Genre of Encyclopaedia Entries


Lesson Plan

Before this lesson, you may want to complete the lesson An Introduction to Genre, so that learners are familiar with the key terms discourse structure and register

Please check if there are any hand outs at the bottom of this page and print in advance.

Explain that this lesson will focus on how encyclopaedia entries are written. As a warm up, use the questions in the first slide to activate the pupils' prior knowledge and to discuss any misconceptions. The most important idea to elicit here is that encyclopaedia entries are written to provide objective information to the reader as clearly as possible.

Have the learners read the Tiger encyclopaedia entry using the questions in the second slide as a guide. The purpose of Question 1 is to check comprehension; accept any reasonable answers from the text. Question 2 is to foster a discussion that will guide the rest of the lesson. Learners don't need to give full answers here as these topics will be examined in more detail.

Use the next slide to prompt the learners to give words that express the tone of the text. To help, you could ask them to contrast this with fiction to bring out the differences i.e. this text is not written to build tension or paint a vivid picture. The list of words to describe the tone is not exhaustive, so accept any reasonable answers.

Move on to Activity 2. Remind learners of the definition of discourse structure. Ask them to discuss in pairs or small groups what they think the main structural elements of the encyclopaedia entry are (e.g. main heading and subheadings). Since the discourse structure of this text is quite straightforward, this task shouldn't take too long. As an extension, ask learners to rewrite the subheading titles as either clauses or one word, e.g. Appearance could become Where they live

Next, the learners will focus on register or language features. Ask learners to read the text again, this time highlighting or underlining any words or phrases that stand out, or that help contribute to creating tone. Check to see if any learners found the same examples as in the next slide. Ask learners to match the examples to the appropriate terminology.

On the next slide, learners read the four explanations and then match with the most appropriate language feature. As an extension, learners can look for further examples of each construction in the text.

To finish analysing the text, look at the next slides regarding the online features of the text. This could be a useful opportunity to discuss verifying information and evidence online.

Finally, learners move on to Activity 3 which is a writing task. Based on the Wallaby Notes hand out, learners write an encyclopaedia entry, using the same discourse structure and language features as the Tiger entry. To check their work, learners can compare with a partner, and then with an authentic encyclopaedia entry, such as Wikipedia.


This series of resources explores how genre relates to grammar. The content of the lessons was devised and kindly provided by Prof. Andrew Goatly. You can find some of his publications for purchase on the Amazon website here.


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