I kept thinking as I was teaching expository writing that something was missing. I felt like the kids weren't really getting it. Maybe because I'm such a visual learner, I realized that the kids needed to see a narrative piece up against a piece of exposition.
The Guiding Question asks that infamous middle school question, "So What?" or "When Am I Ever Going to Use This?" By bringing intentions to the forefront, kids might be more willing to achieve understanding. The GQ asks, "What are some real world examples of expository writing?" My students already know that expository means to explain, so they listed things that "explain" like directions to a game, recipes. But, they didn't mention essays. In fact, they didn't mention essays at all.
This is good information to know! This is a great example of a formative assessment arising during the GQ, and I know that I'll need to be more intentional before giving our Embedded (Summative) assessment, which asks them to write an Expository Essay.
Sometimes, when a certain subject isn't clearly defined, or has exceptions to the rules, I find that having my students create these definitions is extremely beneficial.
I was feeling that my students were having a tough time differentiating between expository and narrative texts. The expository texts in our textbook looked like other narratives we've seen, and they used the first person. The kids were expecting "informational" texts and not expository thing. For a 6th grader, the differences were subtle. So I knew I had to really juxtapose those differences.
Students were given samples of the genres, the two modes of writing, side by side and both were about Thanksgiving. With the exception of my Gifted and Talented class, I read the paragraphs and "thought aloud." For example, for the narrative piece, I said, "Well, the first thing I notice is that this writer says 'I' so I know it's in the First Person Point of View."
Then I made sure to point out that the writer used a simile, descriptive language, etc. I asked them what the elements of a story were (because narrative writing is telling a story).
For the expository piece of text, I also "noticed" the 1st person Point of View, and noted the informational sentence that describes the history of Thanksgiving. As I was reading, I was really stressing the various attributes of both modes of writing.
For the work time, students read and annotated the two modes (some may have done this as I was thinking out loud). When they were finished annotating, I asked that they complete the Venn Diagram at the bottom by writing the traits of narrative and expository, and then what they might have in common. Of course, most of the things I pointed out while I was thinking aloud appeared on the Venn Diagram, but there's nothing wrong with that!
After giving them about 10 minutes to fill out the Venn Diagram, I had them share at their tables and "steal" other answers from peers. I told them that if someone else had written a trait they hadn't thought of, they could steal it and write it down.
Lastly, we had a share out, where I created the Master Venn Diagram, using answers of the whole class. Again, I told students to steal answers here. This was also a great point of discussion, as some student answers were debatable.