On our first day studying expository writing, I first find out what students remember. I ask them to define the term "expository."
"It exposes." Good, what more?
"It's exposition." Yes, what does that mean?
"Isn't it, like, explanation of stuff?" Yes.
Silence. Let's dig into this a bit more.
We begin our study with a quick glimpse at the standards--I want students to see what we have already accomplished in our persuasive unit and what more we will add this unit. Then, we review the similarities and differences between what we already know, persuasive writing, and what we are now studying, expository writing.
Expository writing ("explanatory" per the CCSS) is intended to examine, whereas persuasive writing is, as implied in the name, intended to persuade. This results in a different approach to organization (much more variety depending on audience and topic, though the end goal is unified whole), choice of details (generally a stronger emphasis on fact), and style (clarity, including helpful factors like headings and media, is key). Students need to be aware of these differences if they are to succeed.
This introduction serves an important purpose; it helps shift students' focus from persuasion to explanation. Further, it reminds them that they already have some experience with this type of writing, a comforting thought for many. Another bonus--students review good note-taking strategies:
In order to make the similarities and differences between persuasive and expository writing more concrete for students, I ask them to annotate an example essay, linked to the Expository Essay Overview PowerPoint (this is available to students online). Students must mark up the text to show their understanding of the elements of expository writing.
After 5 minutes, I ask students to compare their work with their table partner. Then, we discuss whole class. Students identify that the purpose here is merely to explain the author's role model. Each paragraph explores a different characteristic of the role model, connecting to the claim just like a persuasive essay. However, there is no counter-claim. While this essay does not feature extras, such as headings and media, it would be easy to add.
To close our day, I ask students for a thumbs up or down--how comfortable are they with the concept of expository writing? By and far, thumbs are up.