Help children become familiar with examples of expository writing.
Expository writing sets out to inform, explain or otherwise give information to the reader. We meet forms of expository writing in our daily lives: Letters, newsletters, catalogs, newspaper articles, magazine articles, manuals, reports and research papers are all forms of expository writing. Features of expository writing include a clear and tight focus; logical presentation of supporting facts, details and examples with smooth transitions; and clear, concise and coherent use of language. Familiarize students with these techniques using games and role play.
The Journal Jar
Expository writing is the kind many of us do in a daily journal or diary. Keep a large jar of writing prompts and allow students to pick one each morning. They can write for a few minutes after they take their seats and before the bell rings, or after the morning announcements. Prompts might include “My vacation” or “My favorite season.” Many websites will list ideas for writing prompts, and one — The Write On site from Jefferson County Schools, Tennessee (see Resources) — will even generate a “surprise” prompt at the click of your mouse. All can be altered to suit any age.
Budding entertainment writers will be eager to try their hands at personality profiles. Students can either choose a famous personality to “be” or they can just be themselves. Their partner will interview them, write the article and then present their “famous personality” to the class. Switch roles and do the exercise again. The New York Times produced a tool to aid in this activity: a graphic organizer in which students fill in the blanks to the sentence “Someone (the person being interviewed) wants _______ but ________ so _________.” For example, “Harry’s parents want him to be an astronaut but Harry wants to be an artist, so he is holding a yard sale this weekend to sell his drawings and make money to take art classes.”
Take a field trip to a location in your community. To tie in with the theme, you might want to tour your local newspaper office or a local printing press. Have students create a travel log of the trip. Teach students the art of recording detail to support the theme. If you eat lunch in the park outside the newspaper office, see how many students notice the birds, the traffic, nearby signs, the people walking by and the weather.
Have students work in teams of three to create a machine from recycled materials. Ask them to use their imaginations to create a machine that would be used in the future. An example might be an egg-cracking machine. Students will also create a manual to help users understand use the machine. Once the machines and manuals are complete, have students visit other stations in the class and learn about their classmates’ machines. The visitors can then create a short profile on one or more of the other machines in the class.
Classroom Recipe Exchange
Recipes are another form of expository writing.
Students of any age can take part in this expository writing activity. Younger children will need parental help. The easiest way to do this activity is by compiling a booklet of the classroom favorites — each child brings his best recipe. Older children might like to bake the item as well as donate the recipe. If so, you could hold a class bake sale to raise money for a school trip or a local food bank. Students could then write a news story about the presentation of the proceeds.