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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources



Grades 11-12

Writing W.11-12.2

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

  • Introduce a topic; 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.
  • 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.
  • Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
  • Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
  • Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  • 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).

This standard requires writing that is informational in nature. Students will use facts, statistics, examples, and anecdotes to explain a concept or process to their readers. Presentation of information in a consistent and clear fashion is the expected outcome here, and the bullet points get specific about exactly what students should be doing in order to meet these expectations. As always, selecting the most relevant research, using transitions to effectively structure the information, and using an appropriate style and tone are key points for success. Keep reading for an example of an informational writing assignment you might use with your students.

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Assignment Example:

After reading The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, you’ve been asked by your teacher to write an informational essay in which you compare and contrast the dealings of the play with the McCarthy Hearings of the 1950s. In order to write the essay, you’ll need to draw upon what you already know about McCarthyism. Next, you’ll brainstorm possible criteria. These are points that you will use to compare and contrast the two situations. Your essay will explain how literature often mirrors real events.

Work with your elbow partner to create a list of possible sub-topics. Let’s say, the time period and place, the historical context, public policies or beliefs, the principles involved, the nature of evidence, the types of hearings, the reason for suspicions, targeted groups, public reaction, and consequences for those found guilty. Whew! We’re a bit out of breath! It’s a veritable cauldron of ideas!

Satisfied with these measures, you will complete research online, in history textbooks, and informational texts devoted specifically to the two topics. Essays by enchanters in the field, historians, and professors in the appropriate subject areas (English, history, sociology, etc.) will provide many types of information you’ll use in your report.

Your sources will yield a charming variety of facts, direct quotations, statistics, details, and definitions. These will help explain how The Crucible and the McCarthy Hearings are alike and different. These facts will help support your thesis that there are many more similarities than differences. In addition to written factual material, you’ve been asked to include multi-media. More research on websites such as History.com and YouTube finds many videos that can be embedded into your essay. Clips from the film version of The Crucible would also add interest to your paper, and don’t forget about photographs of those on trial at the McCarthy Hearings.

The shaping of your paper will be important. Be crafty. You could choose to write all about one situation, say the play first, followed by the McCarthy Hearings. Or, you could discuss each element one at a time, but addressing both situations. Looking at your notes, you decide to use the criteria strategy. Transition words, such as similar to, also, unlike, similarly, in the same way, likewise, again, compared to, in contrast, in like manner, contrasted with, on the contrary, however, although, yet, even though, etc., will be needed to compare and contrast the two situations.

As you write your paper, use headings to indicate the specific criteria that each section covers. These headings act as a map for your reader. Make sure that the arrangement of criteria is appropriate as well. For example, the time period, the setting, and the principles would certainly come first in your essay. Criteria, such as findings and punishments, would be reserved until the end of your paper.

You’ll have your readers HANGING on your every word. Since this is an academic paper, be sure to avoid slang. That’s right… no hocus-pocus. Instead, use mature vocabulary fitting to your classmates. When using words such as subversion, censure, allegations, filibustering, hearing, and McCarthyism, wave that magic wand over your paper and describe them. Your writing will be more mature with these types of words.

Apply your knowledge about syntax, and use a variety of sentence types, too. Short sentences mixed in with longer ones can be very effective. We mean that. You might also try to use simile and metaphor to liven up your text. Finally, the use of analogy is perfect for this assignment. In fact, you’ve set out to prove The Crucible is an analogy (a parallel comparison) for the McCarthy hearings.

At the end of your paper, be sure to draw a conclusion about the facts you have provided. Answer the original question. Does The Crucible really mirror the McCarthy Hearings as the playwright intended? While you’re using facts to determine this answer, it’s your ANALYSIS of those facts that will cast a spell on the audience.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.


Match the description to the word.

  1. ____ concept

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    They’re synonyms; that should have been obvious.

  2. ____ domain-specific

    Correct Answer:

    pertaining to a particular topic

    Answer Explanation:

    Domain specific vocabulary is a set of words that you would likely only use for that particular topic.

  3. ____ formatting

    Correct Answer:

    arrangement or design

    Answer Explanation:

    Be sure to use an appropriate format for the subject and genre.

  4. ____ analogy

    Correct Answer:

    a parallel comparison

    Answer Explanation:

    Analogies can be useful in both informative and argumentative texts.

  5. ____ metaphor

    Correct Answer:

    comparison in which one unlike thing is described as actually being that other thing

    Answer Explanation:

    It’s like a simile, only without the “like.”

  6. ____ simile

    Correct Answer:

    comparison using like or as

    Answer Explanation:

    Come on, you learned that in middle school.

  7. ____ transitions

    Correct Answer:

    words or phrases that connect one passage to another in writing

    Answer Explanation:

    Transitions are like bridges or glue or directional signs...pick your simile, but they’re important.

  8. ____ syntax

    Correct Answer:

    the arrangement of words that form sentences

    Answer Explanation:

    By the end of high school, you should be using sophisticated sentence structures or syntax.

  9. ____ multimedia

    Correct Answer:

    using more than one type of communication style

    Answer Explanation:

    It’s a multimedia world out there, kids.

  10. ____ objective

    Correct Answer:

    unbiased or impartial

    Answer Explanation:

    Objective means that you aren’t taking sides; rather, you’re presenting the facts and just the facts.