Language Focus

Lesson Overview

This part will explain this week’s language focus point. All good and clear texts have structure. They are built according to a set of rules that can help both the writer and the reader communicate and understand each other. Recognizing and following this structure can help you better express your thoughts and understand others.

In this lesson, you will:

  • discuss the concept of text structure;
  • practice recognizing main ideas;
  • practice recognizing lists.

Video: Structure in Texts

Whether you want to negotiate, make a request, or provide feedback you need to make it clear. Clarity is more important than the quality of reasoning, and it is the first focal point of your course. To achieve clarity, you need to follow a specific text structure. Watch the video below to know more.

Video

7 min

Watch the video below and focus on answering the question: what three basic parts does the text have?

As you learned from the video, all texts consist of three basic parts containing the main idea, supporting details, and the repetition of the main idea. Sometimes, in longer texts, these parts can be called an introduction, body, and conclusion. The meaning, however, will not change: the introduction will state the main idea, and the conclusion will repeat it, while the body will provide supporting details.

When we talk about the main idea, we think about what the speaker is trying to say. In other words, we identify the purpose of the message. Simply ask yourself “What am I trying to tell to my listener?” Your purpose may vary, depending on the situation. For instance, you may want to explain how to upload a photo or provide feedback on your colleague’s project. 

Supporting details are small ideas that give weight to what you are trying to say. For example, if you want to explain why you can’t attend a party, you will need to mention some reasons.

At the end of your message, it is very important to restate the main idea one more time. It doesn’t have to be said in exactly the same words, but the meaning has to be the same. If you started your meeting by saying “Here is a list of tasks for today”, end by saying “These are the things we need to do, please finish them until the evening.” This way, you will make sure that your listener doesn’t miss out the most important information.

Example: Text Structure in Action

According to the video, text structure makes your message clear and well-organized. We usually think that a paragraph is many sentences connected to each other. We imagine that a sentence is only connected to the next one, representing a chain. But it is not entirely true. If we consider a text, it looks more like a sandwich than a chain. Let’s consider the paragraph below.

Example

7 min

Which information from the paragraph is considered the most important? What does the author want us to know? By answering this question, you will identify the main idea.

All emotions are the quick reactions to survive that we developed over thousands of years. Each emotion plays a unique role. When we are angry, blood flows to our hands, making it easier to grasp a weapon or strike at the enemy; heart rate increases, and a rush of hormones generates a pulse of energy strong enough for fast action. With fear, blood goes to the large muscles, such as in the legs, making it easier to run away. At the same time, the body freezes, if only for a moment, allowing time to understand whether hiding might be a better reaction. The lifting of the eyebrows in surprise allows us to see the bigger area with more light. This offers more information about the unexpected event, making it easier to figure out exactly what is going on and make the best action plan. Around the world, an expression of disgust looks the same and sends the identical message: something is offensive in taste or smell, or metaphorically so. The facial expression of disgust—the upper lip curled to the side as the nose wrinkles slightly—suggests an attempt to close the nostrils against the odor and spit out poisonous food. In the past, the dangers of the world made emotions valuable for survival. In modern times, we continue expressing them exactly in the same ways as thousands of years ago, even though they play less role in our survival these days.

All emotions are the quick reactions to survive that we developed over thousands of years. Each emotion plays a unique role. When we are angry, blood flows to our hands, making it easier to grasp a weapon or strike at the enemy; heart rate increases, and a rush of hormones generates a pulse of energy strong enough for fast action. With fear, blood goes to the large muscles, such as in the legs, making it easier to run away. At the same time, the body freezes, if only for a moment, allowing time to understand whether hiding might be a better reaction. The lifting of the eyebrows in surprise allows us to see the bigger area with more light. This offers more information about the unexpected event, making it easier to figure out exactly what is going on and make the best action plan. Around the world, an expression of disgust looks the same and sends the identical message: something is offensive in taste or smell, or metaphorically so. The facial expression of disgust—the upper lip curled to the side as the nose wrinkles slightly—suggests an attempt to close the nostrils against the odor and spit out poisonous food. In the past, the dangers of the world made emotions valuable for survival. In modern times, we continue expressing them exactly in the same ways as thousands of years ago, even though they play less role in our survival these days.

This is an example of a well-structured paragraph because all of the ideas are organized as a sandwich. Right now, you might not see it, but let’s consider this paragraph as short notes:

Emotions = reactions to survive, each emotion plays a unique role.

  1. ANGER: blood flows to our hands to grasp weapon/strike enemy, heart rate increases, hormones –> energy for fast action
  2. FEAR: blood –> large muscles (e.g. legs) to run away, body freezes for a moment = time to understand to hide or run
  3. SURPRISE: lifting of the eyebrows –> see bigger area with more light = more information about the unexpected to make action plan
  4. DISGUST: the upper lip curled to the side, nose wrinkles = attempt to close the nostrils against the odor and spit out poisonous food

Emotions are valuable for survival. In modern times, we continue expressing them.

Emotions = reactions to survive, each emotion plays a unique role.

1. ANGER: blood flows to our hands to grasp weapon/strike enemy, heart rate increases, hormones –> energy for fast action

2. FEAR: blood –> large muscles (e.g. legs) to run away, body freezes for a moment = time to understand to hide or run

3. SURPRISE: lifting of the eyebrows –> see bigger area with more light = more information about the unexpected to make action plan

4. DISGUST: the upper lip curled to the side, nose wrinkles = attempt to close the nostrils against the odor and spit out poisonous food

Emotions are valuable for survival. In modern times, we continue expressing them.

What we see from the notes is the main idea – Emotions are reactions to survive/valuable for survival – that is repeated at the beginning and at the end of the paragraph. The author wants us to understand why we have emotions (because they evolved to help us survive).

He supports this idea by showing us examples of different emotions – anger, fear, surprise, etc. and explaining how each of them helped early humans survive. This list of examples are supporting details that help us understand the main idea more clearly. When we use a list of details to support ideas, we call it listing organization.

Check Yourself: Text Structure

Now, that you know that each text consists of main ideas and details, it’s time to practice what you have learned. When you complete the task below, remember that ideas in a paragraph remind a sandwich with details located between main ideas.

Order

6 min

Reflection: Signal Words

Our brain is unique in that it doesn’t always explain to us our thinking process. When you analyze or reflect on how you completed the task, you can learn some interesting insights that you might not have fully realized.

Reflection

3 min

Think about what helped you complete the task above. How did you identify, which main idea goes at the beginning and which at the end? How did you find out, which supporting idea to put first and which to place second and third? Write down the answers in this lesson’s worksheet.

To help us navigate the text, the author uses specific signal words – first, also, overall – to show the location of ideas in the paragraph. As we read, we understand that the author is moving from one point to the next. Take a look at the example below:

People think emotions aren’t very useful, but they, in fact, help us in a variety of ways. First of all, emotions help us learn from our memories. When our brain stores experiences, it doesn’t just collect facts. It also records our feelings and these feelings help us to learn from our experiences. For example, if a little boy touches a hot stove, he will experience intense pain. The thought of touching another stove in the future will carry with it the memory of that searing pain. Thus his emotions will hopefully keep him from doing it again. Emotions also help us to interpret the feelings of others, which can aid in predicting their actions. For example, imagine you’re faced with an angry man. From his body language – maybe his clenched fists or loud voice – you can tell his emotional state. Knowing this, you can predict his future actions; he might, for instance, be ready to hit someone. Finally, emotions give us the drive to act. We require them in order to react quickly to a situation. Take that angry man from the earlier example. If we feel that he may be close to a violent outburst, our emotions will make us feel threatened or even angry, thus preparing us to react quickly if he looked like he was about to attack. Overall, our emotions are important tools for understanding and interacting with our environment, and it would be unwise to discard them as unnecessary.

Extra!

Everyone knows that performing more challenging tasks can make the brain learn faster. If you want to challenge yourself, perform the task below.

Challenge

7 min

To fully understand how the text is organized, we can try to convert it back to the outline. Read the paragraph from the task above and convert it into handwritten notes with three main points. See the worksheet for the example.

Emotions help us in a variety of ways:

  1. Learn from our memories: brain stores  feelings -> learn from experiences (e.g.  boy touches hot stove -> experience pain -> won’t do again
  2. Interpret feelings of others & predict actions (e.g angry man’s body language – can tell his emotional state & predict his actions)
  3. Drive to act, react quickly (e.g. angry man -> feel threatened, ready to fight)

Emotions are important! Shouldn’t discard easily

Emotions help us in a variety of ways:

1. Learn from our memories: brain stores  feelings -> learn from experiences (e.g.  boy touches hot stove -> experience pain -> won’t do again

2. Interpret feelings of others & predict actions (e.g angry man’s body language – can tell his emotional state & predict his actions)

3. Drive to act, react quickly (e.g. angry man -> feel threatened, ready to fight)

Emotions are important! Shouldn’t discard easily

Lesson Wrap-up

In this lesson, you have learned about text structure and how it can be organized in a form of a list of ideas. Following structure can help you be a better speaker and writer. Review the concepts from today’s lesson:

  • text structure

how ideas are organized in the text or spoken message

  • main idea

what you are trying to communicate to your reader or listener

  • supporting details

small ideas (e.g. examples or reasons) that give weight to your main idea

  • listing 

the way to organize your ideas as a list of points

  • signal words

special words like "in addition, for example" that help your reader or listener follow your argument

  • introduction

the beginning of your speech or text, which contains main idea

  • body

the part of your message that contains details

  • conclusion

the end of your speech or text, which repeats the main idea

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