Expository V. Narrative (And a Gorilla)

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SWBAT distinguish between narrative and expository texts

Big Idea

By giving students a narrative article, they will write a brief expository essay.

Guiding Question

5 minutes

I've talked before about how sometimes I give a Guiding Question that I don't necessarily expect the students to be able to answer. This is one of those days. They really don't know what an expository text is, though they know what informational/nonfiction texts are. Because I didn't really want them to spend a lot of time hung up on the terminology, I put the yellow box with a definition of expository attached to the Guiding Question.

"What are the differences between a narrative and an expository text?" is difficult to answer. It's not as clear-cut as fiction and nonfiction. Narrative texts could be fiction or nonfiction. Expository texts are generally nonfiction, but there could be exceptions.

When I pointed out the clue of "the purpose of an expository text is to explain or inform," I started to see the light bulb come on with some students. I pushed them further: "Give me examples," I said.

Here's what I got:

  • a cookbook
  • what a lawyer would say as an excuse for a criminal
  • explaining to your mom why you were late
  • directions for building Legos


Mini Lesson

10 minutes

In using my SpringBoard text, I often find that it asks kids to do thinking independently--and I think they should do it collectively (when appropriate). For example, in this lesson plan, in order to build background knowledge about animal life in zoos, it gave the students a "True/False anticipation guide." I've included it if you would rather use that.

I, however, thought this was a perfect opportunity for a quotation mingle. I took the statements the text gave me, copied them on sentence strips and handed them out. The students were asked to find someone who had a different statement than themselves, share their statements, and have a brief discussion about how the two statements interact. It looks like chaos, but I assure you it's controlled.

I'm doing a couple of things here: I'm building their stamina for discourse, and I'm building their background knowledge for what we are getting ready to read.

Work Time

25 minutes

For the work time, I read the article "The Oldest Living Atlanta Gorilla Tells All," and have the students mark the text as I read. As I'm reading, I'm pointing out things that make it a narrative text (it's told from the POV of Willie B., it uses dialogue, etc.).

Students are pretty comfortable with narrative texts, really, because it's what they've had the most exposure to. None of this is going to come as a surprise, but it's going to be important when I juxtapose exposition.


15 minutes

Usually I have a Wrap Up, or reflection, but for this lesson I really wanted the students to focus on the difference between expository and narrative texts. Once I felt like they had a good feeling for it, I let them apply it by turning the narrative text into an expository one. At the end of reading, I asked that they write a brief expository paragraph explaining their attitude toward living in captivity, in the voice of Willie B. They used a graphic organizer (in their book) to chart Willie B.'s likes and dislikes, so that they could use it as evidence in their essay.

Here's a scaffold using the graphic organizer: