When people talk about an expository paragraph, they are really
talking about the kind of paragraph most often found in the body
of expository nonfiction. Such a paragraph
could stand alonethe so-called paragraph essayor
it could be one of several body paragraphs in longer nonfiction
I tend to use the term body paragraph because
body is a shorter word than expository and makes more
sense to students. Also, there are types of exposition that do
not use expository paragraphs, notably nonfiction narratives.
Whatever you call it, the paragraph has a distinctive organization.
Every body (expository) paragraph has the same basic structure.
Each has a beginning, middle, and end relatively
little beginning and end, but a big chunk of middle.
These expository paragraph proportions mimic the proportions
of the standard expository
essay. Students need to master the basic paragraph organization
of the paragraph in order to write longer works such as three-
or five-paragraph essays.
(Elementary school writers tend to write paragraphs with a beginning
but no middle. That's why teachers say their work isn't developed.)
Show organization visually first
When teaching a verbal subject like writing, you have to make
an extraordinary effort to present material to appeal to students
who aren't verbal learners.
I like to start by showing some purely visual representations
of how a basic body paragraph is organized. Graphics make the
more visual learners think they might possibly be able to understand
this writing stuff.
For this presentation, I use a basic
informal outline that I'm going to use for dozens of other
begin by telling students this is a diagram or map of how a body
paragraph is put together. I dont use the word outline.
That is too scary. Depending on the students, I use picture,
map, diagram, graphic, or icon.
The verbal folks will see the numbers. They may see nothing else.
They won't have a clue what the numbers represent.
The non-verbal people see that in addition to having numbers,
the graphic elements include shapes, sizes, and colors. They will
intuit that things that are the same color belong together, that
identical shapes probably mean identical procedures. They may
not be able to explain that, but they will get it.
Next I show a more detailed graphic.
first thing that students should see is that the first graphic
has been expanded.
Everyone should see that the diagram now has three main sections.
Each section has the same elements in the same order.
The new icons are a little hard to read on screen. They are
- Paper clip chain
- "Information" symbol
- Magnifying glass
This visual examination of an expository paragraph is very much
like the structural reading technique (a.k.a.
surveying or previewing) you use in teaching reading
Kids raised with computers will intuit that items with the same
appearance represent the same procedure.
They may guess that the bars represent procedures. They may not
be able to enunciate those concepts clearly, but they will grasp
Have students "read" icons
You might want to do an informal
writing activity to have students identify what they notice
in the graphic and have them predict what they think those things
might mean, just as they would do in surveying reading.
If you are more verbal than visual, you may find this activity
difficult. I hope you do. We writing teachers need to be reminded
regularly that being taught in ways that don't mesh with one's
predominant learning mode is not only frustrating
but also impedes learning.
Paragraph pattern explained
Before the verbal kids start pulling their hair out, present
the graphic with words on it. Have students compare what
they expected to see with what the graphic says in