Common Core Standards: ELA
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 to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient 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 to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
- Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary 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 offers students an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to write an informational or explanatory text on a topic, using the writing process to develop and organize general and specific information in a variety of formats and to draw conclusions about their subjects. The standard draws upon skills in other writing standards, such as research and style.
Informational writing is all about explaining a complex subject. In order to be successful, students will need to conduct research, choose the most relevant details, and develop their ideas objectively and within a domain-specific vocabulary. The following assignment is an example of the kind of task you might use to practice these skills with your students.
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Using this Standard
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- To Kill a Mockingbird Teacher Pass
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The mere mention of a writing assignment strikes FEAR in your heart. Your mind spins in protest: When’s it due? What’s it worth? What will I write about? How much do I have to write? Is this another essay? Why can’t these assignments ever just be about ME? Thankfully, your teacher lets you and your classmates join in a nice collective groan. Yep, go ahead… let’s moan together! But as the last echo is heard, you settle in and come to grips with the news. Wait… we can write about what we want?
Yup, you can (and should) write on a topic that stirs you, one that you care about, one that you’d like to learn more about, one that you want to share with others. The brainstorming begins, but you don’t have to think for long. Just this morning on the way to school, you noticed some GRAFFITI spray-painted on a store window in your neighborhood. You wonder who put it there. What does it mean? Why was it put there? And, what will happen to it? You think that maybe some gang members might have done it. You believe the symbols and numbers are special messages. You’d really like to know more about gangs, so you choose this topic.
You have many more questions: What are gangs? Where did they come from? Why do people join gangs? Who joins gangs? What do gangs do? Why do they do what they do? How do we deal with gangs? There’s more to this topic than you first thought. It’s very complex. You decide that answering these questions will be the basis of your writing, in this case, an essay. These are the questions you will hope to find answers to when you research in the library or the computer lab. As you explore, you take notes under these specific sub-topics.
As you write your essay, it makes sense to put information in a certain order. Here you choose to move from general ideas to more specific ones. Think GOLIATH, then david. For example, you’d want to define and describe the term gang right away to make sure you, the writer, are on the same wavelength as your audience, the teen reader. Background information should come first. When did gangs first begin? What were they like then? What are gangs like today? You notice that long ago, pirates at sea (picture Johnny Depp) were like gangs, and today, you’ve heard about the Crips and the Bloods, so you know that gangs have changed over the years. That would make another great topic. What types of activities were the gangs of the 50s and 60s involved in? Are gangs still involved in the same sort of behaviors, or have things changed? For example, are they more violent?
If gangs are so bad, why do people get involved in gangs? Eureka! That’s another topic. Everybody wants to belong to something or someone. Maybe that’s a reason. Your research shows that there are tons of reasons for gang involvement… from protection to money to pride to reputation. Next, you want to know more about graffiti especially the writings you saw on the way to school today. You learn that some people think graffiti is an art while others consider it vandalism. With a search on Youtube, you learn that law enforcement is more concerned about tags used by gangs to send messages and to mark their territory. You learn so much about these that you decide that graffiti merits its own section in your paper. Putting in graphics (charts and pictures) as well as videos (multi-media) adds PIZZAZZ to your work!
Since gangs often bring crime into neighborhoods, you’ll want to learn what people are doing about it… your final sub-topic for your paper. It makes sense that everyone needs to be involved…from schools to government to police to you.
All of these sub-topics shape your paper. By collecting facts, details, quotations, and examples, you’ll be able to write a paper that will inform your audience, your classmates, about gang life. You’ll write about purpose, history, and activities of gangs, and what community members can do to reduce gang activity. You like the idea of adding graphic signs and symbols into your writing so that your readers can better envision the types of writing you saw on your neighborhood businesses.
You’ll use vocabulary words that relate specifically to gangs, such as knowledge, graffiti, flag, sets, colors, and g. At the end of your paper, you’re asked to draw a conclusion about gangs. Putting together all the information in your paper, you’ll determine whether gangs are a good idea for your little brother or sister. NOT. You might disapprove of gangs, but this is no place for your opinion. In an informative piece, you need to just stick to the FACTS, Ma’am, and except for gang words, slang has no place in an academic essay like this one.
Your teacher reminds you to connect the sections of your paper through the use of headings or those transition words you know: next, first, second, and so on, addition, also, as a result, above all, except, etc. These will connect one idea to another and act as directional flags for your reader. Go THIS way! Finally, you’re expected to follow all the rules about writing… those grammar, punctuation, spelling, and paragraphing rules. Your teacher calls them conventions. You just can’t get away from them! Nope. Never.