Expository Excitement

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Guest-blogging with her mad skills, Beth Miley

Raise your hand if one of the reasons you got into teaching was to revel in Gatsby's symbolism. How about if you look forward to Jonas seeing color in The Giver. If Atticus Finch is your one true love. If you live for introducing students to the nuances of nonfiction texts.

Wait, is that a screeching halt that I'm sensing on that last one? Don't worry; you're not alone. Let's face it: teaching students expository analysis skills isn't typically what makes our hearts go pitter patter. But the expository genre CAN be super fun. Pinky promise.

Here are some tips to help you on your way.

Tip #1: Choose something that will actually interest your students.

  • Do they want to read a procedural snooze-fest about how to save a Micorsoft Word document, or would they be more engaged with a skateboarding trick how to?
  • I've had lots of luck finding expository articles on TodayIFoundOut.com (7th boys LOVED the article about how much snot a person produces in a day) and persuasive texts on NYTimes.com/roomfordebate (high schoolers were fired up about Internet privacy).
Tip #2: Connect the text thematically with a piece of fiction.
  • If you've read Charlotte's Web, find a piece about real life friendship, or if you're in the midst of Romeo and Juliet, pull in a scientific article about teenagers' impetuosity. Expository analysis is easier when students have a built-in entry point.
Tip #3: Do something nifty with text you choose. Interactive, goal-driven activities are your friends.

  • State standards require students to use and analyze information textual features, so recently I knew an article with headings and captions was in order.  After hunting around a bit, I found "What Do You Know About Sharks?" that connected nicely with a piece of fiction we'd just read about monsters.
  • Remember what Steven C. Reinhart suggests in his article "Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say," I decided against simply slamming the article under the document projector to model annotations at passive zombie students. Instead, I wanted to push the burden of learning (and remembering) on them, so I created a jigsaw activity.
  • We started class in small groups and worked together to create flip books (you can download it here). Each group then focused on just one assigned section or "flap." They were tasked with analyzing the purpose of one text feature from a chunk of the nonfiction article.
Kid to Kid: "Yeah, so the headings give you a summary, and here they're questions."
  • Once students had become experts in their text feature--diagram, heading, caption, or bulleted list--it was time for a remix. We formed new, heterogeneous groups, and each student taught his area of expertise to the rest of the team.
  • To really cement the learning, I then asked student groups to read another isolated chunk from the article, this time lacking text features. Their final challenge was to evaluate which expository strategy would best help the reader understand the information about shark eyeballs and to rewrite the text in the new format.

Kids working with kids to pull themselves to the highest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy = Happiness
If you structure your expository lessons to be energetic and novel, you'll find yourself enjoying them right along with your students. Those light bulb, "I understand why the author did that!" moments will help carry you through.

PS--Bonus nerd-a-licious points to reader friends who found themselves noting the expository text features in the blog post! ;)

1 comment

  1. We're currently studying informational text, and I tried this activity today. It went so well, and the students were ENGAGED the entire time. Thanks for sharing such awesome activities!