© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy See All Teacher Resources



Grade 11-12

Reading RST.11-12.5

RST.11-12.5. Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.

Set the Stage

Our understanding of a text is closely related to how that text is structured. Is the information presented in chronological order? Order of importance? By cause/effect relationships? Experienced readers subconsciously identify the structure of a text, and knowing the structure helps us to understand the ideas, situate the information in a broader context, and predict outcomes—all important comprehension strategies. This standard asks students to bring that thinking up to the conscious level. By 11th and 12th grades, students should be able to recognize and analyze how a text is structured and use that structure to better understand and discuss the information. Many textbooks use straightforward structures complemented by clear headings, so the textbook for your course is a good resource for students to practice this on. As they develop their skills, move them toward more difficult or nuanced texts. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a textbook.


Dress Rehearsal

How do you make sense of a textbook? How can you use it to the best advantage? Glad you asked!

Textbook publishers structure information in certain ways and information is presented in a certain order. The first few chapters offer very basic ideas about what you will learn in the course, and these chapters provide the foundation you will need in order to understand the remaining chapters.

For example, your anatomy and physiology textbook begins with an overview of the course in Chapter 1, “Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology.” Here, you will learn what anatomy and physiology are, the levels of organization, the characteristics of life, the organization of the human body, life-span changes, anatomical terminology, and medical and applied sciences that are relevant to course knowledge. See, pretty basic, huh?

Further information is sectioned according to complexity. For example, the second chapter in the textbook is “Chemical Basis of Life,” describing chemical properties while the third chapter is “Cells.” Chapter four offers more details of cells with “Cellular Metabolism.” Information from one chapter should be mastered in order to understand the material in the next. Each following chapter is related to the previous chapter but often explains concepts in more depth, creating hierarchies of information.

The textbook is like a journey, and you’re traveling to Understanding Island. There are road signs along the way that tell you which direction to take. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle.

Along with cool information, a chapter also contains the following sections: summaries, critical thinking questions, review exercises, web connections, and clinical applications. Within each chapter, the text provides a list of words to be mastered, including prefixes, suffixes, and roots to these words. A list of chapter objectives, or what you should know by the end of the unit, provides more direction for your journey.

Within the text, key terms are in bold face, usually defined immediately within the sentence or described in the paragraph. These are like little red flags—pay attention! These terms help to build a domain-specific vocabulary. The more you use these in your discussions, the more your understanding of the material increases. Every chapter, for ease of use, is laid out the same way, usually progressing from general to more specific.

Information is also expressed by graphics and illustrations, such as tables, charts, X-rays, ultrasounds, line art, and photographs to support your understanding of the text. For example, in the first chapter, you find a sketch of the human body revealing various muscle groups and an illustration of how the various components of the body move in complexity from atom, to molecule, to macromolecule, to organelle, to cell, to tissue, to organ system, to organism, the human body. Whew! Maybe you should take more art classes! These illustrations often provide clarification of what might be confusing in the text.


Shier, David, et al. Human Anatomy & Physiology, 10th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.

That’s a Wrap

Knowing how to use a textbook in the science and technology content areas helps students save time and aids in their understanding of the concepts. When students know where to find information, how things are classified, and how a text is generally laid out, they have taken giant steps in understanding the concepts being taught.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

Match the letter of the description to the correct word.

  1. ____ foundation

    Correct Answer:

    a body of information on which all progressive information is based

    Answer Explanation:

    Just like the foundation of a building, foundational information provides a sturdy basis for other sets of information or study.

  2. ____ graphic

    Correct Answer:

    of or relating to pictures, illustrations, charts, tables, etc.

    Answer Explanation:

    A graphic can refer to any visual representation of information.

  3. ____ domain-specific

    Correct Answer:

    words that belong to a particular field or subject

    Answer Explanation:

    For example, there are some words specific to the field of science that you would never use outside of a scientific context. That’s domain-specific.

  4. ____ content area

    Correct Answer:

    a particular field of study or research

    Answer Explanation:

    The content area is the domain or field of study that domain-specific words belong to.

  5. ____ boldface

    Correct Answer:

    thick, heavy type or font

    Answer Explanation:

    In textbooks, important terms or ideas are often in boldface type.

  6. ____ overview

    Correct Answer:

    a general summary

    Answer Explanation:

    An overview is a view over the whole subject, also known as a summary.

  7. ____ hierarchy

    Correct Answer:

    the classification of information from broad to specific

    Answer Explanation:

    A hierarchy is an ordered set of information. Hierarchies can be ordered from broad to specific or by order of importance.

  8. ____ complexity

    Correct Answer:

    state of being intricate or complicated

    Answer Explanation:

    Complexity...complicated. That was an easy one.

  9. ____ clarification

    Correct Answer:

    making something easier to understand

    Answer Explanation:

    A clarification is information that makes something clearer or easier to understand.

  10. ____ deconstruct

    Correct Answer:

    to analyze or break into components

    Answer Explanation:

    When you deconstruct something, you take it apart piece by piece in order to understand how it works, also known as analysis.