Analysing Functionally

Active or Passive Headlines

Students develop an understanding of active and passive voice by exploring a data set of headlines. Firstly students identify the differences among the four sentences.

With a news story about refugees, students might consider:

Refugees throw children overboard.

Children are drowned by parents.

Children thrown overboard.

Children are casualties of government policy.

The key question is how these differences work. With passive voice responsibility is not assigned to anyone. Students might consider the newspaper’s position on refugees. Class definitions of active and passive voice are then discussed and finalised. Students then practise using active and passive voice in their own writing.


Create an analogy matrix, in which A is to B as X is to Y.

Or write a paragraph explaining how one linked pair of things is like another.

Cut Ups

Take a text of any kind. Chop it into pieces at the paragraph level or at the sentence level. Student then have to put it back into the correct sequence. This develops an understanding of text and paragraph structure.

Event Modelling

A plan of a sequence of actions or events. For instance a UML diagram in which labelled boxes are ‘states’ and connecting lines are ‘actions’.


A functional explanation of a product or activity, including:

  • Introduction: What something is meant to do.
  • Quick Start: A short overview of how to us it.
  • Functional Descriptions: Detailed instructions of the various aspects of use.
  • Help Menu: Index of functions and things you might want to know how to do.


Juxtapose two texts to compare and contrast their content, structure and language features. Students could also bring in their own texts to juxtapose with the class text or another student’s text. Juxtapose primary and secondary sources, novel and dramatic versions, novel and film versions, authors, maths solutions, science experiments etc. The more unusual and unexpected the juxtaposition, the richer the discussion is likely to be.

Literacy and Multiliteracies Analyses

Describe how language and multimodal texts work. For example, write an explanation or an author/creator’s guide. Explain how a text works to convey its meanings and serve its purposes.


Identify pattern similarities despite actual dissimilarities. For example, ‘The river snakes through the countryside’.

State 1, Literally

Abstract Connection

State 2, Literally

{in words:} The river has many twists and turns.

Twisting and turning.

{in words:} Snakes twist and turn as they move.

{in pictures or sounds or spaces or gestures – an aerial picture of a river}

{in pictures or sounds or spaces or gestures – a picture of a moving snake}

Noun Groups and Adverbials

Use a retrieval chart to analyse texts at the word level and to explicitly teach grammar. After identifying examples in context, students can then develop their own sentences using noun groups and adverbials.

Noun Groups

Quantity Opinion Factual Classifying NOUN Adjectival






in the entry

which was
filled with people….






in front of the crowd


Adverbial phrase of time

Noun group – subject of the verb


Adverbial manner

Adverbial phrase of place

In the spring

the boy and the swan



in a magical world of silence.

Last night




through the park.

Punctuation Rule – Making

Use a passage from a text to focus on a particular aspect of punctuation. Read and respond to the text before looking closely at the punctuation. In groups students identify punctuation rules from the passage. These are shared to create class rules and displayed for future reference. Students then practise using the punctuation in their own writing.

Ranking Text Activity

Find/write three or four models examples of a particular text type, e.g. narrative, exposition, procedure etc that you wish to focus on. Tell students the purpose of the text. In groups students rank them and justify their rankings. As students share their justifications, record their ideas into a chart. In the first row, focus on the text structure and content. In the second row, focus on language features. After you have recorded all of the justifications, tell students how you have organised them and add the headings for the rows. In groups discuss which features were most effective and necessary.

From this analysis students work in small groups to create rules for writing the text type, focusing on both the structure and language features. Discuss and combine the rules to create class rules. Display so students can refer to the poster when creating their own texts.

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Retrieval Chart

Analyse a text by identifying its features and their effects. Consider the features of linguistic, visual, audio, spatial and gestural modes.




Once students have identified features and their effects, they can practise using some of the features. For example, if students identify use of tense, they could practise writing sentences from the text in different tenses. They could analyse these text innovations and see how these changes affect the text.

Sentence Data Sets

Create data sets of simple, compound and complex sentences. Students then generalise features and rules in punctuation.

Story Map

Story Map is a strategy that helps students to build a framework for understanding and remembering a narrative. Story Maps:

  • provide a useful visual outline for analysing narratives
  • provide a means to organise information
  • reinforce key elements of a narrative
  • provide a clear model for writing summaries and responses to narratives they have read

A story map can look like a map which the students draw freehand or include a structure such as a star.

Students can then report orally or in written form about their understandings gained from the text. They can develop a meaningful summary, linking together key information from the Story Star to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the text.

Structural Analysis

Link structure with function.

The thing we are examining: ….

Its Parts

What Each Part Does


Focus on aspects of grammar by identifying a particular feature, e.g. pronouns, tense, use of colour and shot type in visuals, tone and loudness in auditory texts etc, and substituting an alternative. For example students substitute ‘he’ with ‘they’ and then look at the implications for tense.

Text Annotations

Find/write a model/example of a particular text type, e.g. narrative, exposition, procedure etc that you wish to focus on. Glue it onto a larger sheet so there is room around the margins to annotate or label it. Tell students the purpose of the text. Then identify aspects of the text’s structure and its language features by writing them in the margins and drawing arrows to examples of them in the text. Then use a retrieval chart (above) to identify the effects of the language features in context. Students can refer to these when creating their own texts.

Text Innovations

Students take sentences form a text and rewrite them, replacing particular parts of speech and maintaining the structure of the sentence. This can be used to teach noun groups (adjective, noun, adjectival phrases and clauses) and adverbials (verb, adverb, adverbial phrases) and simple, compound and complex sentences, nominalisation, active and passive voice and tense as well as many other grammatical features. Model a text innovation in context and then students practise it. They then apply it when creating their own texts.

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