Looking back to my years as an elementary student, I found that much of my reading and writing experiences revolved around fictional pieces. In fact, while currently working at the elementary level, I still see this taking place. It usually isn’t until students are at the middle/high school level, that they begin to incorporate and encounter a greater amount of expository text/writing experiences. Although many teachers may believe that students are more comfortable using and writing nonfiction, researchers argue that students, as young at five, can write expository text (Tompkins, 2012, p.202).
Expository writing is utilized by many as a way to explain something, provide instruction, as well as supply information regarding something (p.202). Tompkins (2012) notes that the expository genre offers students, of all ages, a way to convey information about the world (p.202). It allows students the opportunity to engage with others in understanding and explaining factual information (p. 202). Students can find such expository information in magazines, textbooks, directions, as well as in newspaper articles.
As students begin to learn and incorporate expository writing in the classroom, it is often at the secondary level. However, it is important to note that younger students can and should incorporate the use of expository writing in their classrooms. Because there are many patterns in using expository writing, it is critical that teachers explain and model how to use each expository text structure, especially when instructing younger students. Such expository text structure patters include, description, sequence, compromise, cause and effect, as well as problem and solution. To help my students remember each pattern, I would use an acronym. I would then go on to scaffold each text structure through a series of mini lessons, beginning with an introduction of the topic of study. I would help students comprehend each pattern by modeling it, as well as incorporating expository text into our daily read-aloud. Students would also read mentor expository texts as part of their independent reading time. This would help students become more familiar with expository text, as well as in identifying the various patterns used in the text. After each reading, students could go on to create a quick write on what they learned, or even what types of patterns the author used in the text read. This would give me an idea of what students have learned, as well as which students still need additional support in their understanding of expository text patterns. Once students have comprehended each text structure, they can then move on to applying it to create nonfictional pieces. Prior to the development of expository paragraphs and essays, students can begin their writing pieces with the use of a graphic organizer or data chart to help brainstorm and gather vital information (p. 204-205). Students just beginning to use of expository text, can start by incorporating such writing into the classroom through the creation of “All About Me” books, in which students use to explain and present information about themselves (p.207). This is a great way to incorporate the use of expository text in the primary classroom, because at such a young age, students are very egocentric. Therefore, it meets their developmental stage and needs.
As a whole class, expository text lessons can also include compare and contrast activities, in which student’s record similarities and differences between a non fiction text, and a fictional text. This will give teachers the opportunity to identify the various features that stories and poetry normally don’t have, such as technical vocabulary, a glossary, or index to help readers better understand the text. (pg. 206 and 216).
As an educator, it is essential that expository text be used in the classroom to help increase student’s literacy development. Too often, expository reading and writing is left for Middle and High school students. Yet, expository writing is an authentic skill to have. As students begin to interact with the world around them, they will need to be able to evaluate, support, and develop ideas, all which fall under expository writing. Students will use expository writing on standardized and school related tests as well as on college entrance exams. Therefore, by incorporating the use of expository writing in the classroom at an early age, students will be more likely to further their academic careers. However, expository writing should not be the sole writing experience that students encompass. There needs to be balance between non fiction and fictional writing to help students become well rounded individuals.