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Ministry of Education.


Learning Outcomes | Teaching and Learning | Assessment and Evaluation | Printing Version

Title: Volcanoes
Writers: Sylvia Insley and Don Benn
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Overview This unit is written for secondary English language learners to develop the skill of explaining as a scaffold to NZ Curriculum science learning area achievement objectives. It focuses on building topic-specific vocabulary through listening and speaking.

Learning Outcomes

(What do my students need to learn?)

What are my students’ current strengths and learning needs?

Use previous assessments (e.g. vocabulary levels tests, ESOL unit standards, oral language assessments) alongside The English Language Learning Progressions (ELLP) oral language matrix to establish the level at which students are working and their current strengths and needs. The unit includes activities designed to ascertain what learners already know about the topic. Tasks in the Science Assessment Resource Bank (ARB) could also be used for this purpose.

Curriculum Links Assessment Links
Learning area: English (ESOL)

Summative assessment:

Students explain how a volcano works using a cross-section model

Students could be assessed formatively or summatively using the following ESOL unit standards:

Unit standard 27991: Participate in simple spoken exchanges on personal and familiar topics (expired)

Unit standard 28022: Demonstrate understanding of simple spoken information on familiar topics (expired)

Unit standard 28052: Demonstrate understanding of detailed spoken instructions (expired)

Focus: Oral language 

English: Listening and Speaking

AO L4:

Purposes and audiences

Show an increasing understanding of how to shape text for different purposes and audiences.

Language features

Uses a range of language features appropriately, showing an increasing understanding of their effects

English Language Learning Progressions:

Students will be working at ELLP stage 2, towards stage 3.

English Language Intensive Programme:

The language features and text complexity focused on relate most closely to ELIP stage 2.

Learning area achievement objectives:

Science: Planet Earth and Beyond

AO L5: Investigate the composition, structure, and features of the geosphere.

Students could be formatively assessed for formatively using the following science ARB tasks related to volcanoes and volcanic eruptions:

PE 8009 (L3)

Completing a diagram of a volcano

PE 8027 (L3)

Observing the stages of a volcanic eruption

PE 7564 (L5)

Describing aspects of a volcanic eruption

PE 8520 (L5)

Describing signs and geological events linked to volcanic eruptions

PE 8528 (L5)

Explaining ash fall depths and related problems

Summative assessment:

Students explain how a volcano works using a cross-section model

Key Competencies: all five with particular emphasis on:

Using language, symbols and text: to interpret and use specialised words to access and communicate scientific explanations

Thinking: to develop understanding, construct knowledge and reflect on their own learning

Specific Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • identify the parts of a volcano
  • explain the structure of a volcano
  • explain the processes of a volcanic eruption
  • explain how convection currents work
  • identify some volcanic or igneous rocks
Language learning outcomes

Key vocabulary:

ash, a cone, to cool, the core, a crater, crystals, the earth's crust, to erupt, lava, magma, magma chamber, the mantle, molten, rocks, vent, volcano

Text features of explanations:


logical sequencing classification / description followed by explanatory sequence


general nouns and noun phrases e.g.

timeless present tense e.g. cools, burn,

relating verbs e.g. is, has

action verbs e.g. heats, flows

passive voice e.g. is forced

cohesive devices including conjunctions showing cause /effect (e.g. because, as a result, so ), temporal relationships (e.g. first, when, then, finally)

See also:

Features of text forms: Explanations

ELIP stage 2 sample explanation genre texts with language features annotated:

‘The Life Cycle of a Grasshopper’ 8(c); ‘The Beginning of Digestion’ 8(d); ‘The Water Cycle’ 14(c) ; ‘The Formation of Fossils’ 14(d)

For more complex sample explanation texts see ELIP stage 3:

Aluminium Recycling’ 3(c);‘ How do Hurricanes and Tornadoes Occur?’ 8(c) or ‘The Life Cycle of Ants’ 8(d)

Suggested Duration 3 - 4 weeks

Teaching and Learning

(What do I need to know and do?)

Teacher background reading:

Knapp, P. & Watkins, M. (2005) Genre, Text, Grammar. Sydney: University of NSW

The genre of explaining , pages 125-152

NZ Curriculum Exemplars: Transactional Writing: Explanations

Schoenbach, R.et al (2003) Apprenticing Adolescents to reading in Subject Area Classrooms Phi Delta Kappan pages 133-138

Some teaching and learning resources:

Learning task 1

Learning task 2

Learning task 3

Learning task 4

Assessment and Evaluation

 (What is the impact of my teaching and learning?)

Summative Assessment

Assessment Task:

Students explain how a volcano works using their model – or Powerpoint slide - as a demonstration prop. This assessment can be done as a formal presentation or in a conversational setting with a partner asking questions to guide the explanation, but each student is assessed individually. All explanations must be recorded on DVD. Assessment schedule requirements must be clearly explained to students prior to summative assessment. Note that this task could be differentiated for groups or classes by the inclusion or non-inclusion of labels on the volcano cross-section.

See the assessment task (Word 28KB) and schedule (Word 34KB) .


The teacher can view selected DVD explanations with the class to provide feedback / feedforward for students.

Printing this unit:

If you are not able to access the zipped files, please download the following individual files:

Updated on: 17 Apr 2019