What are text types?

Texts are written for a variety of purposes, using different forms and standards of composition. These forms of writing are known as text types. Broadly speaking, there are two main text types, factual and literary. Within these are many more narrowly defined text types. Factual text types include such types as factual description, recount, or persuasive. Literary text types include such types as poetry, narrative or personal response.

The Iowa Core identifies three text types students need to master in order to be college and career ready: argument, informational/explanatory, and narrative. These three text types have been identified as most needed for success in college and the work world, as well as for full and active participation in society. Appendix A for the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects defines these text types.

Teachers may also choose to have students explore other text types with their students, such as poetry, procedurals, or reflection.

Why teach text types?

The National Council of Teachers of English Beliefs about the Teaching of English asserts that writing grows out of myriad purposes. Writing is necessary for “developing social networks; engaging in civic discourse; supporting personal and spiritual growth; reflecting on experience; communicating professionally and academically; building relationships with others, including friends, family, and like-minded individuals; and engaging in aesthetic experiences”.  In addition, writing is identified as an important tool for thinking. Writing stimulates ideas and helps the author make mental connections that would not have otherwise occurred to them. In order for students to take full advantage of these various purposes, they must learn various text types.

Teaching text types is different from assigning text types. If students are to use text types to write for different purposes and audience, they need to understand how each text type works. The structures, features, and uses for each text type needs to be modeled via mentor texts and teacher Talk-alouds. Students will need to practice through guided writing tasks, collaborative tasks and then independently with frequent feedback from peers and teachers.

While each of the text types identified in the Iowa Core is important to teach, argument is given particular emphasis because of its clear connection to success in college and career. The National Assessment Governing Board recommends that 40% of writing in 12th should be of a persuasive nature. At present, only about 20 percent of high school graduates are prepared for college-level argument composition.