The benefits of teaching different text types

Ben Pittman is an IXL Professional Learning Specialist with more than a decade of experience as a teacher and department chair.

People write for a variety of purposes, such as to inform, persuade, or elicit emotion. To make sure students understand the versatility of writing, teachers in English language arts courses should expose students to different kinds of texts. This exposure not only builds better writers, but also supports improved reading comprehension, creativity, and reference skills. 

Let’s explore the educational benefits of teaching specific text types. Then we’ll take a look at an example of using different text types along with some relevant IXL skills to support this process.

Informational and literary texts

Generally speaking, texts can be grouped into two broad categories: informational and literary. Within the informational category, there are several subtypes such as persuasive, comparative, and historical. Some common informational texts include textbooks, encyclopedias, and newspaper articles.

Within the literary category, there are also several subtypes such as narrative, poetry, and opinion or personal response, which can come in both fiction and non-fiction forms. Examples of literary texts include short stories, sonnets, and journals.

The benefits of teaching informational texts tie into how and why students seek out information. In younger grades, teachers use these texts to find and introduce facts, as well as support co-curricular lessons. They are crucial for building the foundational foothold that paves the way for students to acquire knowledge and understanding of the world around them.

Informational texts also show young learners that there are different ways to use books and text sources. For these types of texts we generally are not reading cover to cover, and in this way students learn that some books are usually for reference.

However, informational texts are certainly not the only way to provide the building blocks for factual knowledge. Without nurturing the imagination with literary texts, students would be missing out on important learning opportunities. Narrative stories teach lessons, morals, and relationships. Students are introduced to different cultures, languages, and family structures. Through poetry, students also learn more about how language works with tone, flow, rhyme, and meter. 

Teaching multiple text types in the classroom

Let’s look at an example of using different text types for a single lesson or unit. Imagine that after meeting with your grade-level team, you’ve decided to teach a co-curricular global stewardship class with ELA and science. While preparing for your lesson, you grab an informational text all about red pandas, a newspaper article about environmental conservation, a story about a girl from Nepal who likes to play outside behind her house, and a book of poetry from a popular Chinese poet.

You can teach your students how to look at a table of contents or use an index to find specific information about what the red panda looks like or what it eats. Students can learn that the red panda lives in bamboo forests, then see this reflected in the Nepalese story when the girl is visited by this endangered mammal.

You can discuss pathos, ethos, and logos using the story and the newspaper op-ed referencing habitat destruction. With the poem, students can read and identify the elements of poetry and draw inferences about the culture and relationship between people and animals in the Himalayan region of southwest China. Finally, you can provide students the choice of creating a rhyming poem, persuasive essay, or opinion piece synthesizing all that they have learned.

In summary, when approaching ELA instruction, regardless of grade level, teaching different text types not only builds better readers and writers but also builds better communicators and eventually, global citizens.