seeking.

Captions: Provide students with photocopies of pages from content-area books that contain illustrations with the captions removed. Guide students in writing captions that are brief and specific and that help the reader link the illustrations to the text.

Headings: Provide students with photocopies of pages from content-area books that contain sections with the headings removed. Guide students in writing clear, brief headings that help the reader predict the content of the sections.

Diagrams and labels: Provide students with a diagram of a familiar process, cycle, or object and ask them to add labels that provide a short description.

Point out variation among text features. Have students examine different examples of the same text feature and identify how they can vary.

Tables of contents: Point out that tables of contents can have different names (e.g., Table of Contents, Contents, and In This Issue) and different levels of specificity—some include just chapter titles and others also include the headings of sections and subsections.

Author’s Purpose

Have students compare different resources and discuss the author’s differing purposes for the layout of the information. What is more useful? Which layout helps us find our way around the book the best?

Indexes: Point out those indexes can have different formats and levels of complexity. They may consist of one or more pages contain one or more columns, include some words in bold print, etc.

Have students compare different resources and discuss the author’s differing purposes for the layout of the information. What is more useful? Which layout helps us find information in the easiest way?

Illustrations: Some add information that goes beyond the text, while others clarify or provide a visual representation of a concept presented in the text. Students may recognize how some illustrations are more helpful than others. Have students compare different resources and discuss the author’s differing purposes for the illustrations. Which illustrations aid understanding? Why? Are there some illustrations which are just meant to sell the book but really don’t help the reader to better understand the main idea?

Glossary: Encourage students to include text features in their own writing. For example, students can add an index and a glossary of important words.


Using PowerPoint (or some other slide show program), discuss which presentation text features are most effective for helping viewers understand information. Provide students with the same text and let them present it in different ways and then compare the effectiveness of the presentations

Word Processing Program

Using a word processing program, explore the text features on the pull down menus and toolbars. Provide students with the same text and let them present it in different ways and then compare the effectiveness of the presentations.

“Buy Books”

Photocopy the covers of several pictures books where there are good examples of text features that aid our understanding of the main idea. Give each student a token $20 to “buy” a book. Students must base their purchases on text features that they notice and be able to say why the text feature influenced their choice. (Helen Klein, Briarcrest)


Have students examine a newspaper for text features. Use the following poem written by Helen Klein from Briarcrest as a pre-reading activity:

I looked at the newspaper

Here’s what I found

Stories with headlines

From the world all around

Pictures with captions

Scores for each sport

Recipes, ads

The weather report

Informative index

The banner, the date

Letters to the editor

The comics are great

This newspaper’s awesome

It opens your mind

I found lots of cool stuff

Now what can you find?

Web Sites and Text Features

Many of our students spend a great deal of their time gaming in online environments. Some games present a dizzying array of features through which players must navigate. Many of these features are unique to the online format while many others share characteristics with other kinds of text formats. Text features that assist in comprehension are the most useful. A picture that explicitly shows what is being written about in the text assists a reader in understanding the main idea. We learn in many different ways and text features are visual clues that are added to help us understand. Some examples:


Back button



Footer: The footer is the bottom section of the web page. This section is where you usually put your copyright notice, link to your privacy policy and your website contact information.

Header: The header is at the very top of the web page. It usually contains a logo for the website.



Imbedded Ads

Key Word Search

Pull-down menu

Scroll bar

Shopping Cart

This is an icon of a shopping cart usually found at the top of a company’s website that keeps track of your online purchases.

Search Field


Tier 1 Navigation: This is usually a series of tabs or bars that occur on every web page of the website to help you navigate the main sections of the site.

Tier 2 Navigation: This is a series of tabs or bars that occur only in a sub section of the website.

URL line

Some sample webpage text feature questions:

1. Where might you go on this site to find something or locate specific information

(Answer: Search field or help menu)

2. Find word or phrase underlined in blue and click on it. What happens?

(Answer: It’s called a hyperlink and it takes you to another web page.)

3.  What are two ways you can use the scroll bar on the right side of your screen?

(Answer: By clicking and holding your mouse to move it or by rolling the track ball on your mouse)

5.What happens if you pull down the arrow on the right side of the URL field?

(Answer: You see all the addresses that have recently been visited)

6.What happens when you click the back button? What happens if you click it more than once?

(Answer: It visits the last website that you visited.)

7. Find an ad on the page. Why do ads appear on some websites?

(Answer: To sell products)

8. Find a moving graphic on the website. In what ways might the graphic help you to understand this website?

9. Find a title that is in colour. Why might the title be coloured?

(Answer: To draw attention to it and differentiate it from the other standard text to demonstrate its importance.)

10. Find a link and click on it. Now use the back button. Why have the titles changed colour?

(Answer: They change to purple to show that you’ve already visited that link.)

11. If you click on an ad it will take you to a new website and a smaller window will appear on your desktop. How do you close the window?

(Answer: Press the red “x” button in the top right of the window)

12. What are some symbols that appear on this website? In what ways might those symbols help someone find their way on a website?

Teachers please note: The TEXT FEATURE CHART is meant to be given to the students BLANK. The text features I have included below are for your reference. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

 Text Feature


What do I see?

How does the feature help me understand?

(Ask yourself, “SO WHAT?”)

Example: a book award medal sticker on the front cover of the book Blue sticker with silver tree that says, “Silver Birch” I know that grade 4, 5, and 6 readers in my school can belong to a special club to read Silver Birch Books SO I guess the sticker must mean those books are special.





Background colour


Bar graph


Block Diagram (shows a piece like a slice of cake)


Bolded Text/Coloured Text












Cross-section Diagram


Cut designs


Cutaway Diagram




Diagram with colour-coding


Exploded Diagram


Flow chart


Framed text (starburst, etc.)












Line graph






Nested Diagram




Pie graph




Print position


Pull-down menu




Size of print


Speech bubble




Text boxes


Textured Text






Tree Diagram


Venn diagram


Web Diagram



Word Wheel




Please click below for Word format:

Lesson Ideas for Teaching Text Features

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