Text Features to Navigate - Table of Contents, Glossary and Index

Boy reading book at desk
Text Features support reading success. Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images

 A positive approach to teaching text features is not only to use them in instruction, or create worksheets, but to give students practice using those text features in other ways, as a group.  The features in this article (Table of Contents, Index and Glossary) are not found directly in the text but either in the front of the book (Table of Contents) or in the back (Index and Glossary) and are tools to help the student use the text to find information.  

The Text Features

Table of Contents

The first page after the frontispiece and the publishers information is usually The Table of Contents.  You will find the same features in an ebook, as well (since they are usually digital forms of the printed text.)   Usually they will have the title of each chapter and the page number.  Some will even have subtitles for subsections which the author uses to organize the text.

Glossary

Often, especially in a student text book, words that appear in the glossary will be highlighted or even highlighted in a color.  As the age of the student and difficulty of the text increases, the glossary words will not appear--the student is expected to know that they can find specific vocabulary for the subject in the glossary.   

Glossary entries are very much like dictionary entries, and will often have a pronunciation key and at least the definition for the word as used in the text and subject.  Sometimes authors will provide other definitions, but in either case, it is important for students to understand that when there is only one, there may be more than one meaning, and when there are multiples, only one definition should be chosen to make sense of the word in the context.  

Index

The index, at the end of the book, helps students find information in the body of the text.  We know that in order to research for a paper, we need to know how to find information in a text using an index.  We can also help students understand that when they have read a text and can't recall specific information, that information can be found in the index.  At the same time, students need to understand how to use synonyms to find information they are looking for - They may not know that to learn about the signing of the constitution, they should look first for "Constitution" in the index, and then hopefully find "Signing" as a sub subject. 

Instructional Strategies

Introduce the Terms Table of Contents, Index and Glossary

First, of course, you need to find out if your students can name and then find text features.  Text features are being introduced almost as soon as students begin reading, in late first grade.   Still, students have significant difficulty with reading, they probably haven't been paying attention--they have probably been more attentive to ways to avoid having to read aloud.  So . . . 

  • Choose a text.  It may be one you are using in your class, or you may want a non-fiction text that the students can have in front of them.  I find that Reading A-Z has excellent non-fiction.  (I will be using a text later to illustrate using the "Treasure Hunt" strategy for practice.)   I would recommend, for these purposes, to use a text that is at or below the students independent reading level, so that the "code" (decoding the text) is not the focus of your lesson.   
  • Find the text features.  Send the students to specific page numbers and have students put their finger on the text feature, or have students find the particular item. i.e. "Find the Table of Contents and put your finger on the words "Table of Contents" to show me you know how to find it."  
  • Model using the text feature:

Table of Contents:  i.e. "Find the third chapter. What is the Title?" "What will you probably read about in this chapter?

Index:  "We know our book is about dogs.  I have a chihuahua, so help me find where I can read about chihuahuas.  (Be sure to check there is a section, first!) "

Glossary:  Find a word in the text--I've chosen "apprentice" from Sellman, Jane.  Benjamin Franklin from Reading A - Z.  (p.7)  Read the text aloud.  When you get to the word, remind students where the glossary is and have a student find the word in the glossary, and read it aloud to you.  

Games

Can't beat games to get students motivated and give them practice!  Use favorite games and give your students practice.  here are some ideas for these text features.

Glossary Go:  Put all the words in a book's glossary on 3 X 5 cards and shuffle.  Assign a caller, and divide your group into teams.  Have the caller read the word and place it on the table.  Have a child from each team ready when the word is read and find it 1) in the glossary and then 2) find the sentence in the text.  The first person to find the word in the text raises their hand and then reads the sentence.   This game asks the students to use the glossary to find the page and then to search the page for the word in context. 

Text Feature Treasure Hunt

Two ways I see to play this:

Individually.  Make this a race to see who finds the items first:  i.e.  What does "colonial" mean? Go! The student who finds the answer first gets a point.  Play until you have a winner.  Requires some preparation.

In a Group.  Make each task a clue from the text.  Make two or three sets so you can divide your group/class into more than one group.  Have the words in the answer correspond to something in your class, or . . . label locations where you hide the next clue with a word in the answer.