Simple Little Teacher’s Guide to the Expository Writing Essay in 5 Easy Steps

There are four types of writing that teachers need to teach each school year: narrative, persuasive, descriptive, and expository writing. Expository writing is being pushed more and more in schools as part of college readiness.  The Common Core is asking schools, teachers, and students to be better at expository writing so students will be better prepared for college. 

Why I Like Assigning an Expository Writing Essay

I liked assigning expository writing essays to my students because it allowed them to practice so many skills in writing.  My essay topics usually came from other parts of the curriculum.  While my students were reading The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 I assigned an expository writing essay on events from the Civil Rights Movement 1960s.  This assignment allowed my students to expand their knowledge on the civil rights movements so they would understand the book better.  At the same time, they practice reading comprehension skills while reading their sources, gathering text evidence, organizing information, and writing.

The Overwhelm of an Expository Writing Essay

There are many skills that students learn and practice while writing expository essays, which is why teachers love it.  However, think about all of that work from the students’ perspective.  It’s an overwhelming amount of work.  We want to help our students be successful and even have fun while writing an expository essay.

Expository Writing and Its Several Names 

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

Some More Great Articles About the Expository Writing Essay

Why Do Students Need to Learn Expository Writing?

We use expository writing every day.  We read road signs, recipes, directions, instructions, and so much more. We write grocery lists, directions, and emails.  It’s one of the most common types of writing we encounter and use in our lives.  

Expository writing also helps students show what they know and understand so teachers can evaluate them. Students deepen their understanding of a topic when they are writing about it.  They research for information and organize it in a meaningful way, and then explain it to others.  Of course, expository writing helps them learn more and express their knowledge.  

I have been involved in gymnastics my whole life, even though I was not very good.  When I started coaching in middle school I started to explain the skills to others, and suddenly my own gymnastics skills improved.  Expository writing has a similar effect.

Expository writing is also a key communication tool in life.  We use expository writing in job applications, college applications, emails, and so much more.  

Here are some tips to help you successfully teach expository writing.

Pick Meaningful Expository Writing Essay Topics

Research has shown again and again that students learn better when they are fully engaged.  How do we engage students?  Pick topics that are meaningful to them as much as possible.  Let students choose their topics too.  The bigger their role in choosing the topic the more engaged they will be. 

There will be times that you must have your students write about other topics that you pick, but they will appreciate that they get options at least some of the time.  If they are more engaged in learning when they choose their topics, what they learn will flood their writing even if they don’t get to choose. 

How to Make Writing an Expository Writing Essays Fun

It’s hard to believe that expository writing can be fun, but it’s true.  Let me know what other ideas you have used in your classroom in the comments.

Explore Student Interests

We just talked about picking meaningful topics.  Which can be a strategy you use within some other subject criteria.  For example, if your class is studying Ancient Egypt then you can let them pick which part of Egypt they want to study.  This gives them some choice, but still, within the topic, you need to cover.  

You can also have students explore their interests by basically giving them full control of the topic.  Do they love skateboarding, dance, art, or dinosaurs?  Let them have complete control of the topic and learn more about something they love.  This will also make grading far more interesting for you because you will read about so many different things.

Expository Writing Games

Students love playing games and you can help them learn expository writing through games.  Here are a few ideas.

  1. Students can practice process expository writing by putting the steps of a process in order.  For example, making a sandwich or writing a bike.  Adding a timer can make it more fun and challenging.
  2. Have a research contest.  You can set a timer and have students research as many facts on a specific topic as they can in that time.  Then you can see who got the most facts. You can see which facts are repeated and whoever doesn’t have a repeated fact gets points.  It’s like Scattagories.  This also gives the opportunity to explain that repeated facts are good because it means the information is more likely to be accurate.

Expository Writing Projects

Have students create expository writing projects. We can have our students work on many of the skills they need for expository writing through projects. I know at some point during the year you will need to have your students write an essay, but think about your purpose for each assignment.  Are you working towards them being able to research and gather credible information?  They can definitely demonstrate that through a project. Do your students need to work on organizing the information that they have?  A project or slideshow is a great option to show how they can organize all of their information visually with some written components.  Plus if you mix some projects in you will have to grade fewer essays.

Reliable Sources for an Expository Writing Essay

A huge part of expository writing is learning about reliable sources.  The sources students use for research needs to be reliable.  There is so much information online that is inaccurate.  We have to help our students learn to judge a source’s credibility.  Here is my Reliable Sources Mini-Lesson.

A great way to teach students how to find reliable sources is to have them practice researching.  You can put up some facts on the board and have students research to find out if they are accurate or not.  

Teach Students About Plagiarism Before Starting an Expository Writing Essay

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense, especially as students get into higher grades.  We need to take time to help students understand what plagiarism is.  So often we ask students to look in the text to find the answer to the question.  Then we ask them to write an essay on the information.  I completely understand why some students copy the correct and accurate information from a book, not understanding what they are doing.

If you are concerned about spotting plagiarism remember that your students are not perfect writers. If your students start writing perfect descriptive sentences then you should take a look at their sources to compare.

There are also websites where you can upload digital papers and the website will check for plagiarism.

Tips for Teaching the Expository Writing Essay

Here are a few more general tips about teaching expository writing.

  1. Use the writing process because expository writing is overwhelming.  Having students complete each step will help them see thier project planned out and be more successful.
  2. Organization matters in expository writing.  Just like every other kind of writing expository writing needs to be organized in a way that allows the reader to easily understand it.  How a paper is organized is closely related with which type of expository writing they are using.  Check out my article on The Brilliant and Easy Guide to the 6 Types of Expository Writing.
  3. Teach students to have a powerful hook to entice the reader and a clear thesis statement so the reader understands the writer’s purpose.

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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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