written by: Pamela Martin
• edited by: Sarah Malburg
• updated: 9/11/2012
Improve your students' writing skills and add a little fun to the class with these expository writing mini lessons to get them started on informational, comparative, and descriptive writing.
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Expository Writing Mini Lessons
Expository writing, which involves providing information to the reader, is the form most often required after a student leaves school. For this reason, it is very important that the skills involved be mastered completely. These expository writing mini lessons will aid you in preparing your students to write informative letters and reports, how-to essays and manuals and compare-contrast compositions for decision-making.
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Would You Rather?
Provide students with a strategy for making choices with this activity on comparing two options.
Begin by drawing a four-square template on the board or overhead; label one column “Pro" and the other “Con." Then pose a question like, “Would you rather text your friend or talk to your friend in person?" Label one row on the template with the first option and the other with the second.
Ask students to provide reasons for and against each option; fill in the box as they make their suggestions. Accept all responses (with censoring) at this stage.
When you have a good selection of ideas in each box, ask students to evaluate which box has the strongest reasons. Model this by pointing out that one box might have more reasons than the others, but that they are all variations of the same idea.
Once the group reaches a consensus, show the students how to rewrite the prompt into a thesis statement, such as “I would rather text my friends than talk to them in person." Explain that this statement will be the main idea of the introductory paragraph for their comparison or essay.
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Importance of Details and Sequence
Students sometimes have difficulty with organization in their writing. This mini lesson will help drive home the importance of arranging steps in a logical order, along with the need for specific details when providing instructions.
Ask students to draft an essay in which they describe how to complete a simple task that can be completed in the classroom. The steps for making a sandwich or a banana split are always fun topics, especially in the next stage, which may be quite messy,. Other possibilities include how to sharpen a pencil, how to make a mobile or how to fold a piece of clothing.
When the students are satisfied that their compositions are complete, they exchange with someone else in the class. They should then follow the steps exactly as written to attempt to complete the task. Readers should not add or take away any information from the steps. For example, if the first step is “Spread butter on a slice of bread," they should not assume that they are to remove the bread from the package or to use a knife.
After everyone has had a little fun with the activity, provide students with the opportunity to revise their essays to make them clearer. If someone is still having difficulty, suggest to them that they physically try to perform each step and then stop to write it down before proceeding to the next one.
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Frequently, students write very simple, basic sentences that provide few, if any, descriptive details to the reader. This lesson focused on adjectives and adverbs can be fun and informative at the same time.
First, review with students the function of adjectives and adverbs. Remind them that adjectives describe nouns--the names of people, places, things and ideas--while adverbs describe verbs--the action of the sentence--and adjectives. Ask for a few examples of each, with students providing both the modifier and the word it is modifying (blue ball, etc.)
Divide students in pairs for the practice activity. Give each pair a three-to-four word sentence, like “The dog barked.” Partners alternate adding an adjective or an adverb to the sentence to make a more vivid and visible word picture. Allow groups to compete to see which partnership can produce the longest, yet most coherent, sentence.