5. How to Explain Concepts

In this lesson so far, we’ve focused on explaining procedures – things that can be broken into step-by-step instructions. But what about when we need to explain concepts – for example, black holes, or the internal networks in the human brain? Do these need a different approach?

a. Discuss these viewpoints. How far do you agree?

  • To explain a concept, you should break it down into small, ‘bitesize’ bits of information or steps, just the same as in a ‘how to’ video.
  • It’s better to make your explanation too easy than too hard.
  • People generally don’t mind hearing something that they already know.
  • It’s sometimes necessary to say something that’s not totally correct, because the correct explanation is too detailed and would confuse the listener.
  • A good way to check that your listeners understand is to ask “Is this making sense to you?”

b. Comparative Reading

You’re going to read a mid-length text about how to explain things.

  • Read text A or text B
  • Find a partner who has finished reading the other text
  • Summarise your text for your partner
  • Then find two similarities and one difference in the advice given in the two texts.

Text A (B2 level) is a 10-point advice article written for trainee teachers at the San Diego State University: 10 Ways to explain things more effectively.

Text B (C1+ level) is an article from the TED organisation (a non-profit organiser of conferences and talks on many subjects): How to explain anything to anyone: 4 steps to clearer communication.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s