Writing for Critical Explanation

When given a writing assignment, students are encouraged to use what is conventionally and essentially a weak writing plan.


A typical plan includes the preparation of an outline that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. In the introduction students are to state their topic and thesis. In the body they are instructed to write paragraphs. Each paragraph is to have a topic sentence supported by facts and ideas. In the conclusion, they are to summarize what they discovered or now understand or believe about their topic.

The standard outlining process is largely ineffective because it does not address the main weaknesses of the typical writing plan. The very things students are asked to do are the very things they have great difficulty with. How, explicitly, do they develop an outline? How do they use the outline to write topic sentences and associated paragraphs? How do they draw conclusions?

That the typical writing plan is weak is shown by state English Language Arts exams that ask students to write an essay. Such exams often provide a topic theme, but they also provide an outline of the issues to address and considerations for the conclusions to be drawn. In other words, with such mental prompts, the exam writer provides the thinking. The student follows the prescription.

There are two major problems with this conventional approach. (1) When students are placed in situations where mental prompts are absent, such as in a school or college or on the job, they are essentially lost. (2) The prompts themselves are conventionally not based on a critical  reasoning process.


Critical writing based on mind grammar provides students with critical reasoning strategies that have long been missing from the typical writing plan. Consequently, once learned, students have the independent means to engage in the necessary critical thinking that outlining and writing for explanation require.

For information on how to write for critical explanation, see Chapter 8: Write for Critical Explanation, in Critical Instruction – How to Explain Subject Matter While Teaching All Learners to Think, Read, and Write Critically (Maiorana, 2016).