"I put words on paper, and then I push them a bit," is how one famous writer described his craft. In teaching expository writing to second-graders, your task is to encourage the children to put lots of words on paper and then to push them around a bit. Expository wiring has a purpose beyond merely entertaining. Expository writing seeks to inform by conveying facts. To interest and encourage second-graders, you must choose topics of interest to them and show them a purpose in the writing, other than completing an assignment. This requires your own creativity.
Explain expository writing to your second-grade class. Expository writing is writing that informs the reader. It is not anecdotal or a story, but rather a sharing of information. Expository writing tells what happened, reports on a subject, explains how to do something or describes a thing.
Teach the children not to edit or censor their writing before getting the words on paper. Instruct the children to write down whatever thoughts, ideas and information they have on the topic, and tell them not to edit anything until they have at least two or three paragraphs on paper (most compositions for second-graders will be two to four paragraphs long). Too often, the children sit in front of blank sheets of paper unable to write anything down because they don't think their writing will be "good enough." Encourage the children to get words on paper, then they can "push" them a bit.
Print out examples of good expository writing. Bump up the font and print each sentence separately, then cut the sentences into strips. Have the children, individually or in groups, re-assemble the strips to make a good paragraphs. Have the children discuss the relative merits of their different versions of the paragraph. Use the examples of good writing to teach and reinforce grammar rules. Have the children bring in examples of expository writing they have encountered: directions to games and consumer products, articles about pet care, sports or local events. Share these with the class.
Talk before writing. Have the children tell you out loud what each is going to write about. Teach the class that writing is just putting the speeches down on paper. "If you can talk, you can write."
Assign the children "How to" reports on doing some ordinary, everyday task, such as making a peanut butter sandwich. Have another child attempt to follow only the written instructions. For example, a child could write: "First, get peanut butter and jelly. Then, spread the peanut butter. Then, spread the jelly." Another child could attempt to follow the instructions and begin "spreading" the peanut butter on the air. This visual action can help the children understand the importance of exact directions.
Have the children describe a pet, place or event they know well. Your goal here (and in the Step above) is to give the children practice writing expository compositions that do not require that they do a lot of research, as research is a separate skill. Given a reference book, most 7- and 8-year-olds will freely plagiarize out of ignorance. By assigning familiar topics, you can focus on writing.
Suggest other topics of interest and importance to the children: Should soda and snack machines be banished from school property; should recess be expanded, decreased or eliminated? Should every player on a sports team play equal amounts of time, or should the best players get more time in the field? Where should the family go on vacation this year? Teach the children to give reasons for their opinions. Have them write the composition as a letter addressed to the principal, coach or their parents.
- Have a competition for best article on a specific topic. Sentences only count if they are coherent and on topic.
- Share your own expository writing with your second-grade class.
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