Lately I have been feeling extremely overwhelmed between my three classes. It seems that all my projects and papers were due within the past two weeks. However, I have taken this past weekend to re-group and get back on track with my blog. It was nice to take time to read through my peers’ blogs; they have so many interesting stories and ideas to take in and think about. After reading several entries, I was hooked into Caitlin’s blog about expository texts. Her opening sentence drew me right in…
“Looking back to my years as an elementary student, I found that much of my reading and writing experiences revolved around fictional pieces. In fact, while currently working at the elementary level, I still see this taking place. It usually isn’t until students are at the middle/high school level, that they begin to incorporate and encounter a greater amount of expository text/writing experiences” (Entry 9, 2012).
This statement inspired me to reflect on my own experiences with expository texts. Like Caitlin, much of my reading and writing in elementary school revolved around fiction. I cannot name one expository text that I read when I was little, but I can name many fictional pieces. This could be due to the fact that I enjoy reading and writing fiction more than non-fiction. As a result, I find myself more comfortable utilizing fictional pieces in the classroom. I feel students are more engaged and able to relate to these types of stories. However now after reading Caitlin’s blog and listening to the presentation on expository text, I am more comfortable and better equipped to utilize it in my instruction.
Primary students are just as able to read and write non-fiction as middle and upper-level students; it is all in how you teach it. There are several ways students can organize the information they have learned through reading an expository text. This can be achieved through writing descriptions, sequence, compromise, cause and effect, and problem and solution of a text. In order to utilize these expository texts structures with elementary students, I would introduce one structure a month to focus on. For example, let’s take the pumpkin cycle as way to teach sequence writing. First, I would introduce a nonfiction text based on the pumpkin cycle and read it aloud as a whole group. As I read, I would ask many engaging and probing questions to spark students’ background knowledge. Together, we would take the reading slow and explore each page of the text critically. Then we would review what we’ve learned from the text by filling out a graphic organizer. I would model how to put the stages of the pumpkin cycle in order. We would continue reading about the pumpkin cycle and practicing these steps in smaller reading groups. At the end of the month, students would be assessed on what they’ve learned about the sequence of the pumpkin cycle. They would need to write each stage of the cycle in order, tell what takes place, and draw an illustration to go along with it. This could be differentiated based on the learning needs of a student.
The next month, we would start a new expository structure with a new common core topic. I think these types of lessons, like the one I described, would be best for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders because they break down the reading and writing process into steps. The more practice students have interacting with and writing expository texts, the more interested in and comfortable they become with them.