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3 Reporting on the world around us

Cristina Boccia

This chapter turns to reports, a very frequently observed genre in EFL course books for students of different ages and at different levels of instruction. The chapter first describes the social function of reports in our culture, their very close relationship with field and the ways in which different disciplines represent their area of experience. It then concentrates on the typical stages and phases reports unfold along. Our key focus will be on phases – the micro-discourse units that we often find within stages. We will describe the phases that often appear in reports which we have classified as generically or situationally (especially, experientially) motivated.

3.1 What is in a report

Reports are a type of factual writing that push us a little bit away from the familiar, concrete, real-life realm of anecdotes and other personal narrative genres we discussed in Chapter 2. Reports are still one of the primary genres that are often read and written by primary and secondary school students both in their first and additional languages. They are also frequently embedded in other more advanced genres (often called knowledge genres), recontextualized at the service of more complex textual functions.[1]

The purpose of reports is to describe “‘the way the world is’, or more accurately, how information about our world is organized in various disciplines” (Christie et al., 1990a, p. 2). Martin and Rose tell us that reports “generalize about things and processes by classifying and describing” (2008, pp. 140-1). They distinguish between descriptive, classifying and compositional reports. Polias describes genres such as reports as “concerned with representing the world in scientifically technical ways. They construct taxonomies of varying kinds, and they provide definitions and exemplifications of natural phenomena” (2016, p. 24).

So we can say that reports offer a way of documenting and storing information about specialist fields of knowledge. They give factual information that is organized in particular ways according to the natural or non-natural phenomena that reports are about.

Reports have always been a very common genre in the EFL context, even if they are not identified as such. Often, course books include ‘texts’ about different areas of experience (plants, animals, festivals, a city, a system) that describe and classify entities without clearly identifying the text as a report. They are often confused with descriptions, which are really about single entities, for example, about a particular plant I have in my garden, not about the olive tree as a type of tree. We will pick up this distinction later on, as it is an important one.

For the last five years or so, the EFL course books used in our local context, especially those with a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) orientation, have included reports as one of their key genres. Even when the texts are not always explicitly referred to as such, they are, in fact, clearly reports. This makes sense given that subject content about the world is taught using the target language and cultures communicate knowledge about different domains in the world through reports, among other genres, of course.

The CLIL approach holds that if what we teach is meaningful and educational in itself, language becomes a significant means to learn subject knowledge. So both subject knowledge and language itself become objects of our teaching. In this way, we take up one of the key invitations Halliday makes when he says that students come into contact with language in the course of their schooling and they learn language, through language and about language (1993, p. 93). Reports are excellent carriers of subject knowledge: we can learn about the world as we learn a foreign language and about it.

We analyzed nine series of course books widely used in state and private primary schools in our local context[2] and tried to determine the role reports are assigned as a teaching and learning object in the units and lessons, and the textual and linguistic features of the typical reports we examined. We then compared them to authentic samples from different areas of experience, especially on animals, plants, cities, festivals and the environment.[3] The description of the features of reports we include in this chapter is based on these authentic samples that are written for young students – children and early adolescents. Our purpose is to show that relatively simple reports that we can use already at lower levels of EFL instruction do reflect the typical features of an authentic report.

We analyzed the reports and described their generic and situational (field, tenor and mode) features, the key meanings made as the texts unfold and the concrete language resources used. We drew on studies that have been conducted on reports in the SFL context, including Christie et al. (1990 a. and b.), Macken-Horarik (1990), Martin and Rose (2008), Coffin and Donahue (2014), Llinares and Morton (2017) and Polias (2016).

As we examined reports in EFL course books, we found that they are about a variety of fields. These are some of the preliminary observations on the distribution of fields that reports are typically about at different levels of instruction and for students at different ages:

  • the animal world is one of the first fields of reports for young children;
  • as the instructional level and the age increase, animals are less frequently the entities that are reported on (except for wild or exotic animals);
  • plants, trees and the environment are likely to show up after animals;
  • more social topics such as celebrations, traditions, festivals follow;
  • astronomy (e.g. the solar system) is often included in children’s textbooks;
  • topics that are related to ‘extremes’: extreme weather, extreme experiences, survival features in animals, were all observed in books for children and especially teenagers;
  • personal and social well-being, as nutrition and food chains, start to appear toward late adolescence and adulthood;
  • the arts, history of films are often reported on in books for adults;
  • cultural and social aspects of the world become the key fields in reports for adult learners.

Within each of these fields, the key entities that are objects of reports are classified and described in the sciences in different ways. The most basic criteria according to which natural phenomena, for example, can be classified are their observable, commonsense characteristics. So an animal can be classified based on what is visible to the eye, to our common-sense knowledge of the world. What is observable is a good starting point, but it will take us only so far in the classification and description of the natural world. We can also move away from the common-sense and help students to identify other less visible criteria that are used by scientists to classify phenomena. We can help them to identify this criteria as they read reports and specify it when they produce a report.

Learning to understand and produce reports involves learning how the culture ‘packages’ information about the world (natural, social, cultural). Reports are texts that require both learning about the genre and about the way in which cultures classify and describe phenomena. The content is typically organized in terms of classification (types of …), composition (parts and wholes), attributes, and the activity sequences that the entities in the field are involved in (what activities the participants – people and things – are engaged in and under what circumstances).

As a direct reflection of these features of field, reports can be of three main types, often found in combination: descriptive (what things or phenomena are like), classificatory (classes and members) and compositional (wholes and parts).

According to Martin and Rose (2008, pp. 142-149), these types of reports go through the following stages:

Let’s look at the following sample texts:[4]

Text 1

To be immune (say: ih-MYOON) means to be protected. So it makes sense that the body system that helps fight off sickness is called the immune system. The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body.

White blood cells, also called leukocytes (say: LOO-kuh-sytes), are part of this defense system. There are two basic types of these germ-fighting cells:

  • phagocytes (say: FAH-guh-sytes), which chew up invading germs
  • lymphocytes (say: LIM-fuh-sytes), which allow the body to remember and recognize previous invaders

Leukocytes are found in lots of places, including your spleen, an organ in your belly that filters blood and helps fight infections. Leukocytes also can be found in bone marrow, which is a thick, spongy jelly inside your bones.

Your lymphatic (say: lim-FAH-tik) system is home to these germ-fighting cells, too. You’ve encountered your lymphatic system if you’ve ever had swollen “glands” on the sides of your neck, like when you have a sore throat. Although we call them “glands,” they are actually lymph nodes, and they contain clusters of immune system cells. Normally, lymph nodes are small and round and you don’t notice them. But when they’re swollen, it means your immune system is at work.

Lymph nodes work like filters to remove germs that could make you sick. Lymph nodes, and the tiny channels that connect them to each other, contain lymph, a clear fluid with leukocytes (white blood cells) in it. Besides your neck, where else do you have lymph nodes? Behind your knees, in your armpits, and in your groin — just to name a few.

So you have this great system in place. Is it enough to keep you from getting sick? Well, everyone gets sick sometimes. But your immune system helps you get well again. And if you’ve had your shots (also called vaccines), your body is extra-prepared to fight off serious illnesses that your immune system alone might not handle very well. If you get the shot that covers measles, for instance, it can protect you from getting measles, if you’re ever exposed to it. […]

 

Date reviewed: May 2015 [1]

 

www.kidshealth.org/en/kids/immune.html · ©1995-2019. The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Reprinted with permission.


This first sample text about the immune system refers both to parts of the system (cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect the body) and to two types of cells that fight germs (phagocytes and lymphocytes). Both composition and classification are used to explain how our immune system works. The text then moves on to describe leukocytes and their role in the lymphatic system. So reporting on the immune system involves referring to some of its parts (cells, tissues and organs), further specifying types of cells involved (phagocytes and lymphocytes) and describing leukocytes and their role.[5]

Let’s now consider Text 2:

Text 2

Elephants are large, majestic animals that have been admired and studied for hundreds of years. They are the largest mammal that lives on land and are known for their gentle attitude and intelligence.

While these elephants don’t have many predators, there is one threat that is quickly endangering them. Read on to find out more facts about elephants.

What are the characteristics of an elephant?

Elephants belong to the mammal family, which means that they have hair, give birth to live young, and feed their babies milk. They have large, thin ears that are used to help cool them down, and have long, powerful trunks. Their trunks can grow to be about six feet long, and can sense the size, shape, and temperature of an object.

Elephants use their trunks to help them lift up food, and they also use them to suck up water and pour it into their mouth.

There are two types of elephants: the Asian elephant and the African elephant. Both female and male African elephants have tusks which they use to help find and dig for food. Only the male Asian elephant has tusks. They also use their tusks to help dig for water.

Elephants can grow over 13 feet tall and weigh up to 15,000 pounds. I hope they don’t break the scale!

Where do elephants live?

While elephants are common in zoos all over the world, they naturally live in Africa and Asia. Elephants prefer to stay near water, but can be found in a few different habitats like savannahs, marshes, deserts, and forests.

What do elephants like to eat?

Elephants are herbivores, which means that they only eat plants. Because an elephant is so large, it needs to eat a lot of plants in order to get full. Elephants can spend up to 16 hours a day collecting and eating leaves, twigs, bamboo, and roots.

Do any predators go after elephants?

Elephants have no natural predators in the wild, although sometimes lions will attack young or weak elephants in the herd. Sadly, the biggest threat to elephants is humans. Humans hurt elephants through poaching them for their ivory tusks as well as by changing or destroying their habitat.

Currently, the African elephant is labeled as Vulnerable while the Asian elephant is labeled as Endangered.

Do elephants live together?

Female elephants spend their entire lives living together with other females and calves. These family groups are led by a single elephant, known as the matriarch, who is usually the oldest female. Male elephants will live with the herd until they are about 13 years old.

Once they get to this age, they leave the herd and mainly live alone for the rest of their life. Elephants can live up to 70 years old in the wild.

Quick Facts:

  • Elephants are mammals
  • There are two types of elephants: African elephants and Asian elephants
  • Elephants are herbivores and eat leaves, twigs, roots and bamboo
  • Females and calves live together in herds
  • They can live up to 70 years in the wild

 

Elephants are gentle animals whose intelligence is similar to apes and chimpanzees. They are the largest land mammal and many of them live together in social herds and families.

Although many elephants are threatened by humans, they can also be saved by humans. It is up to us to spread awareness about these beautiful creatures. [2]

 

www.coolkidfacts.com/elephant-facts · Reprinted with permission

Text 2 is a typical descriptive report. An initial descriptive definition of an elephant is provided (Elephants are large, majestic animals that have been admired and studied for hundreds of years. They are the largest mammal that lives on land […]); they are then classified as mammals and several aspects of elephants are described in the rest of the report: their appearance (including body parts, size, weight and height), habitat, eating habits, social behavior and other interesting facts.

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3.2 The textual structure of reports

We will illustrate the structure of descriptive reports focusing mainly on reports on animals, such as Text 2. Reports typically go through two general stages: classification and description.

  • Classification (or General Statement): The type of animal is identified, defined and positioned with respect to other animals in terms of classification, that is, the type or kind of animal it is.
  • Description: The animal is described, typically in terms of its appearance (color, size, height, weight) and its parts; very often, these features are described according to their function. The habits of the animal (feeding, survival, reproductive behavior) are also described.

This general organization involves information that expresses:

  • Types and members of a class: types of animals, machinery, food, weather, land;
  • Composition: parts of an animal, a computer, a cell, a river, moments in a festival;
  • Activity sequences: animals’ eating habits: they smell, follow their prey, catch their prey, eat it up.

Reports sometimes finish off with an optional statement that foregrounds outstanding features of the animal, their endangered status or their standing as threats to humans or the larger ecosystem. This final stage is very common in reports, the so-called green reports that not only contain factual information on an animal (or other phenomena related to the natural world, for example), but also explore its relationship to humans or the wider ecosystem. There is clearly an ideology added to the factual representation of the entity in an educational context. Texts 1 and 2 illustrate this final optional stage, in which an appeal is made more or less explicitly:

Healthy kids can help their immune systems by washing their hands regularly to prevent infections, eating nutritious foods, getting plenty of exercise, getting enough sleep, and getting regular medical checkups. And if you feel great today, thank your immune system! [1]

Although many elephants are threatened by humans, they can also be saved by humans. It is up to us to spread awareness about these beautiful creatures. [2]

Scientists are also trying to teach people how to stop problems like this before they start. People should not release their pets into the wild. It’s best to keep animals in the habitats where they belong! [3]

How much we want to encourage this final wrap-up will depend on the work we are conducting with our students. If we are studying or reporting on phenomena, we may wish just to keep the report informational. Yet, if we are also working with our students to raise their own or other people’s awareness of certain aspects of or threats to the world around us, we may wish to include this final stage that will make the report not only an informative text, but also a proposal for action to be taken.

Sample Text 2 illustrates most of the features of a typical report on animals:

Table 3.1 Stages and phases in a report on elephants.

As we can see in Table 3.1 above, a lot more can be said in terms of how the text unfolds than the basic ‘Classification / General Statement ˄ Description’ sequence. We need to look into the text in more detail to describe exactly how the text is organized. This further specification will clearly depend on the subject matter we are reporting on. In the case of Sample 2, on elephants, the stage Description opens up into the appearance (general and special features, body parts and their purpose, height and weight) and the behavior (eating habits, dangers, social behavior) of elephants. These smaller, more delicate units within the more stable stages are called phases. As we incorporate them into our description of reports, we are drawing upon the notion of phases as introduced by Gregory (2002), Martin and Rose (2007, 2008, 2012), Malcolm (2010) and applied by Coffin and Donahue (2014) and Humphrey and Economou (2015).

The phases illustrated in Table 3.1 above are clearly experientially motivated. The sample text is on an animal, so it makes sense that the description includes phases about the appearance of an elephant (parts, size, height, for example). If we were reporting on an entity from a very different area of experience as, for example, the role of communication technology in our society, we could review, for instance, types of communication technology and their impact on different social relations (family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances); if our report were on a city, we would go through phases related, for example, to its geographical setting, historical highlights, cultural and tourist attractions. The point is that even if these phases are not as stable as the stages Martin and Rose distinguish for descriptive, classificatory and compositional reports mentioned above, they are very productive in terms of teaching and learning. Students will greatly benefit from being able to explicitly visualize how experiential information can be packaged into smaller areas of experience. To label them, we can use the more accessible and effective questions, as in the column to the right in Table 3.1 above or else, help students to capture the areas of experience using nouns (as in the middle column above) that Martin (2013, p. 25) calls power words. They express specialized or technical meanings and help organize the text around them. They are typically expressed by abstractions, nominalizations and experiential metaphors.

We will now move on to discuss another type of phase that is not motivated by the subject matter the report is about and can thus be observed in reports across disciplinary fields.

Let’s observe the following examples, particularly the highlighted sections of the texts:

Alpacas are woolly mammals related to camels and llamas. These herding animals live in the Peruvian Andes Mountains of western South America, in grasslands and scrub at altitudes from 12,800 to 15,000 feet. Alpacas are semi-domesticated mammals that are smaller than llamas. The alpaca may be a cross between the llama and the vicuña, or the descendant of the wild guanaco. A young alpaca is called a cria. [5]

Producers in ecosystems are typically photosynthetic organisms, such as plants, algae and cyanobacteria.

Lymph nodes work like filters to remove germs that could make you sick. Lymph nodes, and the tiny channels that connect them to each other, contain lymph, a clear fluid with leukocytes (white blood cells) in it. [1]

Elephants eat salt to stay healthy. [2]

The highlighted sections in the examples above fulfill functions in reports across different subject matters so they are not experientially motivated, but rather dependent upon and functional to the generic stages in which they appear. We have included examples that define, exemplify and compare specialized phenomena with more familiar experience and, finally, an example that expresses the purpose of a body part or behavior. Here we illustrate each phase with an additional example:

These functions that are fulfilled typically at the clause or below the clause level (that is, main or dependent clauses, groups or phrases) help the stage to fulfill its purpose. For example, the initial, General Statement stage of a report will, almost necessarily, define the type of phenomena it reports on. So within the stage we observe the phase definition in which the entity is set apart from other phenomena in the natural world and its key features are defined.

Alpacas are woolly mammals related to camels and llamas. These herding animals live in the Peruvian Andes Mountains of western South America, in grasslands and scrub at altitudes from 12,800 to 15,000 feet. Alpacas are semi-domesticated mammals that are smaller than llamas. The alpaca may be a cross between the llama and the vicuña, or the descendant of the wild guanaco. A young alpaca is called a cria. [5]

In Text 5, the initial generalizations about the alpaca include three definitions that describe and classify the animal in different ways. Definitions are critical in this stage of a report as they effectively single out the phenomenon that is the object of the report.

Teaching our students explicitly how they can define, exemplify, compare or express purpose will help them to fulfill more effectively the functionality of a particular stage in the report. It will help them to know more specifically what to do when they write a report.

We will briefly go over the ways two of these phases are expressed in a report – defining and expressing purpose.

3.2.1 Singling out and defining phenomena

A key function that is typically fulfilled in the first Classification stage of a report is to define the entity the report is about. Defining is an important function: it identifies exactly the area of experience the entity belongs to, mentioning its distinguishing features, class or membership, attributes or name by which it is known. In terms of knowledge construction, definitions establish the uniqueness of a particular element. So very early in a report, the area of experience is clearly set apart or distinguished from other areas of experience and then described in more detail in the rest of the report. The definition phase is closely connected to the generic functionality of reports and it is quite stable across different fields. That is, it does not really depend on field variations, it responds to the generic function of the text. It is a phase that we can observe in other genres as well when some type of phenomenon or area of experience is introduced into a text and the writer considers it is necessary to clearly indicate its distinctness within the wider realm of experience. We can define an object we come across in the context of an anecdote, the technical aspect of a sci-fi movie we are commenting on in a review (for example, the score, the special effects), a specialized term included in an argument we build in an exposition. So defining is a function fulfilled across a variety of genres. The analysis of definitions in this chapter draws upon work by authors such as Flowerdew (1991, 1992), Harvey (1999), Unsworth (2005) and Polias (2016).

As we approach definitions in functional terms, we see that there are three basic elements in a typical definition, as Flowerdew (1991, p. 255) points out:

This would be a typical definition containing all three basic elements. Upon examining definitions in a wide range of reports with varying degrees of difficulty, we have identified the following types which fulfill the same general function of ‘defining’, only that they do this in slightly different ways: [6]

  • Elephants are the largest mammals on land.
  • Lion fish are an invasive species.
  • Bottlenose dolphins use echolocation – sounds they make that bounce back.
  • Sauropod means ‘lizard feet’. It had five toes, like a lizard.
  • A special path called a wildlife crossing can help them cross safely.

If we look carefully at the ways in which the examples above do their job, we can further specify that definitions can:

  • express the exact equivalent of an entity or phenomenon (definite noun group; superlatives)
    • The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the longest venomous snake in the world. 
    • The eye is the center of the hurricane.
    • The heart is the organ responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. 
    • Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products.
  • assign an entity to a larger population or class that it shares attributes with (indefinite noun group with pre and post-modification)
    • Lion fish are an invasive species.
    • The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is an extremely venomous snake of the family Elapidae, and native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
    • The sambas is a unique Brazilian music.
    • A hurricane is a big storm.
  • specify the meaning of the word that names the phenomena (verbs like mean, stand for, come from)
    • The word ‘Halloween’ literally means ‘the evening before All Hallows Day’ or ‘All Saint’s Day’, celebrated on November 1. 
    • ‘Songkran’ means ‘the shift of the sun from one side of the zodiac to the other’.
    • Its name, ‘octopus’, comes from two Greek words that mean ‘eight feet’.
  • specify a thing or entity by restating it (apposition)
    • Bottlenose dolphins use echolocation – sounds they make that bounce back.
    • They even have an otherworldly ability: echolocation, a way to ‘see’ by bouncing sound waves of high-speed clicks off objects hundreds of yards away.
    • Except for the monotremes (an egg-laying order of mammals comprising echidnas and the duck-billed platypus), all mammals are viviparous — they bear live young.
  • specify what a phenomenon is called (verbs like called, known as, named)
    • Many plant-eating mammals live in groups, called herds.
    • All of these are examples of biomes, the term used to describe the large-scale, global ecosystems.
    • Anemones, also known as windflowers, are a diverse group, with various species blooming in spring and fall.

Definitions can vary in terms of the amount of information they specify. Let’s consider the following examples:

  • Alpacas are semi-domesticated mammals.
  • Rio is a four-day festival which takes place every year forty days before Easter.
  • Alpacas are woolly mammals related to camels and llamas.

The first example assigns alpacas to a general kind of animal; alpacas are specified in terms of membership to a larger class and thus assigned the attributes of that class. The second example defines Rio as a festival and further expands the information provided in terms of when it takes place. The third example, again on alpacas, specifies the class to which alpacas belong: they are mammals and carriers of an attribute – wooly. The definition is then expanded by comparing alpacas to camels and llamas and thus assigning to them the attributes they share with these animals.

So a definition can be described as including some or most of the following elements:

entity defined + class + specification + exemplification + comparison + contrast + location …

As becomes clear in the examples we have been discussing, most of the information in a definition is provided in a very compact manner, mostly within a nominal group. This is one of the richest grammar segments in English in which a good amount of information can be packed via pre- and post-modification. In Chapter 4, reference is also made to the noun group and its power to pack information more or less densely in oral and written texts.

As Polias states, the “grammatical structure [of a definition] is quite simple because they are set up as an equation […] on one side is the technical word to be defined, and on the other is the wording that defines the technical word” (2016, p. 122). What will be fleshed out in more detail below is the wordings that define the technical word. In the following simple example, elephants are defined in an attributive clause that includes a noun group with the head animals that is pre-modified by a describer[7] and post-modified by a qualifier that adds information that further specifies it.

Pre- and post-modification can become more complex as more information is packed, making the noun group denser in terms of the meanings made:

Making the structure of a typical noun group explicit to students in functional terms can help them to exploit the noun group slot. We can show what its key functional parts are, as shown below:

We have correlated the meaning made (pointing in definite or indefinite terms, enumerating, describing, classifying and qualifying) and the concrete wordings in the grammar that are used to express those meanings.

Defining is a central function fulfilled in many kinds of texts: specialized and more common-sense, elemental and educational. We can explicitly show our students that this can be done in a variety of ways depending on the needs of our text. Depending on how we decide to define, we will resort to specific resources of the language, for example, the very powerful noun group that can help us to combine plenty of information and effectively single out an entity or an area of experience.

3.2.2 Expressing function

As phenomena that belong to the natural, social, technological world are described, their purpose or the purpose of their parts is often specified[8], as in the following examples:

  • Elephants eat salt to stay healthy.
  • It’s normally quite cold in November in Britain, so on Bonfire Night people wear hats, scarves and gloves to spend the evening outside.
  • The mother leaves the burrow to look for food.
  • Platelets, which are microscopic discs, help in blood clotting.
  • Blood is pumped around the body by the heart.
  • All female mammals have mammary glands which produce milk.

All these examples express more or less explicitly the purpose of phenomena, their parts (the heart, platelets) or actions they are associated with (eating salt, wearing warm clothes, leaving the burrow). Cause and purpose are important meanings in science, and they relate parts and their function, processes and their purpose, behaviors and their purpose. Science tries to explain the why of things; this function can be the key function of the clause as in

This elephant is using its trunk to pick leaves to eat

or it can be a meaning that can be unburied from the representation of experience that is expressed, as in

Elephants also smell, feel and grab things with their trunks.

This last statement is centrally about the activities that elephants can perform and the means (their trunks) with which these actions are carried out. We can, of course, restate the information focusing explicitly on the function of their trunks and say Elephants have long trunks to smell, feel and grab things. How information is expressed will depend on the representation of experience that is foregrounded according to the needs in the text.

Table 3.2 below includes examples in which purpose is expressed and the experiential information associated with this meaning has been highlighted.

Table 3.2 Expressing purpose in reports.

The examples displayed in Table 3.2 illustrate different ways of expressing purpose. The purpose phase in reports will typically occur in the Description stage of the text, sometimes very systematically, for example, in compositional reports in which the parts of a whole are described and each, in turn, is related to the function it fulfills. Consider this section from Text 1:

White blood cells, also called leukocytes (say: LOO-kuh-sytes), are part of this defense system. There are two basic types of these germ-fighting cells:

-phagocytes (say: FAH-guh-sytes), which chew up invading germs

-lymphocytes (say: LIM-fuh-sytes), which allow the body to remember and recognize previous invaders

Leukocytes are found in lots of places, including your spleen, an organ in your belly that filters blood and helps fight infections. Leukocytes also can be found in bone marrow, which is a thick, spongy jelly inside your bones. [1]

The examples in Table 3.2 have been organized from top down in terms of decreasing degree of explicitness of the expression of purpose as follows:

The amount of time that we devote with our students to reviewing all of these choices will depend on our students’ level of instruction. Yet once the function of the phase is identified, it is always useful for them to become aware of the language choices with which they can express the meanings (purpose, in this case) they wish to make. At an intermediate level of instruction, for example, they should be able to both identify and express purpose using non-finite infinitive of purpose or finite relative/dependent clauses as in:

  • They flap their ears to cool down.
  • All female mammals have mammary glands which produce milk.

They already have a choice here. And if students just wish to describe the actions performed by the animal, as in

When it is time, the female digs a burrow where she lays her eggs. The baby platypuses stay safe in the burrow for 3 to 4 months.

they can be made aware that the focus of the experience they are recreating is the events themselves – the behavior of the female platypus as it takes care of its young – and not, centrally, their purpose.

3.2.3 Getting more interpersonal

We will now move on to consider another characteristic of authentic reports that is often reflected in phases in the text, especially those that are addressed to children and adolescents and also in EFL course books.

Reports are genres written by an objective voice aimed at transmitting and storing information about the world. When reports are addressed to children or young teenagers, the writer often adopts a more personal voice, directly addressing the young reader. The purpose of this direct address can be twofold: to invite and engage the reader’s attention and, also importantly, to actively involve the reader in the exploration of experience. Let’s consider the ways in which the writer in the following examples addresses the readers more personally, engaging them in information that is exciting or interesting and/or including and involving them in the careful observation of experience:

  • Beware of This Fish!
  • Hug Someone Else, Please!
  • Elephants can grow over 13 feet tall and weigh up to 15,000 pounds. I hope they don’t break the scale!
  • But in fact, the world’s largest animal ever is not an extinct dinosaur.
  • It’s as large as a small car […] [its] streamlined body, which is an astonishing 100 feet (30 meters).

  • One might think that a blue whale […]
  • Most of us agree on the essential features of a tree.
  • […] look and listen and you will find evidence of other occupants of the forest.
  • Ever notice how your muscles grow tense when you’re anxious or your heart races when you get scared?
  • Here’s a question for you: What animal weighs more than ten adult elephants and has a heart the size of a small car?
  • What is a tree?
  • What about cycads, palms, yuccas, cacti, tree ferns and other such tall, long-lived plants?
  • We have seen that organisms […]

The first group of examples illustrates how the writer tries to draw and hold the attention of readers by expressing or invoking attitude in an exclamation, the first of which is also a command or by using attitudinal language and intensifying it (largest animal ever, astonishing). So the report is doing more than representing the world as it is. The author is also recording his/her own reactions to the world in an attempt to engage its readers.

In the second group of examples, we can observe attempts by the writer to actively involve the reader in the observation of the experience reported on. There is a call by the writer to think, to look and listen, to go back, to notice, to answer questions. All these mental activities position the reader as an active observer, thinker and recorder of reality along with the writer.

These interpersonal efforts occur typically as the report opens or in the Description stage. Within this latter stage, we find these brief phases in which the writer connects to the reader to engage his/her interest or to involve him/her in the observation of phenomena. The language resources used are fairly simple: imperatives with the reader as subject, attitudinal language and intensifiers, interrogatives and inclusive pronouns (typically we, us, our).

Even when interpersonal phases are, in fact, a feature of authentic reports for young audiences, we can decide how much we wish to make of them in our classroom. EFL course books seem to make an effort to make reports as friendly and accessible to students as possible. This makes sense, particularly with young learners. Yet, we can also consider the extent to which we wish to avoid exposing students to the type of reading and writing that more directly resembles the texts of science, especially in higher education: texts that store and transmit specialized, factual information on the world, without an explicit interpersonal intrusion in the text by the voice of the writer and his/her subjectivity. We may be surprised at how much more they can enjoy the experience of reading and writing like scientists.

3.3 More about reports in EFL textbooks

We will now briefly consider two aspects related to reports as we have observed them in the context of EFL course books: the relationship between descriptions and reports, and the recontextualization of reports within or as other genres.

As we know from our experience as EFL teachers, description is one of the elemental or primary genres that our students read and write early on in their schooling. Describing concrete and familiar objects or places related to their family, friends, school or neighborhood draws upon very basic language resources and helps students to talk or write about the world around them and share part of their experience. Descriptions are a very important genre, actually, one of the building blocks students will be using to embed in other, more advanced genres later on during their education and professional lives. Descriptions focus on concrete, individual entities: their room, their pet, a soccer ball they got for their birthday, a mountain creek they paddled through over the weekend. Reports are generic, they classify and describe generic entities or phenomena: small puppies, sports gear, rivers and creeks. The transition toward reports can be simple enough, particularly if we are aware of the differences between them and descriptions. As we observe course books for children and young learners, we find that the opportunity to move students forward to reading or writing reports is often missed. Let’s briefly review some of the key differences between these two genres and the experience they represent:

As we can see, getting our students to read and write descriptions is, in turn, very useful for reports as well: as we describe our pet, for example, we will give it a name (and distinguish it from all other dogs), describe its parts, its behavior, its salient features and probably how we feel about it. As its parts are described, a top-bottom or head-tail organization might be followed, for example. If we make all the criteria explicit, we will be doing a lot of work that will already be useful for our students to take the step of writing about ‘dogs’ as a generic species. This will move them away from what is exclusively familiar, concrete, here-and-now experience to a more generic, abstract, general experience of the world. These are opportunities we may wish to take even when our course book does not explicitly call for a report.

We will not go into detail to describe the concrete wordings that each genre includes. In general terms the differences and similarities are:

Interestingly, we have observed that a learner at a low level of instruction in EFL can already write a report. The following language resources will do:

  • present tense
  • verb ‘to be’ (to define, classify and describe appearance)
  • verb ‘to have’ (to identify whole and parts)
  • auxiliary ‘can’ to express ability (to describe behavior)
  • adjectives (to describe features)
  • adverbs (to describe behavior)
  • simple imperatives (to express appeal)

These very simple resources can take us a long way to write good, effective reports.

A final feature of reports as we have observed them in EFL course books is that they are very often recontextualized or embedded in other, more interpersonally driven ones. As we reviewed series of course books, particularly those with a CLIL orientation, we noticed that reports are often included as stages or phases in other genres, seldom identified as a genre, and simply called ‘texts’. We have found reports embedded in:

  • a radio report
  • a fact file
  • a personal card or e-mail to a friend (with reports on hometown festivals, animals, etc.)
  • a reference book
  • a brief magazine article
  • a recount or an anecdote

These variations often involve an adjustment in mode and in tenor, that is, a shift away from the typical written-like mode and impersonal, objective tenor of authentic reports toward a more oral-like mode and friendlier tenor. These adjustments, of course, make sense as an attempt to make the texts more attractive to young readers. Yet, as we pointed out earlier in the section on interpersonal phases, we can also remember that young students need, and often really enjoy, reading and producing texts that are factual and specialized, very much like the ones they will be exposed to intensively and asked to produce in higher education.

Including reports in our EFL teaching and learning has numerous advantages, both for the teaching of language resources – meanings and lexico-grammatical resources – as for the transmission, generation and processing of knowledge about so many aspects of experience. Reports are contexts in which the world our children already enjoy talking about or aspects of experience we wish to expose them to, make them think about or take action on can be brought into the classroom. Reports involve understanding how these aspects of experience, for example, animals, belong to hugely complex systems; how the parts they are composed of fulfill fascinating functions; how they have evolved and adapted; how they relate to, depend upon and are affected by humans. Just to illustrate the educational potential of reports, we will mention some of the questions that came up as we analyzed reports on plants and animals with young readers in mind. They are charged with ideology that clearly underlies the way experience is represented in reports on animals and plants:

  • How can we live better and in close contact with the natural world?
  • How can we be safe and still have lots of fun as we enjoy the natural world?
  • What good habits and rules should we observe as we live in close contact with the natural world?
  • What can we do to protect and save the natural world close around us?
  • What are our responsibilities toward it?
  • What common, everyday actions of ours can be harmful to animals or plants?
  • Which can be beneficial?

Talking about, thinking actively about cities, festivals and celebrations in other cultures, technology, health and education can bring interesting and engaging aspects of experience into our classroom. And as all these windows to the world open, language becomes the means to construe all these meanings. As Halliday put it, we come full circle as our students “learn language, learn about language and through language” (1993, p. 93).

In this chapter we have attempted to describe the way reports are organized into stages and phases to fulfill their social function of storing and transmitting information about the world. We decided to concentrate on one field, mainly the animal and plant world. We hope this has simplified the presentation of material and not just limited our scope. We trust you will be able to extend our analysis and description to reports on other fields of experience. We have also left out the discussion of a key feature of reports: the critical role that images, graphs, tables and other visuals play as meaning-making resources that work to complement or to add to the meanings made through language. This would have gone way beyond our scope in this book. Very detailed and appliable descriptions of visuals in reports are being developed by Unsworth (still unpublished) which should be available soon. For now, the description of how reports are structured will hopefully take us far enough.

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3.4 Teaching reports

The following ideas are suggestions for classroom practice that we have developed as we analyzed authentic sample texts and examined EFL teaching and learning course books. They are intended to work well with the material typically designed for use in EFL classrooms. Most of them are targeted to students at a pre-intermediate level of instruction but can be adjusted in almost all cases to higher levels. We have also included some activities having students at higher levels of instruction in mind, as will become readily apparent. We have organized them following the teaching and learning cycle for the production of texts reviewed in Chapter 1 (Martin and Rothery, 1991). We have included at least two sample activities for each stage in the cycle.

3.4.1 Building up field

Learning to understand and produce reports involves learning how the culture ‘packages’ information about the world. So building and understanding field is an important part of the teaching and learning of this genre. Actually, the way in which we initially discuss phenomena, their classification and composition will already be very useful to prepare students to organize their reports in field specific phases. Reports, as we have seen, unfold in stages and, equally importantly, in phases that reflect key features of the aspect of experience they are about.

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Finding information and organizing it

Reflecting with students on where knowledge about a phenomenon can be obtained will help them to critically consider the sources of information they can consult, that is, the typical places (printed and digital) that a culture uses to store sources. Additionally, we can discuss with them what makes a source more or less reliable. Finally, recording these sources in simple, straightforward ways so that they can be acknowledged in their work is an essential skill in their literacy development that should ideally become a habitual practice.

Students could receive guidelines in a task sheet along the following lines:

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Reporting on animal and plant life in Mendoza

We will write a descriptive report on animals and plants native to Mendoza which will appear in an ad on Mendoza as a fun destination for adventure tourism for teenagers.

Getting the information

  • You are in charge of finding information about an animal that is native to Mendoza and that you think your readers will find attractive or interesting in some way. Decide what animal you want to write about.
  • Find information about and images of this animal. As you look through the material you find, consider the book, magazine, blog, encyclopedia you are taking the information from. Is it a good source for the text you need to write and the audience that will read it?
  • Keep careful track of the information on the source you consulted so that you can list these sources.

Organizing the information

Organize the information you find in terms of aspects related to the animal you choose, for example:

  • Clearly define and classify your animal
  • What kind of animal is it? What family does it belong to?
  • Where does it live? What is its habitat?
  • What does it look like? What are its more striking features and parts?
  • If you describe its parts, try to relate them to their important functions.
  • What are the animal’s eating, reproductive, communication habits?
  • Try to highlight curious or distinctive features of this animal.
  • Is it endangered? What is its relation to the larger ecosystem?

Organizing the information you collect in these areas or aspects will already help you to organize your report. Ideally, try to find images that show whatever is special about the animal you choose.

This could be an important first preparatory step related to the subject matter students will be writing about. This type of activity can be used at several different moments during the genre teaching and learning cycle:before reading the first sample text(s) for students to become acquainted with the genre, before writing jointly with the teacher and finally, before independent writing.

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Getting ready to read or write a report

Before reading a sample report or getting ready to write one, we jointly construe the field the text is or will be about. If a report will be on a particular festival, for example, we can brainstorm with our students what they already know about it based on their knowledge or on some research they were asked to do at home, before class. As students contribute bits of information on different aspects of the festival, we can make sketchy notes on the board, we can start to organize the information in terms of different aspects of a typical festival, or we can ask students to organize the information themselves in tables, something like the following:

As you can see, simple questions or noun groups (typically power words) may be used to capture the information they can list. Once the whole class, students in group, or each student organizes all the information in the table, they already have a good plan for the report they will write. The questions or labels could become subheadings in their report.

3.4.2 Modelling the text

As was described in Chapter 1, this is a critical stage in the pedagogy in terms of helping students become familiar with the way the text unfolds in stages and phases to fulfill its function. It is in this stage that we spend all the time we need in the context of EFL on the teaching and learning of the language resources used in the genre. We make sure our students come to understand how the text does what it does and, equally importantly, what meanings are made and what the language choices we can choose from are. We already described the pedagogy as being very much a front-loading one, that is, one that attempts to anticipate all the teaching and learning that needs to be done before students are asked to write a text and be evaluated. It is, in fact, a way of avoiding the frustration involved in intense corrective feedback. We will suggest some activities to (a) model the structure and some others to (b) work with language.

a. Modelling structure

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Putting the text together

As we know, modelling the structure of the text is a key purpose of this stage in the pedagogy. A simple and effective activity is to give each student or pair of students strips of paper with different sections of a report for them to organize in the order they think would make more sense or else to give them a printed sheet with the stages of a report in the wrong order for them to number as they should be ordered.

We can use a text like the one below. Its full version is available at:

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www.coolkidfacts.com/giraffe-facts-for-kids · Reprinted with permission.

A sample text like this can be cut into sections with or without the subheadings (Where do they live? What do they eat and drink? What do they look like? Funny giraffe facts). Students can organize the sections and then add a subheading to each of them.

We can also give them strips with questions that are answered in each section so they match the question with a section, for example:

  • How tall can a giraffe be? How heavy? How much can they weigh? (size, weight, height)
  • Where do they live? What kind of place dod they like to live in? (habitat)
  • How do they behave? Are they social? Do they sleep a lot? Do they play or fight? (behavior, habits, socialization)

We can also give them words (what we called power words, above) that they can use to label each section or use as a subheading, such as: habitat, eating habits, behavior, funny facts.

This particular report has beautiful pictures that correspond to certain sections of the text, for example, the huge size of a giraffe, their young, their horns (ossicones) and their spots. A way of foregrounding the importance of images in reports is making students place pictures in the right place, followed by the right caption. This can be a good way to make students experience the way in which meaning is made in a report: headings, subheadings, pictures, captions and the text itself all contribute. Graphs and charts could also be a source of information in reports.

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Textual structure, visually

As the modelling stage comes to an end and before we start to jointly construct a text, we will want to make sure we have come up with a visual representation of the text that students can come back to at different moments in the cycle.

A report on a festival can be represented as follows:

If we compare the table we proposed for the organization of information on field above (exercise Getting ready to read or write a report), we can see that field is what largely determines the generic structure of a report. This seems to make sense: as we report on aspects of the world, we mostly follow their classification, composition, appearance or the event-related features they have. Of course, the more specialized or scientific the report becomes, the more sophisticated and less apparent to common-sense experience the organization criteria become.

A report on an animal can be represented as follows:

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These are very simple representations of reports on two different fields. Nothing overly complicated or sophisticated is needed: just a visual, explicit representation of how the text unfolds as it represents an area of experience.

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Identifying phases

Once students have identified the stages that the text goes through, we can ask them to identify phases in the text that perform some of the following functions: giving examples, defining, explaining purpose, comparing to familiar experience, inviting the reader to think about a phenomenon. This activity will make them adopt a functional perspective to texts: a report has a global function that is fulfilled in stages as it unfolds. Stages, in turn, also fulfill more local (or micro) functions that contribute to the fulfillment of the text’s function. The following sentences constitute functional phases in the report on giraffes reproduced above. Students could be asked to identify their function selecting from a list that you provide. You can choose to highlight the section in which the function you are interested in is fulfilled:

What functions are fulfilled in the following sections of the text?

Giraffes have unusually skinny legs for such large animals, but specialized bone structure allows them to support immense weight. (purpose)

A group of giraffes is aptly called a tower, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. (definition of ‘tower’)

Giraffes are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. (definition of ‘herbivores’)

Baby giraffes are called calves. (definition of ‘calves’)

Just like human fingerprints and zebra stripes, the coat pattern of a giraffe is unique to that animal. (comparing to familiar experience)

The pattern and the small hump on a giraffe’s back are similar to those of a leopard. (comparison to familiar experience)

Even if you spent a lot of time with giraffes, you would never hear them make a noise. (engaging the reader)

Thanks to their long legs, giraffes are very fast. (purpose)

Giraffes are even-toed ungulates, which means they have two weight-bearing hooves on each foot, […] (defining ‘even-toed ungulates’)

The following phases have been extracted from the report on alpacas, Text 5. It is a simpler text, for a lower level of instruction, so the phases are also expressed in simpler words. Yet, clear functions can be identified.

What functions are fulfilled?

Alpacas are herbivores (plant-eaters). (definition of ‘herbivores’)

Some alpacas make a humming sound; whining, grumbling, clucking, and other assorted sounds are used by alpacas to communicate. (exemplification)

Some alpacas make a humming sound; whining, grumbling, clucking, and other assorted sounds are used by alpacas to communicate. (purpose)

Spitting is used by alpacas, probably as a sign of dominance or fear, or a warning to intruders. (purpose)

Pumas and other large carnivores (meat-eaters) prey on the alpaca. (definition of ‘carnivores’)

A young alpaca is called a cria. (definition of a ‘cria’)

b. Modelling language

Using language effectively in reports also requires work during the modelling stage. How much work we do at this stage will depend on our students’ needs and, of course, on their level of instruction.

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Defining (an animal)

We can practice defining, a key function fulfilled in reports. In the case of reports on animals, we can provide the information students should incorporate into the definition, typically the word to be defined + the class + descriptive details. For example:

The black mamba is a snake. It is a very venomous snake. It belongs to the family Elapidae. It is a native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

This information can become the following definition:

The black mamba is a very venomous snake that belongs to the family Elapidae which is a native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Students can combine the following information into definitions:

  • Only three kinds of egg-laying mammals still exist. These are the platypus and two kinds of echidna. They are also known as spiny anteaters.
  • Krill are tiny shrimplike creatures. They are sources of food for many big animals. The enormous blue whale eats huge amounts of krill.
  • Elephants have long noses. They are also very strong. Elephants can bend their noses. They are called trunks.
  • Alpacas are woolly animals. They are semi-domesticated. They are mammals. They are smaller than llamas. They live in the Peruvian Andes.
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Defining (a tradition)

We can work with students so they become aware of the ways in which we can define a festival. We have organized the following examples taken from authentic texts that we could show to students so they see how the definitions focus more or less on the tradition itself or on what people do.

We can review these options with our students and encourage them to choose the way that best suits their report.

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Making descriptions vivid

We have already pointed out earlier in the chapter the huge meaning potential offered by the noun group block in English. Students often fail to take full advantage of the meaning-making power of this rank in the grammar. We can practice with them building noun groups that exploit its potential, for example, by showing them how all the information contained in the following clauses can be compacted into a noun-group.

  • Alpacas have long hair. The hair is very soft and thick. These characteristics are distinctive of this mammal.
  • The long, thick and very soft hair of alpacas is a distinctive characteristic of mammals.

Students can be asked to combine and compact the information deployed in several clauses into one or more noun groups, as in:

  • Dolphins have busy social lives. They team up to hunt for food, find mates and protect the group. The friendships they form can last decades. They follow rules that scientists are still figuring out.
  • Dolphins have busy social lives which make them team up to hunt for food, find mates and protect the group.
  • They form long-lasting friendships which follow rules that scientists are still figuring out.

They can also be very simple, for students at lower levels of instruction:

  • Dolphins are intelligent creatures. They are also very social. They keep their friends for years.
  • Dolphins are intelligent, social creatures who keep their friends for years.
  • Zebras have beautiful coats. They are striped. They help them hide in the landscape.
  • Zebras have beautiful striped coats which help them hide in the landscape.

These simple exercises will help students to write in a mode that is more suited to factual, more specialized discourse in which the functional elements of the noun group are fully exploited, in particular the classifier as a pre-modifier and finite and non-finite clauses and prepositional groups as post-modifiers.

3.4.3 Joint construction

Jointly constructing a text with our students will entail, first, building up field knowledge with them on the area of experience we are about to write on. Ideally, we will be writing on a phenomenon closely related to the one we read about in the report we deconstructed and modelled with them in the previous stage in the cycle. So we could write jointly about another animal, plant, city, festival or tradition. At this stage we will already share a model of the text and we will have practiced with students the key language resources they need to write a report. We can move on, then, to writing jointly by eliciting their contributions and writing them on the board, adjusting them, asking for specifications, alternative expressions, etc. As this can be a messy activity, particularly with large groups of students, we suggest some ways to simplify it. These suggestions presuppose having built field together and sharing a model of the textual structure.

  • Give students a copy of a report with one section missing and write the missing section with them.
  • Have different groups of students write different sections of the report and then bring these parts together.
  • Have students write notes on the subject matter they will write jointly about. Having this information will help them to make contributions more confidently as the text is jointly written. The following notes could have resulted from work building field on the Vendimia Festival, held in Mendoza, Argentina, every year.

3.4.4 Independent construction

After having written a report collaboratively, students should be better prepared to write their own report. We can help them to get started with the construction of the subject matter, organizing their notes, making sure they have looked up all the more specialized vocabulary they might need and that they have the model of the text at hand. Writing more than one version of their report is ideal, provided you can handle all the correction work.

Once students have received feedback, if possible on more than one version, they can use their last version of the report and recontextualize it. This is a valuable activity as we take advantage of the effort they have made to write and rewrite their report. By now, they should feel confident with the subject matter and with the language. They could recontextualize their report in one or more of the following ways:

  • Rewrite their report with another audience in mind, ideally younger readers for whom they would simplify the presentation of the subject matter (less specialized); adjust tenor (making the discourse more interactive and engaging); adjust mode to carefully guide younger readers (for example, including more images).
  • Prepare the material to deliver it orally to an audience they specify, accompanying the presentation with images, graphs, charts.
  • Interview each other, one student acting as a specialist who answers questions on a particular phenomenon.
  • Use the report as an embedded section in another genre: a personal e-mail or message telling a friend about a festival they went to, an animal or a plant that is typical of the place they are visiting or a file card with information on the different animals or plants they have written about.
  • In the case of children, prepare a Big Book (printed or digital) with all the reports they have written.

Good luck and inspiration!

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Task sheet

Our final suggestion is the use of a task sheet in which the text students will write is described. Following Byrnes (2002, 2006a), we have adopted this pedagogical concept that makes explicit the textually-oriented meanings and the language resources that are part of the writing of a particular text. Task sheets are genre-based and make transparent what is involved in a writing assignment for both students and teachers. So, on the one hand, students will know what they need to pay attention to as they write their own text and teachers can follow the same criteria when they assess their students’ production. In a task sheet we specify as clearly as possible:

  • the social function the text performs and the context in which the text we are assigning will be used;
  • the stages the text goes through to fulfill this function;
  • the content that is typically included in each of the stages;
  • key language resources that are used in different moments of the text. These resources can involve: vocabulary items (e.g. varied adjectives for description); aspects of morphology and syntax (e.g. the use of the simple past); syntactic structures (e.g. the use of conditional clauses); and patterns that unfold across the text (e.g. the temporal sequencing of events in a narration or in a summary);
  • other requirements, such as punctuation and spelling that we wish students to keep in mind;
  • practical considerations related to manner of presentation, due dates for each draft of the paper, etc.

A sample task sheet for an assignment in an intermediate class with young teenagers is included below:

Reporting on animal and plant life in Mendoza

We are working on a website to promote Mendoza as a fun destination for teenagers who will travel with their classmates at the end of 7th grade. We want to show that Mendoza has many great things to offer as a fun destination for adventure tourism for teenagers. We also want to say something about Mendoza’s flora and fauna, as the trip will be partly an educational one. You are in charge of writing a descriptive report on an animal that is native to Mendoza which will appear on the website. Your report will inform your readers on the animal you chose: what it is like, what its habitat is, its behavior, etc.

Getting the information

-Find information and images about this animal. Make sure the information is serious and also attractive for your young readers.

Organizing the information

-Organize the information you find in terms of aspects related to the animal you choose, for example:

  • Clearly define and classify your animal. What kind of animal is it? What family does it belong to?
  • Where does it live? What is its habitat?
  • What does it look like? What are its more striking features and parts?
  • If you describe its parts, try to relate them to their important functions.
  • What are the animal’s eating, reproductive, communication habits?
  • Try to highlight curious or distinctive characteristics of this animal.
  • Is it endangered? What is its relation to the larger ecosystem?

Writing your report

-Make sure you organize it following the stages we discussed in class; the stages will include the information we listed above;

-Try to make your description detailed and vivid so your readers can imagine what you are describing with the help of the pictures you include;

-When you describe the animal’s appearance or behavior, make sure you use adjectives and adverbs, so your readers can imagine what the animal looks like and how it behaves;

-Use specific vocabulary to describe your animal (its special parts, particular behavior or habits) and make sure you explain the meaning of words that your reader may not understand;

-Try to make your report interesting and inviting so you convince your readers to come to Mendoza!

-Once you finish your report, reread it several times to make sure that the vocabulary you use is effective and that you have not made spelling mistakes!

Your report should be between 180-200 words, it should include at least 2 images and the dead-line is …

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Good luck and inspiration!!


3.5 Appendix

The sample texts used in this chapter are available at:

  1. Your immune system. (May, 2015). Retrieved from Kids’ Health – Your Immune System
  2. Elephant facts. (January, 2018). Retrieved from Cool Kid’s Facts – Elephant Facts
  3. Hunters in the deep. (May-June, 2014). Scholastic News Magazine, 70(8). Scholastic Inc.
  4. Bradford, A. (September 8, 2017). Giraffe: Facts and photos. Retrieved from Live science – Giraffe Facts & Photos
  5. Alpaca. (May, 2018). Retrieved from Enchanted learning – Alpaca Quiz

  1. See, for example, the discussion of reports embedded in oral interpretations, Chapter 4 (Section 4.7) and in opinion editorials, in Chapter 5 (Section 5.2.2).
  2. We analyzed series such as: Our Discovery Island; Backpack. Content Reader; Incredible English; What’s Up; My Life; Explorer Class; Explorer World; Explorer Young.
  3. The authentic samples were taken from sources such as: Scholastic (la.scholastic.com); Nat Geo (www.nationalgeographic.com); NYTimes – the learning network; BBC on line: Learning online learning resources; Kid’s Health (kidshealth.org); Cool Kids Facts (www.coolkidfacts.com)
  4. Links to Sample Texts 1 and 2 can be found in the Appendix. Examples taken from these texts will be labelled throughout the chapter. Other examples included are taken from the sources specified in footnote 3, above.
  5. You can access the full report at kidshealth.org/en/kids/immune.html © 1995-2019. The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Reprinted with permission.
  6. The analysis of the types of definitions presented below is largely based on the work on definitions conducted by Agustina Dalla Torre, FFyL, UNCuyo, Mendoza, Argentina.
  7. We are using the labels in Polias (2016, p. 119) which we find functional and friendly for classroom use.
  8. The analysis of the expression of purpose in reports presented below is largely based on the work conducted by Lourdes Moreno, FFyL, UNCuyo, Mendoza, Argentina.


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