“By the time a child is in late elementary school, expository writing demands are almost everywhere, in every subject.”
– Jean Gudaitis Tarricone
Expository writing begins early and exists in every subject from history to math class. Producing sequential, enumerative, compare/contrast, cause/effect, opinion, and descriptive writing is an everyday occurrence in the curriculum from late elementary school to college. It is every teacher’s goal to have students learn to express their thoughts in a clear organized way; however, many students, including those with a specific learning disability, can struggle with the writing process since effective expository writing requires many hidden academic demands. These ideas also ring true for any type of learning environment, be it remote or in-person.
To begin, if students are going to be able to accurately reflect what they know in writing, they must not only comprehend the text read, but they must also understand the prompt for which they are writing. If a prompt is asking them to explain the role of a character in a story, they need to be able to identify the character and that character’s role in the story. They must also understand what the word “explain” means in the context of a writing assignment. In addition to intact comprehension skills, students must also possess strong study skills. Writing assignments ask students to effectively manage their time, organize their materials, and take effective notes; without these skills, students can struggle to meet assignment expectations. To produce writing that demonstrates critical thinking, students need to know how to read between the lines, interpret and extrapolate information, and make inferences. Finally, students must also be able to organize their thoughts on paper. They must know the structure of a paragraph, as well as how a piece of writing is built and how it can change based on the purpose of the assignment.
With these demands in mind, it is important that educators structure their approach to writing to help students not only have a firm grasp of the content and specific assignment, but also how paragraphs, lab reports, and long answer response questions are built. Graphic organizers and templates can assist in this process by helping students to plan their ideas in a structured way. Writing is a complex task that synthesizes many important learning skills, making it essential to give students the structure to organize their thinking in a way that helps them best meet expectations.