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Explanation Writing Activities

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master's degree in Special Education from Salem State University.

Are you teaching writing to ESL students? You are probably working on a variety of skills. These activities give students practice in explanatory writing in the form of step by step instructions, excuse notes, and activity invitations.

Writing an Explanation

ESL students benefit from writing instruction that is practical in nature, allowing them to practice useful, relevant vocabulary. One important form of writing is explanatory writing, which is useful in school, recreation, and employment contexts. Working on explanatory writing with your ESL students gives them the opportunity to work with motivating vocabulary sets while sharpening their overall writing skills. Try these explanation writing activities, which can be adapted for ESL students of various ages.

Activity: Step by Step Instructions

Objective: Break down a preferred task into steps and write instructions.

Materials: Paper and pencil, items to perform tasks (optional)

  • Select a simple activity to work through as a class, such as packing a lunch.
  • For your demonstration, bring in the items you need to pack a lunch (for example: bread, peanut butter, jelly, knife, sandwich bag, apple, napkin, lunch box).
  • Arrange the items on a table at the front of the room.
  • On the board, write ''How To Pack a Lunch.''
  • Ask students to help you verbalize how you would put together a lunch using the items on the table.
  • As you talk through the steps, write them on the board. For example:
  1. Get two slices of bread.
  2. Open the peanut butter.
  3. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread.
  4. Etc.
  • When all the steps are written, have students read the steps aloud.
  • Each student should choose a daily task and write step by step instructions to perform their task.
  • Optional: When everyone is finished, students present their instructions to the class.

Activity: Hobby Invitation

Objective: Explain why you enjoy your favorite hobby.

Materials: Paper and pencil

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