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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