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Professional Book – Text Forms and Features: A Resource for Intentional Teaching

Text Forms and Features: A Resource for Intentional Teaching

by Margaret E. Mooney

2001 paperback
176 pages
Item #527
ISBN: 1-57274-456-1

In order to read and write a variety of text forms, students need to be exposed to and taught about those forms from an early age. This book lists the purpose, description, and key elements of many fiction and nonfiction text forms, from “Advertisements” to “Traditional Tales.” Other chapters describe how various text forms fit into the reading and writing curriculum and how authors use techniques to set the tone of a text.

The book ends with the purpose, description, and elements of common text features, such as “Acknowledgments,” “Charts,” and “Title Pages.”

About the Author

Author Bio: Margaret E. Mooney’s teaching, writing, and publishing career began in New Zealand, but for the past several years she has been dividing her time between New Zealand and the United States, especially the state of Washington.

She encourages teachers to view all children as worthy, not needy, emphasizing education as a process of enhancement and not one of compensation. She promotes guided reading as an instructional approach in which children practice, apply, and extend skills and strategies in order to understand text on the first reading. Margaret has written the Books for Young Learners Teacher Resource, Text Forms and Features: A Resource for Intentional Teaching, Reading To, With, and By Children, and Developing Life- long Readers.

In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Margaret as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to education, particularly the teaching of reading.

More Books by the Author

  • Caught in the Spell of Writing and Reading: Grade 3 and Beyond Text for Intentional
  • Teaching Text Forms and Features: A Resource for Intentional Teaching
  • Developing Life-long Readers


“What book are you currently reading?”  the interviewer asked.


The History of Lacemaking,” I replied without hesitation.


The air fell silent, eyebrows were raised, and then a series of meaningful glances were exchanged between the four interviewers.


“No, what novel are you reading?” one of the four asked, as if trying to offer me a chance to redeem myself.


Undaunted, I blurted out, “My main reading is books on lacemaking.”  More meaningful glances signaled a hasty end to the interview.


As I left the room, I pondered their reaction to my choice of reading matter.  Would I have had a better chance of being invited to take up the position if I had suggested a book on reading, or editing, or, as prompted, a novel?


Ultimately I was offered and accepted the job—a six-month position that turned into nine years of hard work and enlightenment as I became involved in the development of the revision of the original Ready to Read series.1  But the reaction to my reading habits continued to nag at me.  Was something wrong with preferring nonfiction?  It has always been my preference.  After all, I had seen my father devour manuals and technical books with as much enthusiasm as my mother showed toward fiction.


1The Ready to Read series is the New Zealand national reading program for the teaching of reading in the early years. 


One of the first tasks in my new position was to review the range of material used for the teaching of reading in our schools, especially that used in the first three years.  As I pursued that task, my thoughts often went back to the interviewers’ questioning response as I realized that the greater proportion of material (at that time, at least 80 percent) used in the name of “teaching reading” was fiction and the majority of that was fantasy fiction.  What about the children who did not enjoy fiction?  And what about those whose imagination was shaped by a culture or set of values different from that considered the norm?  What if the child was more interested in reading about the what and why and how of the world than about make-believe characters in imagined situations?


As I pondered that issue, another thought struck me.  The fourth year of school brings with it the expectation that children are competent readers and writers of a wide range of nonfiction forms.  They are not only expected to be competent readers in order to gain information but are also assessed on their ability to process and represent that information in reports, essays, charts, tables, paragraphs, and summaries.  And what is more, they need to be able to do so across a range of curriculum subjects.


“You only get out of the bank the equivalent of what you have put in,” became my theme song and has continued to influence the way I approach both the selection and presentation of material as well as the focus of my teaching.  If we want a well-rounded story from our beginning writers we need to show them what a well-rounded story is, how it’s structured, and how they can do likewise.  How many times in those early school years do we expect our students to be able to retell a story, write a report, or recount an experience without being shown how?  We need to follow the teaching sequence for writing just as we do for reading, i.e., planning, observing, and adjusting our demonstrations, guides, and prompts to enable the children to observe, absorb, practice, and produce at their appropriate level of competence.  This includes writing reports, retellings, summaries, poems, lists, letters, diaries, journals—whatever we expect our children to write—for them, explicitly explaining our thoughts as we compose and draft the text.  Then we need to create opportunities for them to participate in many shared writing lessons before “flying solo under supervision” in guided writings.  Only then do we have the right to anticipate seeing pieces of work nearing our expectations. 


The plethora of eight-page books now available for beginning readers offers far more than practice in repetition and prediction.  Many of them enable children to understand (even if in a rudimentary degree) the essential elements of a range of different text forms and provide examples of techniques authors use to capture the reader’s interest.  Without “doing a book to death” or taking away the joy of discovering the humor, twist, subplot, or climax for oneself, showing children how reading is “writing in the head” and writing is “reading through the pen,” we can give real credence to our claim that reading and writing are interdependent processes. 


“Walking the talk” has become the catch-cry, but I am not sure that we have really caught the thought behind platitudes about links between reading and writing or aims of developing “life-long redress.”  Some questions requiring honest answers by authors, publishers, administrators, test designers, and teachers could include:


  • What kinds of reading and writing will our students do once they leave the education system?


(A reality check would be to compare responses with our own reading and writing habits.  For example, what have you read and written during the past 24 hours?  What proportion was for sheer pleasure, and how much was to survive in your job, your household, and your world?) 

  • How often are curriculum disciplines other than reading and writing assessed through reading and writing? 
  • How much instructional reading and writing time is devoted to helping students understand the function and nature of text types and the reader or writer’s role in each? 
  • What is the ratio of fiction/nonfiction material used when assessing progress in reading and writing? 
  • What is the ratio of fiction/nonfiction material available within the school for instructional purposes or for children to choose to read? 
  • How much money was spent on resources for reading compared with that spent for writing? 
  • How much material was purchased in book form and how much provided examples of “real-world reading,” costing nothing other than time for collecting? 

It is hoped that this resource will provide prompts of the breadth and depth of the material students will probably be expected to understand and comprehend or create.  The first chapter outlines some ways in which the book could be used.  This is followed by an alphabetical listing of text forms or types, each detailed under the subheadings of “why,” “what,” and “features.”  As with all sections of this resource, the list of text forms or text types is not intended to be definitive but is representative of the main ways in which authors present their ideas and information.  Diagrams providing examples of ways in which text types can be grouped are followed by reminders of some of the techniques the author uses to engage readers.  The final section is an alphabetical listing of some text and book conventions and organizational techniques.  These have been selected to give general rather than complete coverage and, as with the section on text forms, are listed under the subheadings of “why,” “what,” and “features.” 

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 So, Why This Text?

Chapter 2 The Why and What of Each Text

Chapter 3 This Text Goes With That One

Chapter 4 Voice Within a Text

Chapter 5 Text Features Bibliography