Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy
ELA - Literacy.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.2
Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events,
scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
- Introduce a topic and 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.
- For 11th and 12th grade, this point asks students to move beyond just being able to structure a paper around a central idea; here students are asked to deal with complex ideas and create a structure that isn’t merely “well-organized,” but is strategically organized so that each piece builds to a unified whole.
- 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.
- This bullet point provides a comprehensive list of the specific ingredients for a detailed, deeply developed essay. In 11th and 12th grades, students should be developing their topics thoroughly and choosing significant source material to include. Again, at this level, students must do more than just meet the basic requirements for an informative paper, reaching for a more surprising, nuanced essay.
- Use varied transitions and sentence structures to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
- Just like in an argument, students need to put the information into context by connecting their ideas and showing how they are related. Shmoop recommends you create a transition bank with your students and model how to use transitions effectively. See Standard 1 for a list of examples to get you started.
- Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic; convey a knowledgeable stance in a style that responds to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.
- Once again, it’s audience and genre awareness. Students need to be aware of the genre and discipline expectations as well as the expertise of their audience in order to choose a voice, style, and structure appropriate for the context. In 11th and 12th grades, students should be thinking more about their ethos as writers and how to choose a language and style that will establish them as a knowledgeable, credible writer.
- In 11th and 12th grades, this point also asks students to add style to their writing with techniques like metaphor, simile, and analogy. These might seem like techniques best saved for their creative writing class, but look at any academic discourse and you will find writers using figurative language to highlight important details and put examples into context for readers.
- 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).
- As teachers, we have a tendency to run out of time before we get to the conclusion, so instruction on conclusions is often short-changed. Without instruction, students will end up repeating themselves, and that’s not what conclusions are all about. What students should be doing is to give the information a broader context. The conclusion should get at why all this information matters. What are the implications? Why is this topic significant? A good conclusion should shed new light on the subject with style and nuance, leaving the reader in awe of the academic prowess on display. Or something in that ballpark.
Set the Stage
This standard requires students to be able to explain complex ideas, whether they are in history class, science class, or technology class. Their writing must follow the three C’s: comprehensive (complete), coherent (understandable), and cohesive (unified). You will be teaching students how to develop their ideas through the use of relevant information structured in an organized fashion, benefiting and enhancing the audience’s knowledge. Once again, the bottom line is that students need to write good informative essays, and the bullet points just get more detailed about how they should go about it.
In biology class, you have been studying the major tissue types of the human body. Yes, always captivating to you. To advance that knowledge, your teacher has assigned the task of writing a short research paper on these tissues and how they relate to cancer. You know you will need more than your textbook to complete the research for this assignment. It won’t be bad, but keep your tissues handy, just in case.
Your textbook has included information about the four types of tissues. They are categorized as epithelial, connective, muscle, and nerve tissues. Your explanation will include where each is found and its function. In addition, you’ll offer details on how tissues combine in the making of simple membranes and in the construction of more complex structures, such as organs and systems. Think big, bigger, BIGGEST.
With regard to cancer, you do some research on the Internet. After checking your vitals (e-mails, Facebook, cell phone, etc.), you find several credible websites authored by physicians and researchers in the field. You learn that most cancers arise from epithelial cells called carcinomas, categorized as squamous, glandular, and transitional. Cancers in particular organs are named after the organ in which they reside. Makes sense.
You read further to learn that cancer can also be in connective tissues. These cancers are called sarcomas, occurring in bone, muscle, and cartilage tissues. These types of cancers are rare. You also learn that bodily systems, such as the blood and lymph, can go haywire to produce leukemia and lymphomas. These occur in about seven percent of all cancer cases, mostly affecting children.
Once you’ve collected your notes and many more details about each type of cancer, you make an outline or cluster diagram in order to structure your paper. Your four types of tissues become your major ideas at the beginning of the essay where you’ll go into background information and specific details. Next, you will discuss each in terms of cancer.
You build your essay around a solid thesis statement about tissue types and their tendencies for developing cancer. You decide to devote one body paragraph for each category of tissues. Great executive decision! These will be followed by several paragraphs describing the cancers that develop from each tissue. Headings and subheadings will help your readers navigate all this complex scientific info.
You also decide to search for drawings and sketches of the tissues and perhaps what the cancer looks like. You’ll give credit to your sources for both information and visuals. You find a fascinating webisode, “Jammin’ with the Juice,” by a physician who will better explain the tissue types. You’ll embed the video in your essay since the expectation here is the use of multi-media, or a combination of a variety of formats that might include images, recordings, videos, text, and animation.
Be sure to define words and phrases that are domain-specific, or particular to your topic, keeping in mind the understanding level of your readers. This might include simple definitions, more complex or extended definitions, direct quotations, and key details. Liven your writing up with those similes, metaphors, and analogies you learned about in English class: “The tissues protected the bladder like a coat of mail.” Your readers can better understand what you’re writing about if you use language with which they are familiar.
You’ll need to use transition words, phrases, and clauses that link the ideas in your essay at the sentence, paragraph, and section levels. Words and phrases such as in addition, along with, in contrast, similarly, and on the other hand, help readers to follow your writing.
End your essay with a strong conclusion. Summarize the topic and explain why it is important to the reader. Everyone needs to know how cancer begins and how to avoid it. Your essay will help put this scientific info into real-world context.
That’s a Wrap
You’ve taught your students about the building blocks of informative writing and how to explore a complex problem or topic. Remember folks, writing is thinking, so students who can write about what they know in their own words have a more complete mastery of the material , as well as becoming masters of the informative essay.
Quiz QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Write the letter of the description next to the correct word.
- Teaching Abolitionism: Document Analysis/Writing Exercise: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
- Teaching Abolitionism: Writing/Illustrating Assignment: The Caning of Charles Sumner
- Teaching the Spanish-American War: Document and Image Analysis: Yellow Journalism
- Teaching the Spanish-American War: Document Analysis: The American Anti-Imperialist League
- Teaching Women's Movements: Quote Analysis: Elisabeth Cady Stanton on the Vote
- Teaching Women's Movements: Statistical Data Analysis: Evaluating the Success of the Movement
- Teaching World War I: Image Analysis & Writing Assignment: Recruiting Soldiers for Trench Warfare
- Teaching World War I: Document Analysis: African Americans and the War
- Teaching World War II: Image Analysis: Portraits of the Enemy
- Teaching World War II: Home Front: Quotation Analysis: The American Experience of War
- Teaching World War II: Home Front: Document Analysis: Roosevelt's Call for Sacrifice
- Teaching Causes of the Civil War: Image Analysis: Northern Representations of the South
- Teaching Causes of the Civil War: Image Analysis/Presentation: Controversial Symbol of Liberty
- Teaching Causes of the Civil War: Decoding Quotations: Lincoln’s Views on Slavery
- Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era: The Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Activity: Image Analysis: The Black Panthers
- Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era: The Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Activity: Document Analysis: Martin Luther King, Jr. versus H. Rap Brown
- Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era: The Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Activity: Discussion/Essay Prompt: Malcolm X
- Teaching Causes of the Cold War: Writing Assignment: Defending Soviet Policies
- Teaching Causes of the Cold War: Video and Image Analysis: Living in the Shadow of the Atomic Bomb
- Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente: The Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Détente Activity: Document Analysis: Khrushchev's letter of 26 October
- Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Detente: The Cold War: Cuban Missile Crisis to Détente Activity: Document, Statistic and Image Analysis: Nixon's Trip to China
- Teaching Cold War: McCarthyism & Red Scare: Glenn Beck & Obama: Is McCarthyism Ancient History?
- Teaching Cold War: McCarthyism & Red Scare: Primary Source Analysis: Truman’s Loyalty-Security Program
- Teaching Cold War: McCarthyism & Red Scare: Quotation Analysis: Paths Not Taken
- Teaching Cold War: McCarthyism & Red Scare: Discussion: Harry Truman’s Atypical Presidency
- Teaching Colonial New England: Document-Based Writing Activity: The Smallpox Inoculation Controversy of 1721
- Teaching Colonial Virginia: Document Activity: Runaway Slave Notices
- Teaching Colonial Virginia: Document/Writing Activity: William Byrd II
- Teaching Colonial Virginia: Document-Based Activity: Bringing Religion to the Slaves
- Teaching the Constitution: Quote Analysis: The Preamble
- Teaching the Constitution: Research Activity: Amending the Constitution
- Teaching the Constitution: Document Analysis: Article IV
- Teaching the Executive Branch & Presidents: Quotation Analysis: The Presidential Office
- Teaching the Executive Branch & Presidents: Quotation Analysis: Presidential Popularity and Reputation
- Teaching FDR's New Deal: Document Analysis: Social Security