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Writing Part 2: The Informative/Explanatory Writing Task

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1 Writing Part 2: The Informative/Explanatory Writing Task

2 What is an Informative/Explanatory Essay?
An explanatory writing prompt asks the writer to explain his/her ideas to the reader. In other words, explain what he/she knows. Informative/explanatory prompts are based on topics familiar to students and ask them to describe, discuss, explain, or analyze some aspect of the topic. Students are able to draw on their own experience or opinions and what they know to develop ideas for their writing. There are two formats for assessing informative/explanatory writing: one format introduces a topic in a brief prompt and asks students to write a piece about that topic; the second format uses a poem to introduce a topic. That topic is elaborated further by a brief prompt that students use as a basis for writing. How are narrative and speculative writing similar to informative/explanatory writing? Narrative/Speculative writing asks you to guess, or speculate, about what might happen in a story. Informative/Explanatory writing will ask you to explain what you think about a topic or situation.

Scientists report that gray squirrels find hundreds of nuts each week that they bury in different places. Then the squirrels dig up all those nuts and bury them again in new spots. They also dig some holes that they don’t ever use for storing nuts. What problems could these actions cause for a gray squirrel? Write a composition discussing the problem squirrels could have because of the way they bury their nuts. Analyze or explain why squirrels might dig holes they do not want to use.

(Students first read the Holly Davis poem, “Lucky Grandma!”.) The child in the poem “Lucky Grandma!” helps her grandmother with many things. Think about a time when you helped someone. Write a composition about that time. In your composition, be sure to: Explain who the person was. Describe what you did to help. Explain why you liked helping this person.

5 TRANSITIONS (Linking Words and Phrases)
Last Most importantly Nevertheless Next Now Of course On one hand On the other hand Or Otherwise Second Similarly Specifically Still Surely Then Therefore Third To explain To illustrate To wrap it up While this may be True With this in mind Yet Above all Again Also As a result As an illustration At other times Besides this Certainly Consequently Equally important Finally First For example For instance For this reason Furthermore Generally However In addition In conclusion In contrast In fact In other words In particular In spite of this

6 How to Respond to a… NJ ASK Explanatory—Personal Prompt
An explanatory—personal prompt means that you have to write an essay explaining a topic that connects personally to you. You will need to: -Write a three paragraph essay that addresses the topic and elaborates on each of its parts. -Complete the writing process in 30 minutes. Responding Guidelines: -Read the prompt carefully and break it into parts. Circle, underline, or number each part that you would have to address in your essay. -Plan for the parts of the prompt by using specific information/details for each. -Write a three paragraph essay. Each paragraph should represent one part and should be logically organized. *All paragraphs need topic and closing sentences with sufficient elaboration in between, such as facts, examples, and/or anecdotes. -Read through your essay to revise and edit.

7 Outline for an Informative/ Explanatory Essay based on a topic:
Introductory Paragraph Open with a creative idea to get your reader interested. Briefly state what you believe to be the story. State details to support your ideas. Second Paragraph Who are the people and what are they doing? When and where is the action taking place? Under what conditions? What is the problem? Third Paragraph Why does the situation exist? How might the story continue after the instance captured in the scenario? Conclusion Restate what you believe to be the story. Summarize the prompt details that prove your ideas. Close with a creative statement.

8 NJ ASK Explanatory—Personal Prompt
Many students enjoy doing something special for their family and friends. For example, they may take care of their younger sibling, or help to cook a favorite meal. Write an essay that (1) describes something special that you would like to do for your family or friends. Explain (2) why this would be something special and (3 )how your family or friends might react. Be sure to include details and facts to support your explanation.

9 Explanatory Personal Prompt - Teacher Model
Many students, like me, enjoy doing something special for their family or friends once in a while. One special thing that I would like to do for my family is to make a scrapbook that I could duplicate and share with everyone. In this scrapbook, I would include a family tree, showing all of the relationships between the members of our family. I would include pictures showing what each person looks like at the time the scrapbook was made. Additionally, I would include in the scrapbook cherished family recipes that have been handed down through the generations. Some examples would be my grandmother’s cole slaw and my aunt’s special Chex Mix. Finally, I would take photos of some family heirlooms to include on the pages, and create a caption for each photo that explains the importance of the item to the person it belonged to originally, as well as the whole family. This scrapbook could be a very special item once it is complete.

10 To the members of my family, this scrapbook would be very significant
To the members of my family, this scrapbook would be very significant. It would be important to them because it represents the unity of our family in the form of our family tree, as well as our history. Because the recipes I would include are those that our family has shared at many holidays and special events, they would remind the reader of how close we are and how much love we have shared. Additionally, the photos of the heirlooms would be important because they are pieces of our ancestor’s history, and each is an item that reminds us of someone important in creating our family as we know it today. Creating this family scrapbook would allow me to do something important for my family.

11 Upon receiving this gift of a family scrapbook, I think that my family would be amazed. They would be surprised at the amount of time and effort that I have put into making the scrapbook. Also, I think that the members of my family would treat the scrapbook with care, and put it someplace safe so that it will not be damaged and it can be enjoyed for many years to come. Like the many family photos that line the shelves in my relatives’ homes, the scrapbook would likely become another item to display that represents our unity as a family. In my opinion, this scrapbook would become a very important item to those who own it, and to future generations who will continue to benefit from it.

12 Expository Writing from a Poetry Prompt (Guidelines)
Introductory Paragraph: Get the attention of the reader with a “hook.” -Ask a question, such as, “Have you ever wondered…” or “Did you know…?” -Use a quote, maybe even from the poem. -Use dialogue; exclamations can really grab your audience. State your topic clearly. -Avoid using “I” if possible in this sentence. Briefly state the main points. -Save facts and examples for the detail paragraphs.

13 Expository Writing from a Poetry Prompt (Guidelines)
Detail paragraphs (If you want someone to believe it, you must support it!) State your main idea in one clear sentence. Explain the idea. -Give reasons -Provide facts. -Use an example of something that happened to you. -Build on details from the poem. Vary the way you support your details. -Use different beginning words. -Alternate long and short sentences. Use transition words. -If your details have a chronological order, show that you understand the sequence of events. Keep your reader interested!

14 Expository Writing from a Poetry Prompt (Guidelines)
Concluding Paragraph Summarize your main detail (Provide support). -Restate your topic in different words. Make a statement about how you feel: -Realization of something important. -A lesson that was learned. Release or “unhook” the reader. -You may use humor (make the reader think or smile). -One type of ending could be, “The moral of the story is…” -Circle back to the beginning.

15 Sample Poetry Prompt: “I Wake Today”
Directions To the Student: Read the poem “I Wake Today” to yourself. Afterward, you will do a writing task. The poem may give you ideas for your writing. “I Wake Today” by Kenn Nesbitt

16 “I Wake Today” by Kenn Nesbitt
Get out of bed, Then stretch and yawn and scratch my head. I find my clothes. I pull them on while stifling another yawn. I grab a breakfast bar for fuel, and hoist my pack and head to school. When I arrive I’m truly shocked. The lights are off. The door is locked. I check my watch. It’s me, not them. I woke too soon. It’s 4am.

17 Writing Task In “I Wake Today,” the poet Kenn Nesbitt writes about a day that began in an unexpected way. At one time or another, most of us have experienced a day that did not turn out as we had expected. Write a composition about a time in your life when you had such a day. In your composition, be sure to: Describe the things that happened to you. Discuss the problems that may have come from them. Explain what you learned from your experience.

18 Model: Happy Birthday to Me!
June 28, 2006, the day of my tenth birthday, was unlike other days. It certainly did not turn out as expected. Yet when I went to bed that night, I could honestly say I had a great day! “Wake up, birthday girl. It’s 9:30. You don’t want to miss another minute of your special day,” sang my mother as she breezed into my bedroom. “What? Huh?” I mumbled. “It’s still dark outside.” A quick glance at my alarm clock confirmed my mom was right. “Oh no! It’s raining!” I cried. “What about my party?” “We’ll figure something out,” she replied. That was the beginning of a day I will never forget. Every detail was planned to the minute for my backyard barbeque and pool party. One glance at the muddy backyard and I knew we would not be swimming today. My brain was raining trying to brainstorm what we could do instead. Just then, the telephone ran. My best friend Judy croaked a weak “Happy Birthday! Sorry about the rain, but I have even worse news. I won’t be able to make it to your party today. My mother won’t let me out of bed because I have a fever. I am really sorry.”

19 The last words of her conversation were lost as lightning crackled and a loud boom of thunder knocked out the electricity in my entire home. “What next?” I exclaimed. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did. “Mom, my birthday cake is in the freezer. The ice cream will melt if we don’t get the power back soon.” I was ready to cry. With the power out, there was no way to contact my party guests to let them know we would have to move the date. By 2 o’clock that afternoon, we still had no power and the guests were due to arrive in half an hour. Mom kept telling me not to worry—she would think of something. I had no choice but to trust her. I stomped up to my room and threw myself across the bed. Within minutes the doorbell began to ring. One by one my friends were arriving for what would surely be a soggy celebration. I realized that I could not leave them alone with my mom, so I headed downstairs, feeling sorry for myself.

20 I could not have prepared myself for the surprise my mom had created
I could not have prepared myself for the surprise my mom had created. She had lit every candle she owned and had a path from the front door to the family room. I followed the trail of light into the family room, where a fire was roaring in the fireplace and hot dogs were roasting on sticks my dad had gathered from the yard. Dad had pulled out his old guitar, and he and mom were teaching old camp songs to my friends. When they saw me in the doorway, the song changed to “Happy Birthday!” I felt the smile creep across my face. This was certainly not the barbecue that I had hoped for, but it looked like everyone was having fun. I joined the crowd in front of the fireplace and hoped for the best. Later, when Mom walked in with what was left of my ice cream cake, I could not help but laugh at all that had happened that day. I realized that it was the people who love me and not the things that we do that make us happy. That night, as I crawled back into bed with silly camp songs still running through my head, I had to admit that after all that, I had a great day.

21 Analysis of Happy Birthday to Me:
The writer immediately “hooks” the reader. The story clearly unfolds for the reader. The final paragraph resolves the problem. There are plenty of descriptive words (i.e. mumbled, crackled, soggy). Transition words used throughout the essay (i.e. Just then, Later).

22 Explanatory Writing Prompt Checklist
INTRODUCTION Did I remember to … begin with a grabbing lead? include background information from the question? state the quote for quotation prompts? end the paragraph with a thesis statement expressing the main idea of my essay? BODY begin each paragraph with a topic sentence? focus each body paragraph on one idea (one idea, one paragraph)? include facts, examples, descriptions, and anecdotes (personal stories) to explain the idea in each body paragraph? make sure each body paragraph relates to the thesis statement? CONCLUSION restate the main idea of my essay? restate some of the key points I made about this main idea? end the essay with a relevant text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connection?

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