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Teachers: Literacy: Sentence

Last Updated: Wednesday December 14 2005 15:21 GMT

Plain English


Pen and paper
The leader of the Welsh Assembly was given the Foot In Mouth prize by the Plain English Campaign for saying the most nonsensical statement of the year.

Students complicate and simplify Newsround stories and take an educational game/quiz on using plain English.

Learning aims
  • The three Cs of reporting - clear, concise, correct
  • The importance of using plain English in journalism.

News-based comprehension

Politician wins gibberish award
Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan

Read out this story to the class.

Re-read Morgan's statement: "The only thing which isn't up for grabs is no change and I think it's fair to say it's all to play for, except for no change."

Ask students:

  • What do you think he meant to say?
  • Why is it confusing?
  • How could you say it more simply?
  • What do The Plain English campaign aim to do? Fight against over-complicated uses of English.
  • What is plain English?
  • Why is it important for journalists to use plain English?
Main activity

Three Cs of reporting

Explain to students that journalists need to use plain English so whoever reads their stories will understand them.

Students may have heard of the seven seas but writing news stories is about using the three Cs.

That means being:

  • Clear - Avoiding technical sounding words or jargon. If you don't understand the word, neither will your audience. It is better to use words you would put in a letter to a friend.
  • Concise - Keeping your words and sentences short and simple.
  • Correct - It is important to spell words correctly. Use a dictionary if you are not sure. Stick to the rules of the language you are using, otherwise sentences like Yoda could you writing end up!
Students chose a story from the Newsround website and re-write the first four sentences, trying to make them as complicated as possible.

That might mean:

  • Adding technical jargon
  • Making sentences long and exchanging short words for longer ones
  • Re-arranging sentences so they sound like something Yoda might say.

    Students swap stories with a partner and try to simplify their partner's story, using the three Cs.

    Pairs compare the simplified stories with the original Newsround stories.

    Extension activity
    Press Pack resources
    Press Pack club home page

    Students can test their use of the three Cs by taking this Press Pack educational game and/or quiz.

    If students do not have online access, you can print out the quiz and the answers.


    Pairs read out the complicated version and simplified stories, explaining how they used the three Cs to return the Newsround story to plain English,

    Recap by asking students: Why is it important for journalists to use plain English?

    Curriculum relevance

    National Curriculum Programme of Study for English at KS3. En3 Writing.

    1f. Use formal and impersonal language and concise expression.
    1g. Consider what the reader needs to know and include relevant details.
    1h. Present material clearly, using appropriate layout, illustrations and organisation.
    4d. Check their spelling for errors and use a dictionary when necessary.
    6. Variations in written standard English and how they differ from spoken language, and to distinguish varying degrees of formality, selecting appropriately for a task.
    7. Principles of sentence grammar and whole-text cohesion, using this knowledge in their writing.
    9b. Inform, explain and describe, focusing on conveying information and ideas clearly.
    11. The range of readers for writing should include a large, unknown readership.

    For hundreds more news-based stories, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.

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