Welcome to our complete guide to writing an explanation text. This guide is intended for both teachers and students to make the process of writing fun, simple and straightforward.
This page has plenty of great content and downloadable resources such as graphic organizers, prompts and much more. If you like what you see here be sure to check out all our other writing genre guides.
WHAT IS AN EXPLANATION TEXT?
An explanation text tells your audience how something works or why something happens.
Explanations detail and logically describe the stages in a process, such as the water cycle, or how a steam engine works. Other examples could be how a law is made, or why we blink when we sneeze.
There are three types of explanations.
“Explanation texts are frequently incorporated into other texts, used to provide information which answers questions of interest on that topic”
- Sequential – These detail the stages in an event eg: how a caterpillar turns into a moth.
- Causal – Details what causes the change from one stage to the next ie: How a president is elected.
- Theoretical – Details the possible phenomena behind a natural or created process that is not fully understood. eg What caused the Nazi’s to lose World War II.
- Factorial and consequential explanations explain effects and outcomes of processes. They are more commonly used in upper primary and secondary contexts. For example:
- Scientific– eg Explain the causes of climate change (Factorial)
- Historical– eg Explain the causes of World War 2 (Factorial)
A COMPLETE EXPLANATION TEXT UNIT FOR STUDENTS
Teaching students to write instructions manuals, recipes and science experiments can be a tough ask for the creative writer and teacher…. ⭐UNTIL NOW⭐ Because the PERFECT PROCEDURAL WRITING UNIT offers a complete solution to teaching all styles of procedural writing including,
DON’T GET CONFUSED BETWEEN EXPLANATION TEXTS AND PROCEDURAL TEXTS.
An explanation text is similar to a procedural text, and these can often be confused, however, an explanation text explains the how and why behind a process such as
- What causes a Tsunami?
- Why are our rain forests disappearing?
- The process of making aluminum.
- A procedural text is generally instructs how to make or do something such as recipe. Although they appear similar they are very different when compared side by side.
POINTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE WRITING
- What is it about? What are you explaining? Are you explaining how or why something happens or are you explaining a process.
- What is the title?
- What are the important parts, section of what you want to explain? How would you describe it and its parts? Which parts need to be described as part of the explanation?
- How does it work? What happens first, next and and why?
- What else might you include?
USE YOUR TIME EFFECTIVELY
Using your writing time effectively is really crucial. When writing an explanation you should aim to spend about one-fifth of your time researching your topic to ensure you know what you are talking about.
Next, take an equal amount of time to structure your writing using a graphic organizer or mind map which can be found below. If you follow this model you really only need to spend just under half your time actually writing. Your ideas and structure will already be formed.
This will leave you a reasonable window to edit and revise your essay for meaning, spelling and grammar and structure. The use of graphic organizers, planning tools and writing checklists will greatly assist the planning and editing time.
EXPLANATORY WRITING STRUCTURE
TITLES Which identify the topic of your explanation. You may pose this as a question at the beginning with how? or why?
STRONG OPENING STATEMENT Identifying the process to be explained. Emphasize the process rather than the particular thing involved in the process.
SEQUENCING Use sequential paragraphs or statements describing how or why something happens. Show connections such as cause and effect or temporal sequence.
WRAPPING IT UP A strong concluding paragraph or sentence that draws everything together will add more validity to your explanation.
EXPLANATORY WRITING FEATURES
GENERALIZE Talk about your topics in groups or as a collective rather than as individuals.
CONNECTIVE LANGUAGE Use language which link cause and effect.
GET TECHNICAL & DETAILED Use technical language and terms specific to your subject. Use technical descriptions to crate richer meaning.
TENSE AND VOICE Explanations are written in the passive voice and in timeless present tense
VISUALS Use graphic organizers, labelled diagrams and even videos you are constructing a digital text to illustrate your understanding.
THE LANGUAGE FEATURES OF AN EXPLANATION TEXT
- The use of technical terms such as evaporation, degradation if writing about the water cycle.
- Action verbs and present tense such as runs, develops and becomes
- Cause and effect terms such as because of.., due to.., therefore, and as a result
TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT EXPLANATION TEXT
Use the resources and tools below with your students to improve their writing skills through proven teaching strategies.
EXPLANATORY WRITING GRAPHIC ORGANIZER TEMPLATE (USE SLIDER)
EXPLANATION TEXT WRITING CHECKLISTS FOR JUNIOR, MIDDLE & SENIOR STUDENTS
A COMPLETE UNIT OF WORK ON EXPLANATION WRITING?
We pride ourselves on being the web’s best resource for teaching students and teachers how to write an explanation text. We value the fact you have taken the time to read our comprehensive guides to understand the fundamentals of writing stories.
We also understand some of you just don’t have the luxury of time, or the resources to create really engaging resources when you need them.
If you are time-poor and looking for an in-depth solution that encompasses all of the concepts outlined in this article I strongly recommend taking a look at the Excellent Explanation Text Writing Unit.
Working in partnership alongside Innovative Teaching Ideas we confidently recommend this resource as an all in one solution to teach explanatory texts.
Within this unit, you will find over 70 pages of engaging and innovative teaching ideas.
EXPLANATORY TEXT TUTORIAL VIDEOS
OTHER GREAT ARTICLES RELATED TO EXPLANATION TEXT WRITING
Content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and university English lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book the Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.