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Explanation Writing Topic Guide

Writing clear and informative explanations is an important skill that we use a lot. Imagine that you have invented a brilliant new machine; you need to be able to tell the world how it works!

Learning the features of an explanation text will help you to write your explanations clearly.

Teach your children about explanation writing using our handy topic guide!

Choose a section:
Teaching Ideas | Resources | Facts | Videos | Books | Links

Teaching Ideas

  • Show children this BBC video of Chris Packham about writing an explanation. Pause it during the recap of explanation writing features from 1:12 to 1:29 and discuss what each of the points mean. Ask the children to make notes about the section of the video from 1:47 to 5:03. In a group, compare notes and encourage children to work together to check they have included everything. Watch the video again, and add anything that was missed first time round. Use their notes to structure their own “How To” guide.
  • Ask children to invent a machine or device, and write an explanation of how it works.
  • Watch The Wishgranter and write an explanation of how his fountain works.
  • Challenge your children to make a checklist showing what should be included in an explanation text. Download our example for some ideas!
  • Choose an idea related to your current topic for the children to write about: for example, if you are looking at the Great Fire of London, write an explanation of how fires can start.
  • Give children an assortment of explanation and instruction texts and ask them to sort them. Make a list of similarities and differences.
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Resources

The Explanation Writing Pack

Explanation Writing Facts

  • An explanation text helps people to understand a process. Examples of explanation texts include non-fiction articles and technical manuals.
  • A good explanation text will answer the reader’s questions, such as “How does the water cycle work?”
  • Explanations often include technical vocabulary. These are words that have a specific meaning related to the context; for example, in an explanation of how electrical circuits work; current means the electrical current, rather than an ocean current.
  • Diagrams and pictures are often included in explanation texts, to make the meaning clearer.

Videos

How tsunamis work

This short video gives a clear explanation of how a tsunami forms, perfect as a writing stimulus.

Running time: 3:36

Explanation Text

This video uses an example text on the heart to demonstrate the structure and features of an explanation text.

Running time: 2:29

What Is The Internet?

Younger children could use this video to write their own explanation of what the Internet is.

Running time: 0:58

Need a Lift? Try a Pulley!

Challenge your children to explain how a pulley works, using this video.

Running time: 3:26

Books

Until I Met Dudley

This book is a terrific writing stimulus for explanation texts as Dudley explains how home appliances work.

How Things Work

A great book from National Geographic Kids to use when you need examples of clear explanations.

I Wonder Why the Sea is Salty

Answers to children’s questions about the oceans.

Are you teaching your children about other topics? Explore our full collection of guides!

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