Exploring How Section Headings Support Understanding of Expository Texts
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Writers use section headings for a variety of reasons: to help readers figure out what to expect in an upcoming section, to hint at a main idea, or to organize the article's idea. Understanding section headings can help students become strategic content-area readers. In this lesson, students preview an article and are guided to identify the section headings in the article. As a class, students read the article and then discuss why writers might include section headings in a text. In subsequent sessions, students are given articles with the section headings removed and act as detectives to fill in the missing section headings. This lesson requires students to work together to explore their understanding of section headings and solve problems presented to them. For extension activities, students can write their own expository text using three to five section headings and apply the strategy to the outline format.
From Theory to Practice
- Using expository texts during guided reading allows students to become aware of the purposes for section headings.
- Understanding section headings in expository texts helps readers become strategic content-area readers.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
Search for sample texts by checking the online magazines listed in the Websites section of this lesson plan or using textbooks from your classroom or other print resources from your library. Select three brief and interesting expository texts to use as samples with your students. Consider the reading level of your students, as well as their interests and curriculum. For sample texts 2 and 3, copy the section headings onto index cards. Then, omit the section headings on the texts with correction fluid and insert a blank line for students to fill in the headings later. Print enough copies of each sample text so that all students will have their own copy. Be sure to read the texts carefully ahead of time so that you are familiar with their content.
- Participate in a brainstorming discussion about the purposes for section headings
- Read a sample text and insert the missing section headings with the teacher's assistance
- Read a sample text and insert the missing section headings independently
- Be able to express to the teacher the purposes for section headings
Session 1: Model Lesson
|1.||Explain to students that today they will look at an interesting article and talk about a strategy they can use to better understand what they are reading.
|2.||Distribute the article or text that you have selected as sample text 1, and ask students what they notice when they look at the text. Students will probably notice various details, such as pictures, captions, title, and so on. After someone notices the section headings, tell the students that they are called section headings. Instruct students to circle or highlight all of the section headings in the sample text. Then, tell them that you are going to read the text aloud. While reading, you want them to think about why the writer included the section headings in the text. Read the entire text to the group with expression or invite students to participate in reading the text aloud.
|3.||Engage the class in a brainstorming activity to discuss why the writer put the section headings into the text. Make a list of the purposes for the section headings. If students do not generate the following ideas, lead them to realize that section headings also:
Session 2: Practice Lesson
|1.||Review the list of purposes for section headings, and explain that today they will practice inserting section headings into a different article.
|2.||Distribute the article or text that you have selected as sample text 2. Remember that the section headings in this text have been replaced with blank lines.
|3.||On the board, write the section headings the original article or text contained. Tell students that they will act as detectives to figure out where these headings belong in the text. Students may work together in groups to read the text and determine where those section headings listed on the board best fit within the text. Together they should note the reasoning behind each of their selections.
|4.||Read the article aloud with students. Engage students in a class discussion about where each section heading belongs and how they arrived at their conclusions.
Session 3: Assessment
|1.||Review the list of purposes for section headings, and explain that today they will work independently to insert section headings into a different article.
|2.||Distribute the article or text that you have selected as sample text 3. Remember that the section headings in this text have been replaced with blank lines.
|3.||On the board, write the section headings the original article or text contained. Tell students that they will again act as detectives to figure out where these headings belong in the text. Students work independently to fill in the missing headings.
- In small groups, students survey their textbooks, other sample texts provided by the teacher, or resources from the library to examine the purposes of section headings. Groups will record their findings and report back to the class.
- Given a text or article that has had the section headings omitted, students read the text and provide their own appropriate headings. Later, they can compare their headings with the original writer's headings.
- Students write their own expository text using three to five section headings appropriately.
- Students create outlines using section headings in content-area textbooks. Under each heading, students take brief notes or summarize what they learned in each section.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- See Session 3 for Assessment
- Have students write or tell you what they learned about the purposes for section headings. In their writing, they should list as many purposes as they can. The teacher can evaluate a student's understanding of section headings by the number of purposes listed.
- Ask students to reflect on what they learned by answering questions, such as:
1. What did I contribute to this lesson?
2. How well did we use our time?
3. What plan did my group use to sort the headings?