Discourse structure

Goals

  • Review a list of useful vocabulary and phrases for establishing continuity, cohesion, and structure in discourse.
  • Apply knowledge of discourse structure to arranging sentences into an appropriate, meaningful order as an article.
  • Analyse existing texts to identify elements that support the discourse structure of the texts.

Lesson Plan

Activity 1

The first activity can be downloaded as a handout below. The handout contains a list of useful vocabulary items and phrases that help writers establish continuity, cohesion, and structure in discourse. This list serves as a toolkit that students can use in their own writing. It also serves as a memory aide when analysing the writing of others and identifying discourse structure in existing works.

Activity 2

Activity 2 can be downloaded as a handout at the bottom of this page. The handout contains a series of sentences from a real news report. The sentences have, however, been jumbled up. The students' job is to put the sentences into the correct order. To do this, they will use their explicit understanding of pragmatics, and also their awareness of discourse structure and the various words and phrases that establish an order to the discourse in a text.

Activity 3 and Activity 4

Activities 3 and 4 can be downloaded as handouts below. Activity 3 contains an opinion piece published in a real newspaper, and Activity 4 contains an example of a real, published persuasive article.

Students should do the following:

  • Read the extract in the handout.
  • Identify the writers' aims in each text.
  • Think about the different words and phrases the writer has used to structure the argument. To do this, refer to the handout from Activity 1 as well.
  • Determine how language is used to ‘signpost’ the writer’s argument.
  • Regardless of your own opinion on the argument, evaluate whether the author has used discourse structure effectively in support of his or her argument.

Activity 5

The handout for Activity can be downloaded below. It contains the first portion of an argument written as a persuasive piece. Students should do the following:

  • Think about how the writer has structured their argument.
  • Bring the argument to its conclusion by writing a few more paragraphs. 

They should first consider the key ideas referred to in the opening paragraph and where they think the argument might go. In addition, they should consider how writers draw their ideas together and signpost the end of an argument. Finally, they should consider using discourse markers, including those in the list in the Activity 1 handout. 

Activity 6

As a final follow-up activity, or as a project that branches off from this lesson, ask students to write an entire persusasive essay using what they've learned. They might choose any topic they like, or you might relate this assignment to a topic that they've been studying in another class. 

In addition, they can write a self-evaluating reflective piece, perhaps just a paragraph, describing how they've used what they learned in this lesson to write a new persuasive essay. Do they think their writing has improved? How and why?

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