What are Text Features? How to Teach Them to Kids

What are Text Features? How to Teach Them to Kids

What are Text Features?

When people refer to text features, they are mainly talking about features of a nonfiction text.  However, fiction books also have text features.  It’s important to teach both when students are learning about books.   Text features are the different parts of a nonfiction or fiction text other than the main story itself.  They help the reader understand the story.  Examples of nonfiction text features include captions, index, and glossary.  Examples for fiction include pictures, title, and chapter headings.  Keep reading to get a full description of both fiction and nonfiction text features.

table of contents

Nonfiction Text Features

Nonfiction texts have many different text features to help the reader understand the story.  We have compiled a list of text features and how they aid in the understanding. 

  • Title – tells us what the book will be about
  • Table of contents – tells us about the different sections we will be learning about and what page each section starts on
  • Glossary – defines words found in the book that might be difficult
  • Bolded words – the words that are defined in the glossary or important words
  • Captions – sentence describing a picture
  • Diagrams – pictures with labels to describe the picture
  • Labels -word or words used to describe a picture or parts of a picture
  • Headings – tells when a new section begins and what that section is about
  • Index – tells what pages certain words can be found on in the book
labeled diagram
caption
glossary
bold words

Teaching Text Features for Nonfiction

As Kindergarten teachers, we spent a few weeks teaching nonfiction text features.  We used Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop simultaneously to teach about the features of nonfiction texts. 

Reading Workshop

The first day of this unit we passed out nonfiction books to each pair of kids in our class.  (We looked through the books ahead of time and made sure they had many features we would be learning about.)  We had our students look through the books and discuss what they noticed about them.  This activity gets students interested in learning about nonfiction texts.  We let them know they were looking through nonfiction books, which are books that are real, have facts, and teach us things.  Then we talk about some of the features they noticed.  For the next few weeks we read different nonfiction books to the students.  We usually read one book for 2 or 3 days noticing different text features on each day. 

nonfiction-books-for-kindergarten

Writing Workshop

We taught our nonfiction unit for reading and writing at the same time, so they could apply what they saw in the books we read during Reading Workshop.  Our students were always excited to write nonfiction books.  We stressed the importance of picking a topic they knew a lot about.  The first nonfiction book the students wrote was very scaffolded.  We talked about the features of nonfiction texts that we would include in our books.  We included a title, a table of contents, chapter headings, and a labeled diagram.  For the first book, everyone wrote a book titled All About Kindergarten.  Together we came up with several chapters they could choose from, so each student’s book was a little different.  Then they wrote a few sentences for each chapter and we all had a labeled diagram of our classroom at the end of the book.  This took us about a week to finish.  At the end, we invited our Pre-K students over, and our students read their books to teach them about kindergarten.  This was very fun for the kids!  After writing this book, our students were able to pick a nonfiction topic of their choice to write about.  We made sure our students knew enough about their topic to write a book (a very short book) about it.  

kindergarten-nonfiction-writing

Fiction Text Features

Fiction books often don’t have as many text features as nonfiction text, but here are a few that you can find in some fiction books.

  • Title – tells what the book will be about
  • Table of contents – tells the names of each chapter in the book
  • Chapter headings – tells the title of the chapter
  • Pictures
title of the book
fiction-text-features-table-of-contents
fiction-text-features

How to Teach Text Features for Fiction

Because there aren’t as many text features in fiction books as there are in nonfiction, we didn’t have a unit focused specifically on them.  We did, however, point out text features of any fiction books as we were reading them.  For example, I used to read a few pages from chapter books at the end of the day right before students got ready to go home.  Every time I started a new book, I showed them the table of contents page and asked if they knew what that page was called.  Then I read each chapter title to them and noticed the page numbers we could find them on. 

Fiction Text Features vs Story Elements

Fiction text features often gets mixed up with story elements.  Text features are parts of the text that don’t include the main story, while story elements are all about the story in the book.  The chart below shows some examples of each.  For a more detailed explanation of story elements and to read how we taught them, read How to Teach Story Elements in Kindergarten.

fiction-text-features-vs-story-elements

Text Features Video

This is a great YouTube video you can show your students when introducing text features. It goes over many common features and can help your kids understand them. 

Want to Learn More About Text Features?

Still interested in learning more?  Reading Rockets has a great article with more teaching tips!  Check it out!

Parts of a Book

Check out our blog, Parts of a Book for Kindergarten.  We tell you what they are and explain exactly how we taught them to our kindergarteners!

More from 4 Kinder Teachers

Take a look at our other blogs for more great information, resources and sample lessons all for kindergarten!  These are some of our most popular blogs:

We’d love to hear from you!  Please leave us a comment below if you tried any of the activities from above or if you have any questions. Thank YOU!

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