How to Create Brilliant Prompts for Expository Writing Projects Guaranteed to Engage Your Students

Expository writing projects can be fun and engaging for our students.  We don’t have to listen to them moan and groan about writing when we have a solid plan to make writing a meaningful learning experience.  Students will learn all the steps of expository writing in a way that’s easier for you to grade.  

Expository Essays vs. Expository Writing Projects

During my last year of teaching, I had my students write two different expository writing projects.  In the first project, students got to choose a state to research and present to the class.  They had some options on how to present their project.  My students worked so hard on their state projects.  

The second project was an essay on the civil rights movement.  I made my students write an essay because at some point they do have to write essays.  My students worked hard, learned a lot, and finished their work, but they didn’t enjoy it as much as the other project.  Their stress levels were high and the work they turned in wasn’t stellar.

Using More Expository Writing Projects 

My students were far more engaged in the expository writing project than in the expository writing essay.  Why wouldn’t they be?  Students enjoy choosing from a variety of projects that will help them best express their knowledge far more than writing an essay.  It was also more enjoyable for me to grade.  Why don’t we use more expository writing projects in our classrooms?

What are Expository Writing Projects?

An expository writing project can be an essay, but I like to differentiate between the essay and the project.  Expository essays are a series of well-researched paragraphs that explain or expose facts about a topic.  

An expository writing project is when the writer describes or explains the topic and ideas behind the topic with facts and evidence rather than opinions.  Expository writing projects can come in many forms such as pamphlets, podcasts, and letters rather than the traditional essay.  Students get to creatively decide how they will share the knowledge they researched and organized, but always with a written component.

How Expository Writing Projects Benefit Students and Teachers

Expository writing projects are more engaging and meaningful than essays because they allow the students some choice in how they will share their research and knowledge.  They also practice many of the same skills as an expository writing essay, the information is just presented differently.  Students still work on researching, determining the importance of information, organizing the information to support their idea, and presenting the information when they create an expository writing project.  The only difference is the writing might be in a different format.

Teachers tend to love expository writing projects too because they see how engaged their students are.  Also, expository writing projects are far easier to grade than a giant stack of expository writing essays.  Expository writing projects help teachers see how well students understand the content.  Since students are creating a project and presenting the material rather than writing an essay, they need to fully understand the content.

The real question now is where do you get ideas for expository writing projects?  You will have endless ideas after you read this guide for coming up with prompts and ideas.

Use High-Interest Topics for Expository Writing Projects

Research has shown again and again that students will be more engaged when researching high-interest topics.  The same is true for adults too.  I would not want to read a book and write a paper on brain surgery.  It’s just not my thing.  However, if I was reading about child development, teaching, or parenting then I am all in.  I love to hear all the ideas and advice and use it in my teaching life. 

My students always struggle to pick a topic to write about.  Often the topics they pick are from a list that the students might not be interested in.  But there is no reason we need to have students write about topics they aren’t interested in.  We can give them guidelines or a general topic area and then let them choose which topic is interesting to them.

Here are some examples of topic areas you might let your students create an expository writing project around.

  • Animals
  • Careers
  • Technology
  • Weather
  • Hobbies
  • Sports
  • Travel
  • Countries
  • States

Make Prompts for  Expository Writing Projects Meaningful

High-interest topics are great, but in reality, we cannot always assign these in the classroom.  The next way to incorporate expository writing projects into your classroom is to make the projects meaningful.  A great way to make expository writing projects meaningful is to connect them to other subjects rather than choosing a random topic.  

Talk to your teaching team and see what topic they are studying in their classes.  Then have your students dive deep into research in one of those topic areas.  They will gain a better understanding of the topic and learn how to craft an expository writing project.

In my classroom, my students had a reading specialist with another teacher.  They were reading The Watson’s Go To Birmingham – 1963.  As I talked with the other teacher she told me that she was working on helping the students understand racism and social injustice.  I decided that for writing they should dive deep into research on the civil rights movement.  My goal was that they would practice expository writing and gain a better understanding of the civil rights movement so they could understand the book better.  This same lesson, The Civil Rights Movement 1960, is one of my best sellers on TpT.

How to Create Prompts for Expository Writing Projects

One of the things I love about expository writing is that there are prompts everywhere.  There are so many things in the world to be curious about, and if we foster that curiosity in our students then we will have students bring ideas to us.  When we listen by setting up question boxes, parking lots, and utilizing posts we can hear our students’ questions.

The most important thing about choosing prompts for expository writing projects is that we should try to make them engaging and meaningful.  Engaging topics usually happens when the topic is of high interest to our students.  Meaningful topics usually occur when we connect their writing topics to other things they are learning so they gain an even deeper understanding of the topic.  Read more in the next section.

There are lists and lists online of expository writing prompts, but you are the best person to choose or create prompts for your class because you know your students.  Foster their curiosity and questions and look for good topics when your students cue you.

But I am not going to leave you hanging.  Check out these prompts for expository writing.

Choice Boards For Expository Writing Projects

My favorite way to assign expository writing projects is with choice boards.  Choice boards offer a variety of project choices to students.  With a choice board, students can decide which project will allow them to present their information well, based on the research they did and who they are.  

My students go through the process of researching their topic, picking a project format, and then writing a proposal about the project they want to create.  Students must explain to me their topic, project, and how they are going to be successful.  Then before they start their actual project they have to have teacher approval.  It’s a great opportunity for me to check in with each student and make sure they are on the right track with their research.

Choice boards have become very popular in the teaching world because they are a break from the usual work, give the students ownership, and provide differentiation to all students.  Students can choose the project that will work best for them.  What could be more differentiated than that?  

Expository Writing Projects

When you implement expository writing projects in your classroom your students will be more engaged in expository writing.  Projects are far less intimidating than essays.  Your students will learn the steps to expository writing in a fun and meaningful way, which will help them retain their learning longer.    

Now that you know all about expository writing projects, how are you going to incorporate them into your expository writing unit?

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Where to Buy Cheap Classroom Decorations

Classroom decorations liven up a classroom.  It helps students coming into the room for the first time feel excited about the year to come.  It tells students about their teachers. But Dang!  Have you seen how much some classroom decore kits are?

It’s so great that there are so many options out there.  You can create any theme for your classroom that you want.  However, classroom decorations are not usually part of the budget.  This means that finding what you need cheap is key.

You need to consider what you are buying.  What purpose are those decorations going to serve?  After I ask myself this I usually realize I don’t need it.

So after you’ve decided on your budget, a theme that you like, checked out what’s available, determine the color pallet you will focus on and are thinking about the function decorations that will add to your room you are ready to go.  If you need to know a little more about this here is a blog about the process.

Shopping online is great.  You will be able to find materials that match your theme on one of these sites.

  • Really Good Stuff
  • Discount School Supplies
  • Teachers pay Teachers
  • Oriental Trading
  • Amazon

But I am thrifty. I like to make my money go as far as I can. Teachers have to be creative one way or another. Use your creativity to stretch your budget. 

1. Buy an Editable Classroom Theme Set From Teachers pay Teachers. 

This will be a worthwhile investment because you don’t have to change your theme every year. Keep the same theme and reuse this set.  If you are the kind of person who needs to mix it up, plan to alternate your themes every other year. 

Does the kit include things you need like class jobs, calendar, word wall, bulletin board?  Think about what you need in your classroom.  Making sure you can put your students’ names on themed tags for lockers and desks is key.  I recommend an editable resource, you should be able to change out the things you want. Read the description and then ask the seller questions. 

2. Other Areas to Add Decore

Now I think the most important part of classroom decore is function.  I do not want extra clutter in my classroom.  However, I do think a few items that simply brighten the room are worth it. What spaces do you have in your classroom? Rug area, reading space, math center, calming corner? How can you add to these spaces?  Here are some ideas.  Some of these can be functional too.

  • Pillows
  • Tables
  • Rugs
  • Twinkle Lights
  • Trinkets 

These are fun, but don’t let them become the focus of your room.  If you limit their use a few here and there can be nice, if they are within budget.  Some of the items might be free and need a fresh coat of paint or washing.

3. What Can You Repurpose?

You can probably find some free old furniture online or find some in a storage closet at school.  It looks amazing when a teacher repaints an old table to make it match their theme.   This is an awesome idea if you intend to keep your theme for several years or paint it to match your alternating themes. Repurposing furniture like this can bring new life into your classroom and it’s budget friendly. 

One teacher used contact paper to make a used table pop in her classroom.  She simply covered the top and wrapped the edges underneath.  I think this is a great idea even if it is school property, just check with admin first.

Another teacher I knew took her old pregnancy pillow for the reading area.  She was done with it and the kids loved using it to read.
Do you have some old toys that can find a new purpose?  The first teacher I worked with used toys in her room.  The My Little Ponies were a warning that you need to listen if they hopped onto your desk.  She also had Beanie Babies hanging around, literally from the ceiling.

4. How to Use Average Party Supplies in Your Classroom

In my last classroom, I had the theme of Pineapples and Tropical Island.  I like the idea that summer wasn’t over and I knew that I would be able to find decorations since summer was ending.

I went to my local dollar store and checked out their summer clearance section.  I found a small boat, a flip flop some table cloths, and some placemats that all went with my theme.  Some of it wasn’t marked as clearance yet, but I talked to the employee.  I asked her if it was on clearance yet, and mentioned that I was a teacher.  She marked everything 50% off on clearance for me.

I used the placemats to go near our class microwave.  I was teaching at a private school where we had lunches in the classroom.  I used one table cloth that was sturdy to create a bulletin board.  I didn’t have a bulletin board in my room, so I created a themed bulletin board that would last all year by hanging up this sturdy table clothe.  Even if you have a bulletin board this is an easy way to cover it.

I found some plastic table cloths that I cut up and used to decorate the walls a little bit.  I made a beach under my whiteboards. I used some other ones to put on my doors.  I knew these wouldn’t last, but I thought they would be great for the first month of school.

5. Use Your Full Budget

I did also buy a theme decoration kit from Orient Trading.  Some of it I didn’t use.  I recommend that you have a purpose for everything you get.  Again, I was fortunate that my school gave me a decorating budget.

When I got my decorating budget I also considered other decorations I might want during the year, prizes I might want for my students, and other needs.  I figured I should spend the budget I was given. If you have a budget, consider the rest of the year too.

I did uncover a short video of my classroom, as I was working on decorating, to show you.  

Happy Decorating!