November Literacy Tip

Text Features


Dear Colleagues,

The November Literacy Tip will highlight text features; October’s Literacy Tip focused on Text Structure, the organizational pattern an author(s) uses.  Hopefully, you took a pledge to help students learn how to navigate text – paper or digital – by teaching text structure. 

What are Text Features?

How do text features help or confuse you as a reader?   Which websites do you prefer when booking an airline ticket?  Text features refer to the physical layout of the printed material that can support or impede comprehension.  Text features

  • help the reader more easily navigate the text.
  • provide additional information to help the reader comprehend the content.
  • offer information that may not be written in the text itself.
  • can be found in textbooks, magazine articles, newspapers, reports, web pages, and other forms of text.


Four Categories of Text Features
  • Print Features – Outlines special ways text information appears
    Examples: table of contents, index, glossary, preface, pronunciation guide, appendix, menu
  • Organizational Aids – Supports navigation of material provided in the text
    Examples: bold and colored print, headings, subheadings, captions, italics, bullets, titles, labels, sidebars
  • Illustrations – Expands the meaning of the text
    Examples: photographs, drawings, magnification
  • Graphic Aids – Represents information in some specific way
    Examples: diagrams, flow charts, sketches, comparisons, graphs, figures, maps, tables, overlays, time-lines
Try This

Look through a text and tag text features with Post-it notes.  Record answers to the following questions on the Post-it notes:


  • What is the importance of the text feature?
  • Why might the authors have incorporated the feature?


Why Spend the Time?

Learning how to navigate text features must be an integral part of the instructional process.  Explicit instruction in the physical layout of the text increases reading comprehension; teachers need to examine text carefully for those features that help or hinder student learning.  Teachers may fail to recognize how difficult a text is to understand because they are experts in their content. 
Strategies such as Chapter Tours or Text Previewing (Billmeyer, 2006b) guide readers through the text, highlighting special features.  If students are to be strategic readers, it is imperative that they be taught how to use the resources provided to them.  Text previewing sets the stage for successful reading in all content areas.  Get all students on a successful path to learning by helping them understand the importance of text features.
For more ideas and examples to help students understand the importance of teaching “text features” check out Strategic Reading in the Content Areas – Practical Applications for Creating a Thinking Environment Chapter 5.  For strategy ideas to teach “text features” look into Strategies to Engage the Mind of the Learner – Building Strategic Learners.  Books can be previewed at
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