18 Simple Mini-Lessons in this Clever Unit Example for Expository Writing

Having a unit example for expository writing can be incredibly helpful.  Expository writing is one of the most important types of writing for our students to gain a strong understanding of because they will use it more than any other type of writing when they graduate.  There are so many steps to writing an expository writing essay that it can be hard to know where to have your students start.

No Example for Expository Writing

When I was teaching I never really felt like I had a solid plan for how to teach expository writing.  I gave my students assignments and helped them research their topics.  I showed them what an expository essay should look like, but I never felt like I could nurture them fully.  I never had a plan or the knowledge to help them write a strong expository essay.  I was assigning work rather than teaching them how to do it.

I Created an Example for Expository Writing

As I grew and developed my TpT store my knowledge of teaching writing grew too.  I learned so much more through my curriculum creation and blogging than I had from mentor teachers, student teaching, and college.  After studying how to teach writing for so long I decide to pull together the expository writing unit I dream about.  This unit will be available in the coming year on TpT, but until then I have outlined what lessons are going to be included so you have guidance on how to teach expository writing in your classroom.  This example for expository writing is inspired by the writing process, common core standards, and what I wanted my students to understand better.

What is Expository Writing and Why is it Important?

Expository writing is writing that exposes facts or informs the reader.  The goal of expository writing is to deepen the reader’s understanding of the topic.  Expository writing is fact-based and presented in a logically organized way.  The writer is objective, meaning they keep their opinion out of the writing.

Expository writing is also called: 

  • informational writing
  • informative writing
  • research writing
  • explanatory writing

Expository writing is important because once students graduate from school it is the type of writing they will be using the most.  They need to have a strong understanding of how it works and what to do.  Even if students aren’t writing a ton after college they will need to know how to research information.  I research every day to find out things I want to know.  It is a skill that students cannot live without.

Articles With Examples for Expository Writing Mini-Lessons

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How to Teach Expository Writing

Example for Expository Writing

In this example for expository writing, I have ordered the lesson carefully in the order that I would teach them.  That doesn’t mean it’s the right order.  You may feel that one lesson would be better before another.  You might change the order of the lessons depending on what students you have each year.  There may be lessons you decide to skip completely.  You know your students best and can make the best decision on how to teach them, I’m just here to make it a little easier.

Before Your Show Any Example for Expository Writing, Teach the Types of Expository Writing

Before you show your students examples of expository writing you need to be sure that they understand that there are six types of expository writing.  Each type of expository writing serves a slightly different and more specific purpose.  Once students know and understand the different types of expository they should be able to pick the type that will make their writing clear and understandable.  If you want more detail about the six types of expository writing you can read about them in my article The Brilliant and Easy Guide to the 6 Types of Expository Writing. The six types of expository writing are:

  • Process Essay
  • Cause and Effect Essay
  • Problem Solution Essay
  • Compare and Contrast Essay
  • Definition Essay
  • Classification Essay

Use a Mentor Text as a Great Example for Expository Writing

Mentor texts have become a popular teaching tool for everything in writing because the best people our students can learn from are professional writers.  Select some different types of expository mentor texts to share with your students. When you are using mentor texts as a teaching tool you must have lots of conversations about different aspects of the mentor texts.  You need need to talk about the types of expository writing, the text features they see, the purpose of the writing, and anything else that can help your particular class.  

Example for Expository Writing Reliable Sources During Research

Teaching students how to use reliable or credible sources for research is no small task.  Students must learn what reliable and unreliable mean.  They need to learn what characteristics make a source reliable and which ones are a red flag.  There is so much information online which makes researching so much easier, but we also need to help our students learn to sift through the possible sources.  If you need more ideas about how to teach your students about reliable sources, then check out my full article How to Teach Students to Perform a Credible Sources Check in 7 Easy Steps

Citing Sources Example for Expository Writing

Once your students know how to find reliable sources and they are ready to research, they also need to know how to keep track of their resources so they can site them.  If your students are always working on the same computer or are logged into google then a great starting point is to teach them how to bookmark their sources in a folder labeled for the project.  I have had to teach 7th graders how to bookmark sites.  Start teaching them now so they can find their sources again quickly.  

You also need to teach them how to gather publishing information from a website.  I would start by having them fill out a chart or form with the publishing information.  Don’t worry about formatting yet, just guide them through recording the publishing information.  You can spend a class near the end of your project helping all your students format their worked cited page or send them to the site www.easybib.com which will order the information and add punctuation for them

Show Students an Organizing Research Example for Expository Writing 

Students should be given time to research and learn about their topic.  They should gather notes, ask questions and learn more.  Once your students have done a fair amount of research you can show them some examples of how they should organize their research, even if they aren’t done researching.  

The great thing about research is that writers can always go back and research more to find additional information they might have missed.  You can have your students organize their research in several different ways, but the organization should match the type of expository writing.  

I used to use any graphic organizer for any type of expository writing.  This wasn’t effective for my students because the graphic organizer should match the type of expository writing.  Using the most effective organization tool will help your students organize, understand, and write about their topic better.  Here are my expository writing graphic organizers.

Be sure to show students examples of how to use a specific graphic organizer or another organization method.  Never assume your students know how to do this because they might have done it wrong in the past, have never done it before, or kept it basic rather than adding details.

Examples for Expository Writing Where the Focus has Changed

One of the amazing things about expository writing is that the writer is constantly learning about their topic.  As the writer researches, reads, and learns they might determine that how they wanted to focus on their topic was wrong.  Because they learned something new while researching they need to shift the focus of their writing.  Show your students some examples of common misconceptions that a little research could correct.  

When our knowledge and ideas change because of research that’s a good thing because it means that we are learning.  Our students need to understand that it’s okay to have their focus shift.  

Share Evidence Example for Expository Writing that Supports the Focus

Students need to learn how to use evidence to support the topic and focus of their paper.  This all depends on the type of expository writing your students will be working on because students will use different evidence in a compare in contrast essay than they would in a definition essay.

Students will need to use their organized research to determine topics for different paragraphs and which evidence helps the writer explain the information to the reader.  A great way to do this is to give students a paper with mixed-up information.  You take the researched information and throw it together in any order.  This example of how to do it wrong is a great way for students to quickly understand why it’s important to match their evidence with a paragraph that needs it.

Example for Expository Writing Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quotes

Often our upper elementary and middle school students will plagiarize by accident.  They gather their research information and start to write the paper their teacher asked for.  But what students don’t know is they can’t use someone else’s work word for word.  I have often seen students who would rather copy whole paragraphs into their notes than summarize them.  When they copy whole paragraphs into their notes there is a greater chance they will plagiarize because someone else’s words are right in front of them.

Teach students that summarizing and paraphrasing their notes is a great way to help them understand the information better and avoid plagiarizing.  Students should be using their research to share their idea not someone else’s. Make sure your students know that summarizing is when they take a whole article and simplify it to a few sentences.  Paraphrasing is more detailed.  They look at articles and put them into their own words, but it’s more detailed and closer to the original article.

But sometimes a quote from another person can add a lot of inspiration, knowledge, and credibility to a paper.  Teach students how to add quotes to their writing.  You can certainly limit their writing to 2-3 quotes so they aren’t relying on them too much.

Example for Expository Writing Formal Style

Expository writing is formal writing.  Students need to leave themselves out of the writing.  They should not write using me, ours, my, us, or other such words that indicate themselves.  Expository writing is when students are trying to expose the facts on a topic so it should not involve their opinions of that topic.  Students will have to revise their work to take themselves out of it.

Example for Expository Writing Task, Purpose, and Audience

Task, purpose, and audience are an important part of the common core and writing.  The task is the assignment you have given your students.  The purpose is to inform the reader about the topic.  Students can make their purpose even more specific by considering the type of expository writing they are working on.  The audience is who they will be writing for.  Are they writing to a business owner, the principal, classmates, parents, or someone else?  Who we write for impacts what and how we write.

If you would like to teach your students more about task, purpose, and audience you can take a look at What’s Author’s Purpose? in my TpT store.  This is a narrative writing lesson, but will still be helpful to your students.

 Hook and Thesis Statement Example for Expository Writing

Expository writing needs a hook and a thesis statement.  In expository writing, hooks can be facts, questions, anecdotes, observations, and statistics.  Thesis statements clearly explain what the expository essay will be about.  

In expository writing, the thesis statement states the topic and the key points the reader should understand about the topic.  It’s like a guide for what’s to come in the essay and of course, should be backed up by evidence.  The order of your key points in the thesis statement should match the order you plan to use in the rest of your essay.

The thesis statement should be specific and simple.  It is usually the last sentence of the introductory paragraph but doesn’t have to be.  As the writer researches and writes the thesis statement may change based on the evidence they find in their research, and that’s okay.  A thesis statement is usually the last sentence in the opening paragraph.

Fact, Definition, Concrete Detail, Quote, and Information Example for Expository Writing 

When our students are starting to write expository essays we need to do a lot of scaffolding and guiding to help them learn the process.  As adults who have graduated college, it’s hard to remember what it was like to learn how to research and put that information into writing.  Now it’s second nature to us to research information to support an idea or topic we want to talk or teach about.  We naturally weave what we have learned into our conversations and writing.

Our students need to be taught how to weave the facts, definitions, concrete details, quotes, and information into their writing.  Without guidance on how to take what they’ve learned and put it into their own words, their writing will remain stiff and boring.  Who wants to read 20 papers that are stiff and boring?  The best way to do this is by providing examples for our students.  Here are a few ideas on how your students can practice this skill.

  1. Have your students research a topic for 5-10 minutes.  They should not take notes.  Then they will talk about what they learned with a classmate.  This forces them to put the information in their own words.
  2. Demonstrate how you take information about a topic and put it into your own words.  To show students how it should work you should plan to read a little from two sources and take notes.  Then you should close the sources and organize the information slightly.  Pair some similar facts and decide what should go first and second.  Then write a few sentences.  This sounds complex but be sure it is a short snapshot to show them a glimpse of the process.
  3. Quotes are a little bit different.  Find informative paragraphs and quotes that match.  Put these on task cards or something similar.  See if students can match the quote to the paragraph.  This is to help students learn that quotes need to be relevant and help make the information they are talking about clearer for the reader.

Clear Writing Example for Expository Writing

It can be difficult for students to know how much to research.  They often find too much or too little information on their topic.  The goal of an expository essay is that the information is clear and easy to read.  If students don’t have enough information then the reader has a lot of questions.  If the student has too much information it can be hard to organize, go beyond the current question they are answering, or be overwhelming.  

A great way to help students realize that too much or too little information stops their writing from being clear is with some simple practice.

  1. Find an expository paragraph about a specific topic. Have your students read a paragraph that is missing key information. Students should record the questions they still have about the topic.
  2. Next, give students a paragraph that has so much information that it is unorganized and beyond the topic or question of the paragraph.  Have students cross out the unnecessary information.

Conclusion Paragraph Example for Expository Writing

The conclusion of an expository essay should wrap up the main idea.  This means that the writer should avoid sharing new information.  Instead, the writer should restate their thesis statement in different words, remind the reader of the key points that were discussed and tie up loose ends. The conclusion paragraph should unify the whole paper by taking what the reader has learned and clarifying what it means in relation to the thesis statement.

Example for Expository Writing to Teach How to Link Ideas Using Transition Words

Transition words need to be used in expository writing to help link the ideas and paragraphs together.  The writer is taking information from several sources and organizing it to support their thesis statement.  Transition words are key to helping the reader follow the information so they understand the thesis statement.  

Demonstrating how students can do this is key.  There are so many lists of transition words on Google.  Do an image search and you will find many options that are categorized in different ways.  Next, take a simple paragraph and revise the transition words with your students.  If you have a projector or document camera you can simply edit by pulling words from your list.  If you do this demonstration on the computer then you should be sure to put the transition words you add in a different color so they stand out.  Be sure to read the final paragraph so students can hear how it clarified the writing.

Caution your students against throwing tons of transition words in just because.  It adds extra words that can make the writing confusing instead of clarifying it.  You can even create a second example where you add transition words to every sentence.  Add some transition words that don’t make sense in the sentence at all.  Then read the whole paragraph out loud so students can hear how awful it sounds.  

Example for Expository Writing Formatting 

Expository writing is unique because it has text features such as headings, captions, and pictures to help the reader gain a deeper understanding.  As our students practice expository writing we should have them learn how to use these text features.  

Usually, students are excited to add pictures to their work.  Of course, if you ask them for pictures then they should use captions.  Pictures should be chosen purposefully to help the reader understand the key points of the expository essay.  They should not put in a picture because they got tired of looking or thought it was a cute one.  When the picture and caption work together they can help the reader understand the writing better.

Not all expository essays will have headings in them.  But it’s not a bad skill to have your students practice.  Often we ask our students to make little books with specific information on each page.  The heading at the top of the page is a great practice.  This is a skill that students should learn to bring into expository essay writing.  

Bring students back to their graphic organizers.  Have students add any additional information they decided to include since they started. Then students should look for opportunities to add text features such as headings. If students organized their information and essay well adding headings with the help of the graphic organizer as a guide should be easy.  Of course, some students will have to spend more time revising their graphic organizer, but since the organizer was supposed to guide the paper it should help them understand and simplify the process for them.

Editing Example for Expository Writing

Students hate editing, but it helps create a smooth and easy-to-read paper.  Students will often do a poor job editing their papers.  My favorite editing technique is editing in rounds.  This is something that professional writers do.  The writer reads the paper several times.  Each time the writer focuses on correcting one thing.  In the first round, it could be capitals, the second could be punctuation, and the third could be spelling.  The writer can continue rounds until they edit all areas of correction.  It’s much easier to edit well when the writer can focus on one aspect at a time.

Publish and Share

The whole point of writing is that we can share our thoughts and ideas with countless people.  Please do not simply have your students turn in their essays to you.  There are so many ways you can show them their work is valued beyond the grade they get by having a plan to publish and share their work.  There are so many ideas for how you can share your students’ work.  If you need a few ideas for publishing and sharing check out my article all about it, 12 Delightful and Innovative Ways Share and Publish Students’ Writing.

Do You Want More Than an Example for Expository Writing?

I hope this unit example for expository writing helps inspire your mini-lessons for writer’s workshop.  If you want to work done for you check out my TpT store where I am creating the entire unit for you. (Coming soon!)  This will be a growing bundle as I add more lessons to the unit, but all lessons will be available individually as well.

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.


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