Common Core Standards: ELA
2. Text Types and Purposes: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
If you’ve ever conducted a training session for your grandmother on “How to Send an Email” (bonus points if you’ve tried to walk her through adding an attachment!), then you know just how important it is to be clear when giving someone complex information. Some people are able to get Grandma online and forwarding pictures of kittens stuck in trees in a jiffy. For the rest of us, it’s important to learn the steps of informative writing.
Informative or explanatory text is writing that tries to communicate some kind of factual material to the reader. The articles you read in many magazines are informative or explanatory. For example, the latest issue of your favorite magazine might have an article that explains the history of zombies or another piece telling you how to improve your chances of becoming a contestant on a reality show. (Just what kind of magazines are you reading?) After you read these (or any informative text), your reaction will probably be: “You learn something new every day!”
To write your own informative text, you’ll need to pick a complex idea to examine. (So that means “Gum-Chewing: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners” is not a reasonable topic.) While the informative texts assigned by teachers are often how-to style (e.g., “How To Make French Toast”), you might also be required to explain the background of something (e.g., “The Torrid History of French Toast”). Sometimes teachers will even give you a quotation and ask you to explain what you think it means (e.g., Stephen Wright said, “I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.” Write an essay about what this quotation means to you.).
So you’ve got your topic; now what? You’ll need to use evidence in a clear way to make sure your reader knows more about French toast than he or she ever dreamed possible. What kind of evidence? In an informative essay, anything that is accurate and relevant will fit. A quotation from an expert? Check. A definition? Check. A relevant fact? Check. A concrete detail (like a statistic of French Toast consumption, for example)? Check. A chart or table (like an examination of French Toast consumption by geographical region, for example)? Check. Any facts that will help you to unlock the mysteries of French toast for your reader is considered fair game.
Selecting your evidence is only the first step. Next you will need to organize this evidence so that it makes the most sense. For example, giving the history of French toast would seem a little confusing if you discuss current consumption before you talk about how the tasty breakfast treat was invented. Finally, you will have to analyze the evidence for your reader -- facts and numbers do not speak for themselves! You have to explain why they are important and how they fit into your discussion of French toast as a whole.
Finally, you will have to write this essay in a formal and objective way. Formal writing means that you do not write in the same way that you talk, yo. Your reader won’t take you seriously if your essay sounds like you’re having a conversation. As for writing objectively, that means writing so it doesn’t sound like you have a bias. If you are the heir to the Eggo Waffle Company and hate French toast with the burning passion of a thousand suns, you cannot write your French toast essay so that your reader can tell that you hate it. You must examine all the facts without passion, and be fair in your analysis.
1. The following article was recently featured in Reality Television Quarterly:
How To Get on a Reality Show
If you’re a huge fan of reality shows and never miss a weight loss/survival/boardroom/singing/modeling contest, then you’ve probably thought about becoming a contestant at some point. You know you would make for some fantastic television. The problem is: How can you prove to the producers that you are the perfect candidate for the next reality show? There are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of being picked. Follow these pointers, and your friends might end up saying that they knew you way back when.
To better your chances, you will also want to do as much homework as possible about the show. Even if it’s a long running show that you have been a fan of from the beginning, that doesn’t mean you know all the necessary details to become a contestant. Most shows have a website where you can learn more about the application process, about how contestants are chosen, and about who watches the show. All of these are important pieces of information for you to improve your application.
Each reality show has its own application process, and it’s important to follow that process exactly as directed. Anyone who has ever gone through job applications or writing submissions will tell you that it’s almost a relief to find someone who didn’t follow directions. That makes it easy to throw out the application or submission. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not being careful with what the producers want.
Most shows will require some sort of audition tape or live audition. For reality shows other than talent competitions (like American Idol), this audition is the most important part of convincing the producers that you will be the most entertaining cast member of the season. It might be tempting to act like a popular (or hated!) contestant in a previous season of the show, but remember that producers want to see your real personality and don’t want a repeat of someone else. Even if you were able to convincingly act like someone else for an audition, would you be able to (or even want to) keep up that fake personality for the run of the show? It’s easier to be yourself, and it’s more likely to get you the coveted spot on the show. (But it couldn’t hurt to present the most outrageous version of yourself. It is television, after all.)
Finally, to increase you chances of being picked, don’t give up! You might have your heart set on starring in a particular show, but each show receives hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. So get your application out to many shows, and that increases the odds that you’ll be right for one of them.
Good luck, and happy hair pulling!
Let’s look at a breakdown of the various components of the article:
1. Topic of the informative essay: How to become a reality show contestant.
2. There is complex information: Several things you can do to improve your chances of starring in the next season.
3. There are several pieces of evidence given: Learning about the show, following the application’s directions, nailing the audition, and applying to several shows. The author’s selection of these tips shows an understanding of what is most important in the process of applying.
4. The evidence is presented in a logical order that makes it easy to understand: Learn more about the show, correctly fill out the application, be yourself in the audition, and apply elsewhere. It’s organized in a way that makes sense to the reader and will help the reader be able to follow the advice.
5. Each fact is analyzed: The author makes sure the reader understands what each fact means.
2. The following article recently appeared in The Zombie Reader:
The History of Zombies
With zombies cropping up everywhere from commercials to classic literature, it’s natural to wonder where the shuffling and brain-eating undead came from. Unlike vampires and werewolves, who are their horror film companions, the modern idea of zombies originated in West Africa and the New World, rather than in European legends. (Which makes it that much weirder that they have found their way into modern versions of Jane Austen’s novels.) Zombie experts trace the first instances of reanimated corpses back to the practice of Voodoo.
Many people do not know that Voodoo actually originated in Africa and not Haiti, the place most associated with the practice. In West Africa, the sorcery called Vodun had a practice where a bokor, or sorcerer, would revive a dead person. The newly living corpse would then be under the power of the bokor.
Slaves transported to Haiti from West Africa brought their beliefs in Voodoo with them. In the warm climate of the island nation, the belief in Voodoo and zombies grew, to the point where there are several instances of non-Haitians seeing and reporting on actual zombies. The word zombie came into general usage after William B. Seabrook published his novel The Magic Island in 1929, which describes an encounter with a zombie.
Haitian zombies, like their West African counterparts, had been revived after death. There are even accounts of how some zombies in Haiti were able to have a normal life, marriage and children after “death.” This was the understanding of zombies in popular culture for many years.
In 1968, George Romero changed the view of zombies forever with his classic film Night of the Living Dead. It was this film that introduced the idea of zombies wanting to eat people, as well as the common zombie characteristics of being slow moving, only vulnerable to head trauma, and able to infect others by biting them. It’s because of this movie, which never once uses the word zombie, that the gross flesh-eaters everyone knows and loves are so prevalent today.
Since 1968, zombies have been very popular, from a bounty of movies to Michael Jackson’s famous “Thriller” video to books about how to survive a zombie apocalypse and even TV shows like The Walking Dead. All of this exposure hasn’t changed the zombie much. He or she is still undead, incapable of human emotions and thoughts, and terrifying!
Questions about “The History of Zombies”:
1.What is the topic of the explanatory text?
2. What ideas or information does the author present about the topic?
3. What evidence does the author provide?
4. How is the evidence organized?
5. How does the author show that the evidence is important?
1. The topic is the history of zombies.
2. The author presents the information that the concept of zombies originated in West Africa and traveled to Haiti with slaves who practiced Voodoo. She presents the idea that zombies are reanimated dead people. She presents the information that the film Night of the Living Dead introduced common zombie characteristics into popular culture.
3. The author gives evidence in the form of information about West African and Haitian Voodoo, the novel The Magic Island by William B. Seabrook, and the film Night of the Living Dead.
4. The author organizes the evidence chronologically.
5. The author explains the background behind Voodoo zombies to show how the basic characteristics of zombies have been around from the beginning of their legend. She explains how the word “zombie” became common by talking about Seabrook’s book. She explains how George Romero’s movie gave popular culture more common characteristics of zombies.
Quiz QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
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