Writing Essays

This resource explores instructional practices for incorporating expository essay writing into English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies instruction.

This resource uses original content from the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies: Focus on Writing (TALA Writing) professional development. Any handout numbers in this resource refer to the original TALA Writing handouts.

Download and print the handout packet for this resource by clicking the button below.

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In an expository essay, a type of informational text, the writer clarifies or explains something by using facts, details, and examples in a clear and concise way.

To write an effective expository essay, students need a basic understanding of the general structure of essays. By studying a variety of essays (mentor texts), students can learn various characteristics of essays, including the following:

  • Every type of essay has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • The focus should always be on the development of ideas related to the topic, rather than a predetermined number of paragraphs (e.g., the five-paragraph essay).
  • The topic, purpose for writing, and audience drive an essay's structure.

Locate Handout 19: General Guidelines for Drafting Essays from the handout packet. 

Read the handout.

One of the nonnegotiable elements of any essay is that it must progress logically and smoothly from sentence to sentence. Each part must "build" on what comes before it.  For this to happen, meaningful transitions are essential. Take a moment to reread the information about meaningful transitions on page 3 of the handout.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Expository Essay Elements

To learn any type of essay writing, students need explicit instruction with teacher modeling. In addition to introducing students to the general structure of essays, it is important to teach the unique characteristics of specific essays.

Locate Handout 20: Expository Essay Elements and Handout 21: Expository Essay Elements Mini-Chart from the handout packet. 

Read the handouts. The mini-chart can be posted in the room and/or placed in students' writing folders or notebooks.

Now, think about the content you currently teach or will teach during this grading period. Determine two or three expository essay topics that your students could clarify or explain by using facts, details, and examples. Record the topics in your teaching journal.

Next, locate Handout 12: Solidarity and Support and Handout 23: Model Lesson: Analyzing Expository Essays Tool from the handout packet. 

Read the expository essay "Solidarity and Support."

Then, watch the video below of a teacher thinking aloud as she models how to identify the different elements in the essay. Use Handout 23 as you follow along.

Now, take a few minutes to finish reading the model lesson on the handout.

Next, locate Handout 22: Analyzing Expository Essays Tool from the handout packet. 

Handout 22 is a classroom master that you can use to model and analyze other mentor expository texts related to your content area.

When teaching the elements, introduce only one or two at a time and use explicit modeling and mentor texts that align with your content. Mentor texts are exemplary models which students can analyze, learn from, and emulate in their own writing. When possible, use mentor texts that students have previously read. The familiar content allows students to more fully concentrate on how the essay is written.

Writing an Introductory Paragraph

When teaching students to write expository text, it is important to practice writing yourself and to draw upon your own experiences.

Locate Handout 27: Writing an Introductory Paragraph for an Expository Essay and Handout 20: Expository Essay Elements from the handout packet. Note that the prompt on Handout 27 has been edited for clarity and differs slightly from the prompt read in the video.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Next, write an introductory paragraph for this expository essay. Take a few minutes to prewrite and plan what you will write. Review the common types of introductions described on Handout 20. Be sure to include a "hook" to grab the reader's attention and the thesis, or controlling idea, of the essay.

When you are finished writing your introductory paragraph, think about the following questions below and record your thoughts in your teaching journal.

  • Why is it important to practice writing the same types of texts that you assign your students to write?
  • How did you feel before, during, and after writing this part of an expository essay?