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Using Expository Text In The Secondary Classroom

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Category: Book Reports

Autor: rita 04 April 2011

Words: 1376 | Pages: 6

The vast majority of texts studied in school and used in workplaces are expository, just as much of human oral communication is verbally-expressed exposition. Since expository text is defined as factually based prose from which the reader is expected to derive information relevant to the subject matter. Expository text is typically organized using structures such as descriptions, analyses like comparison and contrast, syntheses of information such as generalization, presentation of problems and solutions, and cause and effect (Daniels and Bizar, 2005). This type of text is found in every subject from mathematics and literature to social studies and science. Virtually every subject in school as well as every area in life utilizes exposition as a form of written communication. From this insight, one can readily conclude that the understanding and usage of this type of text is critically important to the academic achievement and advancement of all students. At the middle school level, significant changes begin to occur in the academic curriculum in content areas such as science as students are expected to comprehend and master increasingly complex expository texts in a variety of subjects which use broad vocabulary and more intricate sentence structure than texts of their former school years.

The advantages of using expository texts are significant, leading to its broad usage in curriculum. First of all, expository text makes it possible to present a great deal of information in a straightforward manner. These texts are also easy to write and read in the sense that they do not utilize archaic devices such as poetic iambic pentameter. These techniques were widely used in past centuries when the oral tradition was far stronger than any other because poetry makes texts easier to remember. Expository texts also have an advantage over narrative texts because they facilitate a clear interpretation without literary devices that can be understood differently by various people. While these advantages might seem obvious to most people because of the social expectation of using expository texts in most written material throughout academic subjects and society, they are worth noting because they explain not only the utility of specifically teaching students how to read and understand these texts but also the necessity of comprehending exposition as a part of basic life skills in modern society (Daniels and Bizar, 2005).

The disadvantages of expository texts must also be explored. Expository texts tend to be less intrinsically interesting than narrative texts because students tend toward enjoying stories more than their drier descriptive counterparts. Exposition is also far less common as reading material for young children. This leads to the problem in later grades of students who had limited exposure to expository texts in early childhood and thus did not develop a solid basis for comprehending it. If one were to only use expository texts, students would miss the opportunity of exploring more abstract methods of conveying information that is inherently part of narrative literary devices such as symbolism, metaphor, and alliteration. Furthermore, expository texts alone do not allow for the full range of artistic expression that is possible when narrative and poetic texts are also taught (Hynd, 1998).

Expository text is instrumental not only in the understanding of the primary textbooks utilized in the class but for the purposes of teaching students to write, making it an important aid in the teaching of writing. At the middle school level, writing entails more planning, organization, and active cognitive processing of the material. These activities are perfect for delving more deeply into the concepts taught in middle school science. For instance, if students are learning about ecosystems, the incorporation of expository reading and writing facilitates greater student understanding of the material and engages them more actively as they must think about what it means and write about it. In summarizing what they have learned in their texts about ecosystems, then, students must derive the main ideas from the content and write a composite of these thoughts without the less important details (Reynolds and Perin, 2009).

Expository text can also be used to teach students about problems and solutions and cause and effect in the content areas such as science (Montelongo, Herter, Ansaldo, and Hatter, 2010). For instance, an expository text about the water cycle would include detailed factual information about the various stages in the cycle. This text could help students understand how one stage leads to another and what causes water to change form within the stages. Also, an expository text would enable students to engage with problems such as acid rain and droughts that occur in the water cycle because of human impacts. Students could explore these problems in texts and then compose their own texts in writing. Such activities build interest in the subjects because the material seems more relevant to the students and their interests (Reynolds and Perin, 2009). Building such interest into lessons through expository texts is important to middle school students' motivation and ultimately to how much of the material they learn and remember.

Another usage for expository text is in the teaching of the more abstract and representational material inherent in mathematics and science. The sciences utilize formulas and mathematical expressions that can be difficult if not impossible for students to understand without expository texts. For instance, middle school students might study the basic chemical formulas for water and oxygen such as H2O and O2. As students progress into physics, they will be exposed to formulas like F=mc2 that explain how the amount of force in a system relates to the mass of the object. At the middle school level they would not be required to mathematically utilize these abstract formulas but expository texts enable them to understand them more readily. In fact, without expository texts to illustrate and convey information regarding these texts, these scientific concepts would be quite impossible to understand (Hynd, 1998). Students can be taught signal words that relate to the various types of exposition as well. For instance, students can know that a generalization is coming next when they read words like "for example" and "to begin with" whereas they know that a comparison is next when they read the signal word "like" or "similarly" (Montelongo, Herter, Ansaldo, and Hatter, 2010). Such lessons are highly significant to overall comprehension of material and can be directly taught to students to increase their achievement.

Expository texts can also be used to expand students' vocabulary and engage students in higher order thinking. For instance, students can be directed to learn the critical vocabulary words in a text through a pre-lesson on the words themselves or through a process by which the students themselves actively pick the words they think they should know in the upcoming text (Harmon, Wood, Hedrick, and Gress, 2008). According to Bloom's taxonomy, this latter method engages the students in the higher order thinking process of evaluation in that they have to think about the words they see and decide which ones they need to know that they do not already know. Such activities not only strengthen students' overall vocabulary skills but also lead them to overall better cognition through the engagement with higher order thinking.

Using these types of methods of teaching with expository texts, teachers can actively engage students with the material they are learning in a variety of ways. This type of teaching has the advantage of broadening the range of activities a teacher can conduct as well as facilitating greater student preparation for work and life in society where students will undoubtedly encounter expository texts every day.

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References

Daniels, H. and Bizar, M. (2005). Teaching the Best Practice Way: Methods that Matter. NY: Stenhouse Publishing.

Harmon, J.M., Wood, K.D., Hedrick, W.B., and Gress, M. (2008). "Pick a Word--Not Just Any Word": Using vocabulary self-selection with expository texts. Middle School Journal, 40(1), 43-52.

Hynd, C. (1998). Learning from Text across Domains. DC: National Reading Council.

Montelongo, J., Herter, R.J., Ansaldo, R., Hatter, N. (2010). A lesson cycle for teaching expository reading and writing. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(8), 656-666.

Reynolds, G.A. and Perin, D. (2009). A comparison of text structure and self-regulated writing strategies for composing from sources by Middle School Students. Reading Psychology, 30(3), 265-300.

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