Sandra H. French Frank J. Aquino, Esq. Vice Chairman



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Informative/ Explanatory Writing Across Content Areas

2012


Howard County Public School System

Dr. Renee Foose, Superintendent
Board of Education

Howard County Public School System


Janet Siddiqui, M.D.

Chairman

Sandra H. French Frank J. Aquino, Esq.

Vice Chairman





Allen Dyer, Esq. Ellen Flynn Giles







Brian J. Meshkin Cynthia L. Vaillancourt





Dr. Renee Foose

Superintendent of Schools



Acknowledgements

The development of this resource was a team effort between the Office of Secondary Language Arts Office and Howard County teachers.


Curriculum Writers
Steve Ammann, Mount View Middle School

Emily Stackhouse, Atholton High School

Jeanette Swank, Wilde Lake Middle School

Overview

Informative/Explanatory Writing Across Content Areas, addresses writing skills, and student expectations regarding explanatory writing and provides classroom teachers with a common language necessary for understanding the standards. As the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) provides additional information, this document will be revised.

Contents

College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards for Writing 2

Questions and Answers About Non-Language Arts Teacher Expectations 3

Common Language Students Know and Use When Writing 5

The Thesis Statement 6

Explanatory Writing: What is it 7

Argument vs. Explanatory Writing: A Snapshot 8

Natural Classroom Connections 10

Explanatory Writing Glossary 11

Explanatory Writing Standards for History, Science, and Technical Subjects (6-12) 12

Explanatory Writing Rubric Sample 14

Explanatory Writing Quick Reference Card 15






College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards for Writing
The CCR anchor standards and high school standards in literacy work in tandem to define college and career readiness expectations—the former providing broad standards, the latter providing additional specificity (Common Core State Standards).


Text Types and Purposes*

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.*

Production and Distribution of Writing

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Note:

*Students’ narrative skills continue to grow in these grades. The Standards require that students be able to incorporate narrative elements effectively into arguments and informative/explanatory texts. For example in history/social studies, students must be able to incorporate narrative accounts into their analyses of individuals or events of historical import. In science and technical subjects, students must be able to write precise enough descriptions of the step-by-step procedures they use in their investigations or technical work that others can replicate them and (possibly) reach the same results. (Common Core State Standards, page 65)




Questions and Answers About Non-Language Arts Teacher Expectations


  1. What is the role of language arts teachers regarding writing?

Language arts teachers provide explicit writing instruction and opportunities for students to express themselves through the written mode. Such instruction includes the writing of short and long responses to a myriad of texts, both fiction and non-fiction.


  1. What are the expectations for all discipline-specific teachers?

Teachers in content areas, other than language arts, are expected to provide opportunities for students to construct written responses that respond to discipline-specific objectives.


  1. Do students currently have opportunities in language arts classes to reflect on their writing?

All middle and high school students maintain writing folders/portfolios for self-reflecting concerning their writing and growth as writers. This collection of artifacts is used extensively as students complete the Senior Writing Project, a requirement began in the freshman year and completed in the senior year.


  1. Are there specific terms we should be using with the students in regards to writing?

The goal of Common Core is to allow students to apply writing skills across disciplines. In order to help them do this it is important that a common language is used in regards to writing. Therefore, refer to the glossary of terms when teaching writing to the students.


  1. The 2014-2015 state assessments will require students to “write to source.” What does that mean?

Write to source means students construct a response based on something they read, referred to as diverse media. The source is “cold text” since students will be required to respond to sources for which they receive no preparation.
7. What are the fundamental differences between argument writing and

explanatory writing?

The main difference between argument writing and explanatory writing is that in argument writing you are persuading an audience to change their beliefs or behaviors while with explanatory writing you are simply attempting to inform an audience on the topic. See chart.



  1. How is this similar to what I am already doing?

Any time you are asking your students to explain, analyze, compare and contrast, classify, determine cause and effect, define, or identify a process you are already doing explanatory writing.


  1. Am I still expected to teach argument writing?

Yes. Argument and Explanatory are both types of writing emphasized in the Common Core.

















































Word Choice


Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language.

Ideas


The ideas are the heart of the message, the content of the piece, the main theme or topic, together with all the details that enrich and develop that theme. The ideas are strong when the message is clear.

Organization


Organization is the structure of a piece of writing. A clear beginning, middle, and end should be present.

Sentence Fluency


Sentences vary in length. The writer includes both short and long sentences. A combination of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences may be present.

Conventions


Conventions include spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and usage.

Voice


The voice is the writer coming through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to the reader. Voice must be appropriate for the intended audience.


Presentation

Presentation combines both visual and verbal elements- it is the way we "exhibit" our message. This may include formatting elements such as font, proper heading, and spacing. The paper is clean and neat.

Common Language Students Know and Use When Writing*


*from 6+1 Traits of Writing™










The Thesis Statement

Information in the introduction prepares the reader for the thesis statement, which traditionally appears at the end of the introduction and which specifically presents the main point and indicates the purpose of the essay. The thesis statement is the most important sentence in the introduction because it states the controlling idea or point. It also clarifies the purpose for the essay and helps to set the tone. The thesis statement is the keystone of an essay.


The main point in the thesis statement can be:

  • a statement of fact

  • a statement of opinion

  • a dominant impression

  • a general truth.


Explanatory/Informational Thesis Statement

The thesis statement for an explanatory essay seeks to explain, support, or clarify. The thesis statement for an expository essay should be factual and objective. It conveys the writer’s purpose to increase readers’ knowledge, not to change their minds.





Explanatory Writing: What is it?
Explanatory writing requires students to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately. The purpose of this type of writing is to demonstrate comprehension of a topic, concept, process, or procedure. Students write in response to a source, which may be a text or other media such as art, music, charts, or graphs. An effective response requires students to read the “text” closely, in order to demonstrate an understanding of the topic and locate evidence from the “text” to support their response.
Organizational Structures and Sample Tasks


Cause/Effect

Classification

Compare/Contrast

Definition

Process

Shows why something happened, why certain conditions exist, or what resulted from an action or condition; shows the influence of one event upon another.

Organizes ideas/concept/ terms into useful categories; provides related examples and explains how they fit into each category.


Explores the similarities and differences between two or more subjects; addresses similarities and/or differences between/among topics; organized either to analyze or inform.

Provides more than a dictionary definition; shows what something is.

Explains how something works; provides sequential directions for how something is done.

Discuss the source of Romeo’s and Juliet’s emotional turmoil and its effects of each individually and as a couple.

Explain how Camus’ The Plague is classified as an existential novel.

Select another poem by Robert Frost. Compare the selection to the poem studied in class.

Define Ionesco’s definition of “man” as illustrated in one of his plays.

Shakespearean plot sequencing for his tragedies can be described as formulaic. Explain the advantages and disadvantages for the audience’s knowing what to expect and when.


Argument vs. Explanatory Writing: A Snapshot
When writing an argument paper, it is important to state a claim that can be argued from different perspectives. The writer of an explanatory response is not attempting to persuade or argue a point. Its thesis statement informs the reader of the subject rather than ask the reader to take a position on an issue. This chart outlines claims, which appeared originally in the HCPSS argument resource, and how an explanatory task would differ.

ARGUMENT TASK

EXPLANATORY TASK

Content: Art

Topic: Argue that the medium you chose in order to create your self-portrait was the most effective medium to use given your options?



Content: Art

Topic: Explain the choices you made as you developed ideas for your portrait. Consider the master artist examples viewed, the pose, the props, the lighting, and your choice of composition, color, and placement.



Content: Career Technology Education

Topic: Prove that the sequence of steps you took to diagnose and troubleshoot a problem with malfunctioning equipment was the most efficient method?



Content: Career Technology Education

Topic: Diagram the sequence of steps required to diagnose and troubleshoot malfunctioning equipment.



Content: English

Topic: Argue that the word choice in Sandra Cisneros’s story “Eleven” creates a particular tone within the text.



Content: English

Topic: Explain how Sandra Cisneros’s choice of words develops the point of view of the young speaker in her story “Eleven.”



Content: Health Education

Topic: After viewing the video, “The Cat Who Drank Too Much,” argue that the metaphor created within the film is or is not an accurate depiction of alcoholism.



Content: Health Education

Topic: After viewing the video, “The Cat Who Drank Too Much,” trace and explain the stages of alcoholism as they relate to the cat’s behavior.



Content: Mathematics

Topic: Prove that the graph you chose to depict the data was the most appropriate model given your options.



Content: Mathematics

Topic: Contrast the graph you created with a partner and depict the differences you discovered.



Content: Music

Topic: After listening to both the Marine Band performance and the school band performance, select the superior performance and justify your choice.



Content: Music

Topic: After listening to recordings of two performances, identify strengths of

each performance and give suggestions for improvement in our performance, considering tone, intonation, balance, and articulation.


Content: Science

Topic: Defend the change in the Earth’s temperature as either the result of human actions or a part of the Earth’s natural cycle.



Content: Science

Topic: Trace the changes in climate within the Amazon Rain forest and its effect on the Earth over the last 100 years.



Content: Social Studies

Topic: Argue that the southern states had economic factors that would motivate them to continue slavery.



Content: Social Studies

Topic: After reading primary source perspectives about slavery, compare Northern and Southern rationales for the ending or continuation of slavery. Use details from the documents to support your answer.




Content: World Languages

Topic: Italian IV: In our Italian studies, which of the following individuals best represents the concept of omertà: Salvatore Giuliano, Jesse James, or Robin Hood,



Content: World Languages

Topic: Italian IV: In Italian, define omertà by comparing the actions of Salvatore Giuliano, Jesse James, and Robin Hood and examining how each provides justice for the people.





Natural Explanatory Instructional Connections: Samples


  • Warm-Up/Drills

  • Science Lab Reports

  • Entrance/Exit Tickets

  • Journal Writing

  • Reflections

  • Document-Based Questions

  • Research Reports

  • Math or science journals

  • Art work analysis

  • Analysis of lab results

  • Theatre performance analysis

Remember, if the assignment asks students to explain, compare or contrast, analyze, determine cause and effect, classify, define, or identify/explain a process, the response is an explanatory response.



Explanatory Writing

Common Core Glossary


  1. Analysis is examination, close study, and evaluation of a text by breaking down and examining its elements and components.

  2. Cohesion is the arrangement of ideas in such a way that the reader can easily follow one point to the next. Devices for creating cohesion include appropriate transition words and phrases, repetition of words as needed, and the use of appropriate pronouns.

3. Conventions are commonly accepted rules of language such as spelling, punctuation, complete sentences, subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and usage.

4. Discipline-specific content is text associated with individual subjects or areas of instruction.

5. Evaluation is making a judgment based on criteria.

6. Evidence/Concrete Details are examples that validate or support a thesis statement. It may be found in a text or research.

7. Formal style is free of slang, trite expressions, abbreviations, symbols, email shortcut language, contractions, and the use of the personal pronoun “I” (first person pronouns may be appropriate as it relates to the nature of the assignment). The writer does not speak directly to the reader by using the word you. Formal style ensures that readers are able to read and understand what is written.

8. Inference is a logical guess based on text evidence.

9. Summary is an objective recounting of the important ideas of a text.

10. Support/Controls are the key points that the writer intends to discuss in the body paragraphs and will support the thesis statement.

11. Syntax is the way in which the words and phrases of a sentence are ordered to show how the words relate to each other.

12. Tertiary source is a term used for information that has been compiled from both primary and secondary sources.



13. Thesis Statement is the main focus that addresses the writer’s intent; is based on the writer’s purpose; often appears as the last sentence in the essay’s opening
paragraph.

  1. Tone is an author's attitude toward a subject.

  2. Topic Sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph that organizes and introduces the main idea of that paragraph. It indicates to the reader what the paragraph will be about.



Explanatory Writing Standards For Middle and High Schools


Explanatory Writing and Its Purpose: Grades 6-8

W.6-8.2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes..



  1. Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  2. Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

  3. Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

  4. Use precise language an domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.

  5. Establish and maintain a formal style.

  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.




Explanatory Writing and Its Purpose: Grades 9-10

W.9-10.2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

  1. Introduce a topic and organize ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  2. Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

  3. Use varied transitions and sentence structures to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

  4. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic and convey a style appropriate to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.

  5. Establish and maintain a formal style while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

  6. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented. (e.g., articulating

implications or the significance of the topic).



Explanatory Writing and Its Purpose: Grades 11-12

W.11-12.2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

  1. Introduce a topic and organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  2. Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

  3. Use varied transitions and sentence structures to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.

  4. Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic; convey a knowledgeable stance in a style that responds to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.

  5. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented. (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).


Explanatory Writing Rubric for Grades 6-12


Areas Evaluated in Writing

Max points

Points scored

Ideas

  • Contains a clear well-defined thesis

  • Thoroughly answers reader’s questions

  • Develops the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples (this may include research when appropriate)







Organization

  • Introduction grabs the reader’s attention and sets the purpose for the paper

  • Body of the paper expands the topic introduced in the first paragraph

      • Well-organized paragraphs

      • Logically and clearly presents supporting details

  • Organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; information is organized in a manner that is appropriate for the assignment







Voice

  • Projects confidence and interest

  • Establishes and maintain a formal style







Word Choice

  • Defines key terms when necessary

  • Chooses words that are appropriate to the assignment and the audience

  • Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic









Sentence Fluency

  • Uses a variety of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.

  • Use appropriate transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts including transition words and phrases between points (however, such as, most important)







Conventions- Shows control over spelling, usage/grammar, capitalization; punctuation










Total Score:


Comments:

Informative/ Explanatory Writing

Within Content Areas
Informative/Explanatory writing requires students to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately. The purpose of this type of writing is to demonstrate comprehension of a topic, concept, process, or procedure. Students write in response to a source, which may be a text or other media such as art, music, charts, or graphs. An effective response requires students to read the “text” closely, in order to demonstrate an understanding of the topic and locate evidence from the “text” to support their response.
How Argument and Informative/Explanatory Writing Differ

Argument Writing Explanatory Writing

  • Seeks to make people believe that something is true or to persuade people to change their beliefs or behavior.

  • Provides information about causes, contexts, and consequences of processes, phenomena, states of affairs, objects, and terminology, and presents a case with the solid evidence, while acknowledging counterarguments on a debatable issue.

  • Supports the writer’s claim(s) with sound reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • Attempts to make the reader understand rather than to persuade him or her to accept a certain point of view

  • Provides information about causes, contexts, and consequences of processes, phenomena, states of affairs, objects, and terminology.

  • Supports the writer’s thesis with evidence and supporting detail.




The Connection to Close Reading

In order to write about a “text,” students must be able to understand a variety of text and media formats. Close reading helps students make meaning of scientific, historical, or technical texts and art forms so they can identify the evidence that they need to write an effective informative/explanatory essay.


Related Vocabulary

Analyze: to examine, closely study, and evaluate a text by breaking down and examining its elements and components.

Concrete details: the specific facts, examples, and data that provide evidence for an informative/explanatory essay.
Formal style: writing that is free of slang, trite expressions, abbreviations, symbols, email shortcut language, contractions, and the use of the personal pronoun “I.” The writer does not speaking directly to the reader by using the word you.
Organizational structures

  • Cause/ Effect shows why something happened, why certain conditions exist, or what resulted from an action or condition; shows the influence of one event upon another; uses logic and evidence to show the relationship between an event and its cause or an event and its outcome.

  • Classification organizes ideas/concept/ terms into useful categories; provides related examples and explains how they fit into each category.

  • Compare/contrast explores the similarities and differences between two or more subjects; addresses similarities and/or differences between/among topics; organized either to analyze or inform.

  • Definition provides more than a dictionary definition; shows what something is.

  • Process explains how something works; provides sequential directions for how something is done.


Thesis statement addresses the writer’s intent; is based on the writer’s purpose; appears as the last sentence in the essay’s opening paragraph.

The length of a written response is determined by the task and its purpose. Every written response is not intended to be an essay.
Art: Write to Source- Self-portraiture

  • Explain the choices you made as you developed ideas for your portrait. Consider the master artist examples viewed, the pose, the props, the lighting, and your choice of composition, color, and placement.


Career Technology Education: Write to Source-Technical Specifications Manual

  • Diagram the sequence of steps required to diagnose and troubleshoot malfunctioning equipment.


Career Technology Education: Write to Source- Journal Article

  • Explain the conflicts that arose regarding the acceptance and use of HeLa cells in research.

  • Compare and contrast health benefits and risks of Paleolithic vs. vegan diets.


English/Language Arts: Write to Source- Short Story

  • Explain how Sandra Cisneros’s choice of words develops the point of view of the young speaker in her story “Eleven.” [RL.6.6]*


English/Language Arts: Write to Source- Diverse Media and Formats

  • Analyze how the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in his film Throne of Blood draws on and transforms Shakespeare’s play Macbeth in order to develop a similar plot set in feudal Japan. [RL.9–10.9]*


Gifted and Talented: Write to Source-Primary Research Data

  • Evaluate the usefulness of your original primary research data for supporting your hypothesis.


Health Education: Write to Source-Diverse Media and Formats

  • After viewing the video, The Cat Who Drank Too Much, trace and explain the stages of alcoholism as they relate to the cat’s behavior.

  • Compare and contrast two of the Decision Making Models that have been used in class.

  • Explain one of the Decision Making Models and its strengths in facilitating a healthy decision.

  • Explain how to determine the validity of a source of health information, products, or services.


Mathematics: Write to Source- Multiple Representations

  • Examine and explain the connections among the verbal model, graph, and equation of a quadratic function.

Music: Write to Source- Marine Band Performance and School Band Performance

  • After listening to recordings of two performances, identify strengths of

each performance and give suggestions for improvement in our performance, considering tone, intonation, balance, and articulation.
Science: Write to Source- Diverse Media and Formats (video clip, laboratory data, selected readings)

  • Trace the transformation of a rock through the rock cycle from sedimentary to metamorphic to igneous back to sedimentary. Be sure to explain the processes that affect each transformation.

  • Using the data that you collected from the Photosynthesis by Chloroplast lab, explain the process of photosynthesis and how photosynthetic activity varies in different lighting conditions.

Social Studies: Write to Source-Diverse Media and Formats (maps, articles, first-person accounts)

  • Explain how human actions contributed to the desertification of the Sahel region.


Social Studies: Write to Source- Primary Sources

  • After reading primary source perspectives about slavery, compare Northern and Southern rationales for the ending or continuation of slavery. Use details from the documents to support your answer.

  • Analyze the role of African American soldiers in the Civil War by comparing and contrasting primary source materials against secondary syntheses such as Jim Haskins’s Black, Blue and Gray: African Americans in the Civil War. [RH.9–10.9]*


Write to Source- Primary Sources

  • Spanish II: Interview two adults about their childhood experiences and, in Spanish, compare them to experiences of children today.

World Languages: Write to Source- Diverse Media and Formats (newspaper clippings, movie posters, video clips)

  • Italian IV: In Italian, define omertà by comparing the actions of Salvatore Giuliano, Jesse James, and Robin Hood and examining how each provides justice for the people.

*From Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks


HCPSS2012








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