I have been exploring “problem-solution” text structure for my new book. If you look up the definition of solution, there is more than one. There is the solution as the “final answer” to a problem, but there is solution as the process/endeavor to reach a perceived solution (final answer) or outcome. In the intermediate and middle grades, we need to discuss this latter definition with students because in the complex texts they read, the authors are trying to get at this whole idea of a problem is not easily solved and requires tenacity and perseverance.
Parrots Over Puerto Rico (Roth & Trombone, 2013) is a well-written chronology of the demise of the Puerto Rican parrots until the 1970’s when a concerted effort sponsored by multiple institutions began to attempt to save the parrots. (BTW – THE ART COLLAGES ARE AMAZING AND WORTHY OF CLOSE VIEWING – I WISH I COULD DO THEM MORE JUSTICE HERE…) The beginning of the text is very much a chronology, a larger narrative of time moving from the co-existence of the parrots with peoples who came to the island around 5000 BCE and moving towards the establishment of Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory. Through this chronology, Roth and Trombone develop the main idea (gist) that over time, the parrots existence was put in jeopardy.
Then in the latter third of the book, while still recounting the events that occurred, the authors shift to a problem-solution structure. They’ve established the problem – the near decimation of the parrot population. What occurs after this is continuous attempts and unexpected obstacles to save the parrots. So in other words, the authors don’t just say – there were 13 parrots left (problem implied) and a group established an aviary (solution) and they all lived happily ever after. The “solution” is an endeavor, a series of actions taken focused on an outcome – increasing the number of parrots. Does this make sense?
This is where I’m going – teaching the problem-solution text structure is more complicated than a box on a graphic organizer for the problem with an arrow to another box for a solution.
This book could be read aloud in the primary grades (mid-1st grade and up). In the intermediate grades, it could be read aloud and then reread aloud with shared writing of the structure that evolves. Then students could read additional books like The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery (Markle, 2011) – in small groups, partners, and independently.