Modelling the Structure and Features of a Text

Modelling the structure and features of a text

In the modelling stage of the TLC (also known as deconstruction) the focus shifts from the field of study to the genre being explored. 

This stage can include explicit teaching about the stages of a text or close examination of particular language features of the text, for example the use of prepositional phrases of place to establish setting in a narrative,  or the use of relating verbs in defining technical terms in an explanation. 

Here, the teacher selects an extract or extracts and uses a linguistic lens for a close reading* to teach about particular structural features as well as language features of the text and the meanings the language choices create. 

The extract/s selected for close examination might include key information about the field through academic and discipline-specific terms, include ‘tier 2 vocabulary’ which are complex words which can be used in multiple contexts,  or present strong models of language reflective of the genre.

The modelling phase can also include further opportunities for supported reading as described above. What is important here is the careful selection of extracts and the explicit teaching about the language choices. 

It is during this stage that students are taught the technical metalanguage – a language to identify, describe and interpret how language choices are working within a text. 

Using a mentor or model text

Using a mentor or model text, this stage could involve the students in:

  • a discussion of the different stages of the text and their purpose
  • annotating a text to highlight key features relevant to the genre and student needs
  • finding or highlighting key words, phrases or sentences  which help understanding of the text 
  • looking for patterns across texts
  • asking questions which require re-reading
  • close activities 
  • rearranging cut up parts of a text to reconstruct it and explaining how the parts work together
  • creating flow charts or matrices to reflect connections between meaning and structure 
  • contrasting purpose and structure with a different genre
  • finding other examples of the genre to compare.  

Tasks within this stage further contribute to building field knowledge as well as linguistic knowledge which students will later draw upon in the composition of their own texts.

*Snow & O’Connor (2016, p. 1) define close reading as “an approach to teaching comprehension that insists students extract meaning from text by examining carefully how language is used in the passage itself”.  This definition is in keeping with the teaching and learning approach outlined here.