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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 3


Close read instructional/procedural texts to the students.

Assessment Resource Bank activity:
How to Make a Plaster Mask
Provide opportunities to discover the differences and the similarities between explanations and instructions:

  • Explanations and instructions include a sequence of events.
  • Instructions usually don't state reasons for the events.
  • Explanations involve the stating of reasons for an activity or process.

Focus attention on the need to add reasons when writing an explanation. Together list the language and text features that will be the focus for later writing.


Set up a vivarium for student observation. Students use a magnifying glass to observe spiders and write a brief explanation of their observations. Discuss how the vivarium may help to find answers to our questions: What we want to find out about spiders.
Collect, observe and make notes on changes for several days.

  • Have any of the spiders died? Why?
  • Have you seen any of our spiders with eggs?
  • Have any spiders been born?
  • Where did the new spiders come from?
  • Where are the eggs?
  • What did you observe through the magnifying glass?
  • At the end of a week summarise the information from the observations. What have we found out about spiders?

Outside the Classroom (this could be a homework activity for a week). The students keep a record of the number of different spiders they see.

Information gathering

Shared reading - read and discuss how the spider uses a web to catch prey.

Discuss different types of webs and how different spiders catch their prey. Discuss how camouflage helps spiders catch their prey and also helps them hide from their enemies.

Shared writing

Teacher models writing an explanation: "How a spider catches its prey". Teacher introduces the explanation_checklist (RTF 16KB) Students identify the checklist points using the teacher modelled writing.
Teacher models how to use a flowchart or  cluster diagram, organising ideas into sequential order, thinking carefully how to start and end the explanation. Model how to select the best and most relevant ideas. Ask students for ideas, encouraging them to participate in the modelling process. Talk about the audience for their writing. Who will read it? How will this affect your planning?

Spider venom

Read How does a spider use its venom?

  • Are all spiders harmful to humans?
  • Do all spiders bite?
  • Which kinds of spiders have been known to kill humans with their bite?
  • If not all spider bites cause death, in what other way can spider bites be harmful?


Students complete venom activity.

Using the explanation model students brainstorm and plan an explanation: "How a spider uses its venom"
Students plan and write their draft explanation and with a peer use the explanation checklist. Students peer_conferencing (RTF 21KB) with each other, commenting on and questioning each other's explanation.

Published on: 26 May 2009