Remarkable Little Guide to the 4 Different Types of Writing 

There are so many things that we need to teach in writing each school year.  It’s overwhelming to think about all the mini-lessons, teaching moments, assignments, and grading. But if we can take a step back and look at the big picture of what we are teaching it can help simplify our writing curriculum for the year.  

I love anything that makes teaching life simpler. Every school year there are four different types of writing that we need to teach our students.  They are narrative, persuasive, expository, and descriptive.  Let’s take a look at these different types of writing because having a better understanding of the big picture can make this humongous teaching task easier. 

Teaching the Different Types of Writing

During the school year I would get wrapped up in all the lessons I was teaching and all the grading I was going to have to do.  It was overwhelming to plan lessons to try to teach writing in an organized and understandable way. As part of a teaching team, I was expected to hop between the different types of writing with the other teachers.  It also seemed like the teaching curriculum wanted my students to work on the same piece of writing endlessly.  They were bored and it made their assignments and motivation awful.  Who wants to continuously revise edit the same piece of writing forever?

Ready for Testing with the Different Types of Writing

Writer’s Workshop and writing blocks should be a little messy.  Creativity is messy.  When we imagine and create it’s often in short bursts until we practice creating. Our lessons are going to change every year based on our students’ needs, not what a curriculum says.  Our students’ goal is to progress as writers, not become perfect.  

The best way to make progress as a writer is to practice a lot. We are trying to give our students a strong foundation of the basics so they are ready for more intense work in high grades. We want them to recognize the different types of writing and texts through their characteristics and start to apply those differences to their work. As they progress as writers, their writing will become more complex by adding adjectives, adverbs, descriptive writing, paragraphs, and more.

Why Are There Different Types of Writing?

One of the lessons we are constantly trying to teach our students is how to write to their audience for a specific purpose. This is a skill any writer needs to do.  While people write emails they are trying to convey a clear message to the recipient without any misunderstandings occurring. 

When writers are writing a book they are trying to engage their audience enough that they will read the whole book and maybe the next one too.  If you are a scary story person who hears Stephen King is releasing a new book you are excited until you find out it’s a fantasy book with a princess and frog.  He has a clear audience and that book is not what they want to read.  

The audience and purpose for writing will determine the type or style of writing your students are going to create. The different types of writing all have different purposes and require different writing skills.  Your students need to understand which type of writing they are focusing on, and you need to help them stick to it to make their writing better. 

Often types as our students practice the different types of writing they will start to find that they prefer one type of writing over the others.  This is a good thing.  It means your students are starting to find their writer’s voice where they can share their personality and thoughts.  I know we want our students to be great all around, but help them develop their preferred style because it will help the rest of their writing too.  

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What are the Different Types of Writing?

There are four different types of writing.  They can be broken down into more categories, genres, or styles, but we want our teacher lives to be simpler.  There are four different types of writing.  Imagine all of the writing assignments you give your students over the school year.  Your goal with those assignments is to make sure your students understand four types of writing.  That’s it. 

We are going to dive into a detailed explanation of each, as well as common places you can find examples of the different types of writing.

Different Types of Writing: Narrative

Narrative writing tells a story.  Narratives can be real or imagined. Narratives need characters, conflicts, and settings. The reader should enjoy reading to find out what happens to the characters.  

There are often events in narratives like action, motivating situations, conflicts, and resolutions.  Dialogue and action can make the story come to life and move forward. Sometimes the writer wants to share a theme or message with the reader, but other times it is just about telling a good story.

Often teachers start the school year with a personal narrative about our students’ lives or summer because it provides students with some of the basic story or literary elements a narrative needs.  

You Can Find Examples of Narratives Writing In

  • Short Stories
  • Novels
  • Poetry
  • Historical Accounts
  • Biographies
  • Fiction
  • Human Interest Stories
  • Anecdotes

Different Types of Writing: Expository 

In the teacher world, expository writing can be called informational, research, fact-based, or any other number of terms.  It sometimes depends on the grade level, teacher, district, or state.  Today I am going to use the term expository.

Expository writing is informational writing.  The writer is exposing or explaining facts and information for the reader.  The goal for expository writing is that the writer explains all the relevant information they can in a logical order without stating their personal opinions.  This is hard for students because they have opinions on almost everything.

Often expository writing will include evidence, facts, research, and statistics.  The writer has to think on multiple levels to explain their topic logically, include evidence to support their writing, and keep their personal opinion out of it.  

Schools push students to learn expository writing to prepare them for college.  It’s also important for students to identify, read, and understand expository writing because they will see it in their daily lives.  We read expository writing daily.

You Can Find Examples of Expository Writing In

  • Textbooks
  • Journalism (but not editorials or opinion articles)
  • Business Writing
  • Technical Writing
  • Essays
  • Instructions
  • Directions
  • Scientific
  • How To
  • Recipes

Different Types of Writing: Persuasive

Persuasive writing is exactly what it says it is.  In persuasive writing, the writer is trying to convince the reader to take their side of an argument.  The persuasive writer has a strong opinion and they want you to know what it is, understand it, and agree with it. However, the persuasive writer knows it’s going to take some work so they share their opinion, give reasons, evidence, and justifications to help you agree with them.

Teaching persuasive writing is a lot of fun for both the teacher and the students.  As I said in expository writing students have opinions on almost everything, and in persuasive writing, they get to share them.  They get to go beyond sharing their opinions, they are trying to convince the reader that their opinion is the right opinion. 

Students usually need to do some research to write a persuasive paper, which is why I teach it after expository writing.   Here are some of the basic steps for how teaching persuasive writing might go.

  1. Pick topics or ideas that your students are passionate about.  Persuasive writing is all about passion.  
  2. Once students have the topic ideas from you or themselves they need to decide what their stance is.  
  3. Next they need to research both sides of the argument.  They are going to try to make the facts and statistics support their idea rather than the opposition.  The writer must understand both sides of the argument.
  4. Have a class debate or small group debates about the topics.  Students can try to sway their classmates and work out some of their ideas better.
  5. Write.  Their writing should go between what they think and what the opposition thinks, while always trying to disprove the opposition.

Students will need to use evidence and justifications to convince the reader to join their stance and maybe take some action.  For example, if students are writing about paper, plastic, reusable, or no straws.  They will try to convince the reader to use their preferred type of straw. If their persuasive writing is convincing the reader may change their buying habits.  

Even in schools, persuasive writing can create real change.  Students can call other students to take action and make a difference.

You Can Find Examples of Persuasive Writing In

  • Advertising
  • Opinion Articles
  • Editorial Articles
  • Reviews (book, concert, or food)
  • Job Applications
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Cover Letters
  • Arguementive Essays

Different Types of Writing: Descriptive

In fourth-grade writing, I encountered a lot of list writing.  My students would tell me what happened by saying “and then…” over and over again.  It was boring to read their immature and poor writing.  As a teacher, it was hard to get students to implement descriptions that show the reader what’s happening instead of telling.

Descriptive writing is when the writer helps the reader visualize the story.  The writer is painting a picture of what the story looks like using vivid and sensory details.  These details can describe a character, setting, event, idea, or all of them.  As students become better writers their descriptive writing will include more literary techniques such as figurative language.

Descriptive writing is artistic.  The writer has a lot of freedom in their writing to show the reader what they want them to see, just like an artist has the freedom to paint with as many colors as they’d like.

Descriptive writing can occur in narrative and persuasive writing, but it also can be a more stand-alone type of writing.  It’s a great skill to have students practice descriptive writing as their own assignment before expecting students to incorporate it in their regular writing.

You Can Find Examples of Descriptive Writing In

  • Poetry
  • Journals and Diaries
  • Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Advertising
  • Nature Writing
  • Observational Writing

Finding a Balanced Way to Teach the Different Types of Writing

It is important that students understand all of these different types of writing.  They should be able to identify them while reading and know which one they are writing.  As students progress in their academic careers they are going to need to be able to pick which type of writing they should use for an assignment.  Which type of writing they choose is of course going to depend on their purpose.  

Usually, we tell our students which type of writing they are going to use, but we should also try to give some opportunities for students to choose which type of writing to pursue.  It’s important for them to practice the responsibility of choosing.

Students need to switch between the different types of writing enough that writing is fun and interesting, but also have enough practice with one type of writing that their understanding and writing skills grow. Personally, I like to work in two-week increments.  I give students practice with one type of writing for two weeks, and then offer a break with poetry or descriptive writing for a bit before diving into another type of writing.

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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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