Article taken from

"IMPROVING NON-FICTION WRITING IN KEY STAGE TWO (BEYOND WRITING FRAMES)" by Margaret McNeil and Alan Peat.( Nash Pollock Publishing 2004.)

CHAPTER THREE : WRITING EXPLANATIONS

  • (i) DEFINITION

    Explanations detail how things happen.

  • (ii) NLS FRAMEWORK LINKS

    Year 4 Term 2
    · T24 "to improve the cohesion of written explanations through paragraphing and the use of link phrases and organisational devices such as sub-headings and numbering"
    · T25 "to write explanations of a process, using conventions identified through reading"

  • (iii) TEXT LEVEL FEATURES (PURPOSE and ORGANISATION)

    ORGANISATION
    Instructions are organised as follows:
    · Title
    · Definition (What it is/they are)
    · Parts (Optional) · Key Points Paragraphs (Not optional)
    · Summary paragraph

  • (iv) SENTENCE LEVEL FEATURES (STYLE, PUNCTUATION and GRAMMAR)

    STYLE
    · use of appropriate language to link paragraphs eg Firstly, Secondly, Furthermore etc

    PUNCTUATION
    · use of paragraphing to separate key points
    · use of colon prior to listing e.g. The eye has several main parts: retina, orbit, pupil etc
    · use of commas to separate items in a list

    GRAMMAR
    · consistent use of the simple present tense

  • (v) WORD LEVEL FEATURES (VOCABULARY, SPELLING)

    VOCABULARY
    · use of temporal connectives - e.g. next, after etc
    · use of causal connectives - e.g. therefore, because, as a result of, consequently etc
    · use of appropriate action verbs - e.g. take, place etc

    SPELLING
    · Firstly, secondly etc · Subject specific words (See Activity One) · Consequently, therefore, because etc

  • (vi) TEACHERS' NOTES and ACTIVITY SUGGESTIONS

    NOTES

    There are many similarities between explanations and instructions. Although these similarities exist, one important distinction is that an explanation describes either how something happens or how something works. Consequently explanations are usually retrospective: they describe how something, which has already happened, occured.

    Differences between explanations and instructions are exemplified as follows:
    Explanations Instructions
    How a telephone works How to make a telephone
    The journey from London to Paris How to get from London to Paris by train
    Why board games were invented How to play Scrabble

    Explanations also differ from instructions in their use of causal conjunctions (words or phrases which show cause and effect). eg If......then; "X" occurs because....; It..... so.....; The result of which is.....; As a consequence of this .....; In view of .....it is necessary to .....

    A final distinction to be made between explanations and instructions is that of verb usage - explanations are written in the present tense whereas instructions are written in command language.

    USING THE SHEETS

    When using the sheets, teachers should note that the appropriateness of the third feature of this form, entitled "Parts", is dependent on the subject of the explanation and it is, therefore, not always appropriate to include this. e.g. when writing how a machine or a part of the human body works it is possible to isolate component parts. This is not the case, however, in other instances e.g. when explaining how something happens it is often more difficult to isolate the components and, therefore teachers should adapt the sheet as necessary or direct pupils to omit this feature and move on to their Key Parts Paragraphs.

    When the pupils are writing the Key parts section of their explanation, the teacher may wish to cross-reference to page*** in the chapter on Writing Instructions, as the language sequence model identified therein is also appropriate to the explanation genre.

    ACTIVITY SUGGESTION ONE : STAIRCASE (a fun way of creating subject specific word lists)

    Pupils (working in pairs) are given books related to the subject of the explanation and are asked to use these to create a "staircase"of subject specific words. In order to create the staircase the last letter of a selected word (written horizontally) becomes the first letter of the following word (written vertically). eg

    To avoid the danger of this activity functioning as a 'time-filler', pupils should be told that they must be able to say what each word in their staircase is (or means).

    ACTIVITY SUGGESTION TWO : GLIDOGRAMS (another fun way of creating subject specific word lists)

    In pairs pupils are once again given books relating to the subject of the explanation and asked to produce a "Glidogram". A Glidogram is made up of words containing a specific letter which occupies a specific position within the chosen word. The activity is best explained by example:

    SHEET 1 : WRITING EXPLANATIONS
    IDEAS DRAFT

    Features Think about ! Examples
    Title Tell the reader what the explanation is about.
    (How 'X' works / happens OR why 'X' happens)
    How the eye works.
    Why the Nile is an important river.
    Why World War 1 begun.
    The water cycle.
    Definition
    (What is it / are they ?)
    Introduce the reader to the subject of the explanation (perhaps by saying what it is a part of / or what it belongs to).

    If appropriate tell the reader what 'X' does.
    The eye is an important part of the the human body as it enables humans to see.
    Parts (OPTIONAL)



    Key Points Paragraphs (NOT OPTIONAL)
    Tell the reader the different parts that make up the subject.
    N.B. You don't have to include a 'Parts' paragraph if it doesn't work easily with your subject.

    Tell the reader how it works or happens
    OR
    Tell the reader what makes it happen
    OR
    Tell the reader what makes it important or unimportant.
    The eye is complex and made up of many parts. It contains the retina, pupil, cornea etc


    Firstly it works by ---
    Secondly it --- which ---
    Thirdly ---
    Furthermore ---
    Summary Paragraph Tell the reader something very special about the subject.

    Consider using the word 'Without' to start the paragraph.
    Without sight humans would have one less sense to rely upon. Our eyes are therefore very special and should be taken care of !

    SHEET 1(i): WRITING EXPLANATIONS
    IDEAS DRAFT

    Features Think about ! Own Examples
    Title Tell the reader what the explanation is about.
    (How 'X' works / happens OR why 'X' happens)
     
    Definition
    (What is it / are they ?)
    Introduce the reader to the subject of the explanation (perhaps by saying what it is a part of / or what it belongs to).

    If appropriate tell the reader what 'X' does.
     
    Parts (OPTIONAL)





    Key Points Paragraphs (NOT OPTIONAL)
    Tell the reader the different parts that make up the subject.
    N.B. You don't have to include a 'Parts' paragraph if it doesn't work easily with your subject.

    Tell the reader how it works or happens
    OR
    Tell the reader what makes it happen
    OR
    Tell the reader what makes it important or unimportant.
     
    Summary Paragraph Tell the reader something very special about the subject.

    Consider using the word 'Without' to start the paragraph.
     

    SHEET 2 : WRITING EXPLANATIONS
    HOW WELL HAVE YOU DONE ? (Check against the example given)

    Features Have you thought about ? Examples
    Title Have you told the reader what the explanation is about ?
    Have you said how 'X' works / happens OR why 'X' happens ?
    How the eye works.
    Why the Nile is an important river.
    Why World War 1 begun.
    The water cycle.
    Definition
    (What is it / are they ?)
    Have you introduced the reader to the subject of the explanation (perhaps by saying what it is a part of / or what it belongs to) ?

    If appropriate, have you told the reader what 'X' does ?
    The eye is an important part of the the human body as it enables humans to see.
    Parts (OPTIONAL)





    Key Points Paragraphs
    (NOT OPTIONAL)
    Have you told the reader the different parts that make up the subject ?
    Have you remembered that you don't have to include a 'Parts' paragraph if it doesn't work easily with your subject ?

    Have you told the reader how it works or happens ?
    OR
    Have you told the reader what makes it happen ?
    OR
    Have you told the reader what makes it important or unimportant ?
    The eye is complex and made up of many parts. It contains the retina, pupil, cornea etc


    Firstly it works by ---
    Secondly it --- which ---
    Thirdly ---
    Furthermore ---
    Summary Paragraph Have you told the reader something very special about the subject ?

    Have you used the word 'Without' to start the paragraph ?
    Without sight humans would have one less sense to rely upon. Our eyes are therefore very special and should be taken care of !

    SHEET 3 : WRITING EXPLANATIONS
    HOW WELL HAVE I DONE - SELF ASSESSMENT / PREPARATION FOR REDRAFT

    Features Have I thought about? YES/NO Notes for redraft
    Title Have I told the reader what the explanation is about ?
    Have I said how 'X' works / happens OR why 'X' happens ?
       
    Definition
    (What is it / are they ?)
    Have I introduced the reader to the subject of the explanation (perhaps by saying what it is a part of / or what it belongs to) ?

    Have I told the reader what 'X' does, if it is appropriate?
       
    Parts (OPTIONAL)






    Key Points Paragraphs
    (NOT OPTIONAL)
    Have I told the reader the different parts that make up the subject ?
    Have I remembered that I don't have to include a 'Parts' paragraph if it doesn't work easily with my subject ?

    Have I told the reader how it works or happens ?
    OR
    Have I told the reader what makes it happen ?
    OR
    Have I told the reader what makes it important or unimportant ?
       
    Summary Paragraph Have I told the reader something very special about the subject ?

    Have I used the word 'Without' to start the paragraph ?
       


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