A new UK Government took office on 11 May 2010. As a result the content on this site may not reflect current Government policy.
All statutory guidance and legislation published on this site continues to reflect the current legal position unless indicated otherwise.
To view the new website, please visit http://www.education.gov.uk

Year 4 Non-fiction Unit 3 – Explanation

Explanation (2-3 weeks)

This unit is the third in a block of four non-fiction units in Year 4. The unit has three parts, with oral or written outcomes and assessment opportunities at regular intervals. This unit can be linked to other areas of the curriculum such as design and technology. Using the imaginary events of the film The Shirt Machine by Jon Davis, children imagine that they find a ledger belonging to the shirt maker in his shed. This book contains explanations of his machine and is a treasured possession. They will write an explanation of how the extraordinary shirt machine works to ensure that generations of his family can continue to make wonderful shirts.

Phase 1

Read and briefly investigate three different text-types so that children can distinguish between explanatory texts, reports and recounts. Capture ideas through talk and reading and use of different examples of the text-type - on-screen, oral, written and visual.

Phase 2

Children work in pairs to orally explain a process or answer a question. Explore the short film and, through teacher scribing, shared composition and guided writing, develop awareness of the language features of an explanation text (sentence structure, connectives, passive voice). Introduce the writing task.

Phase 3

Use a diagrammatic plan and oral rehearsal to support the writing of an explanation text. Use the conventions developed through modelled and shared writing and response partners and peer marking to develop skills of re-drafting and editing.


  • Read and analyse explanatory texts to identify key features. Distinguish between explanatory texts, reports and recounts while recognising that an information book might contain examples of all these forms of text. Summarise processes carried out in the classroom and on screen in flow charts or cyclical diagrams as appropriate. Scribe an explanation as the children contribute and model the use of paragraphs, connectives and the other key language and structural features appropriate to explanatory writing:
    • purpose (to explain a process or to answer a question)
    • introduction (followed by sequential explanation, organised into paragraphs)
    • language features (usually present tense; use of connectives of time and cause and effect; use of passive voice)
    • presentation (use of diagrams and other illustrations, paragraphing, connectives, subheadings, numbering).
  • Children write explanatory texts from a flow chart or other diagrammatic plan, using the conventions modelled in shared writing.

1998 Framework objectives covered:

Year 4, Term 2: T20 and T24 identify from examples the key features of explanatory texts; improve the cohesion of written explanations through paragraphing and the use of link phrases and organisational devices such as sub-headings and numbering; T25 write explanations of a process, using conventions identified through reading.