Well, fellow literacy classmates, is it just me or is this semester flying by?? As I begin thinking about this blog entry I think back to Jaimie and Gretchen's presentation on the expository genre. To be completely honest, I wasn't even sure exactly what the expository genre was until I opened up Tompkins (2012) and started reading. I considered it nonfiction writing, I never knew it had the term "expository." It's one of those "you learn something new every day" things I guess. During my student teaching experience, I didn't really have the chance to teach the expository writing genre but during my day-to-day substitute teaching students in the fourth and fifth grade classes would be working on essays which were expository. That's really all they would write, essays. They were practicing for PSSAs (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment), which was Pennsylvania's standardized testing. They were being drilled in writing essay form and it was a mixture of expository, persuasive, and narrative, but one day I remember working on expository with one of the fifth grade classes. The students had no motivation whatsoever because the topic wasn't interesting to them, so they were extremely bored, and they were given a prompt and told to write. I really like using graphic organizers and I definitely think that they have their time and place and I think that students should have had the chance to use a graphic organizer, or even learn how to use one so that come testing day they could use their scrap paper to make their own. It was really frustrating for not just the students but for me as well because I was given instructions to have them write for about 30 minutes and then share. They wrote about five lines because they were so uninterested and I didn't have any ideas for ways to engage them.
While reading through the chapter in Tompkins (2012) I found a lot of ideas that I really liked. Instead of students just writing in essay form there are so many different options that I had never thought of before. I think that my favorite was the Alphabet Book (p. 211). When I read that the students wrote down ABC and words that start with that letter I thought they were done, but I think it's a really good way for students to not only use expository but descriptive writing as well when they elaborate on the word they chose for the letter. A lot of students are really good at drawing pictures and don't get the chance to show that off so I think this is a really good opportunity to gain student interest by letting them know that they won't just be drawing but they can draw a picture as well. I know a lot of students draw when they're done with work or during indoor recess so they like to express their creativity in the classroom.
Another emphasis that Tompkins (2012) made was to make sure that when we're teaching the expository text we tell students about plagiarism, what it is and why it's wrong (p. 213). Teaching paraphrasing is a must, and it's something that students will use throughout their educational career so the earlier they learn how to paraphrase the better. A lot of students, when doing expository pieces, take notes and they need to be taught the proper way to take notes in their own words instead of copying it straight from the text. I know that if I would copy notes straight from the text I don't learn anything, I need to put the words from the text into my own to make sure that I comprehend them. I think that the note-taking strategy is also a really good comprehension strategy as well.
The expository genre has so many different characteristics and there are so many ways to teach it and so many activities to do with it that I wasn't aware of. I can't wait to try some of them out when I have my own classroom.