Writing explanations can be tricky for children in my experience. Getting them to write how something works can be quite difficult based on getting them to write about a real-life thing which needs lots of technical knowledge.
Previously, I have used the 'Teacher Pleaser Machine' as the stimulus for this type of writing with some good writing gained from it. (http://www.teachprimary.com/learning_resources/view/pie-corbetts-non-fiction-magnificent-machines)
Prior to writing an explanation it is obviously important for them to partake in small creative writing opportunities like:
- Why does the moon have a face?
- Why is a rainbow like an arch?
- Why are snots green?
- Why don't clouds wobble in the wind?
Get the kids thinking creatively and using talk for writing (see article above for example) the children will be able to explain anything easily using their great imaginations. Yes, it is non-fiction but that doesn't mean it has to be based on real facts.
Anyways, Jonny Test - Cartoon Network. He's always up to no good and always asking his sisters to make him something to make his life easier. However, it always goes wrong. Watching this yesterday with my son I realised that nearly every episode I have watched with him include the sisters making some kind of invention which needs explaining. Yesterday was the lawnmower. It has so many buttons and gadgets on it that the children can't help but get carried away with writing an explanation on how it could help Jonny to win the Lawnmower race. This is just one example of how to write explanations in a much more creative way.
- Short phrases created using the questions above
- Talk for writing (including any Alan Peat Exciting Sentences) to get the patterns of language into their brains
- Use the video as a stimulus for them to write an explanation on the lawnmower (possibly have a boring lawnmower in the classroom that you could attach buttons to?)
If you try this in class please let me know. I can't wait for explanations to come up soon so I can teach this!
I'm a deputy head in Scarborough, England and love using media and tech to develop writing. I'm also a keen advocate of Learning Without Limits and believe in a games based approach to developing mathematicians.