You Can Teach Writing

Expository essay continuum fits within CCSS text types.

A list of expository essay types is included in nearly every high school and college text about writing. The textbook you use for teaching writing probably includes a fair number of those on the continuum below. If you are just starting out teaching expository writing, you might find the list daunting. How could you possibly ever teach all those different essay types?

You couldn't. And you don't need to.

Every type of expository essay can be taught as some variation on the basic thesis and support writing pattern.

Reading this page on a mobile device? Readable lists of the types of essays in each of the three I/E groups are further down the page.

warning against trying to teach every or any type of expository essay.
Information on this page is just for teachers. Students don't need to know it.
expository essay continuum shows 3 groups of I/E texts between arguments and narratives.
Amount of narrative increases from left to right.

Argument and narrative don't change.

Argument and narrative are terms from the traditional list of expository essays. All other traditional expository essay types are now within the category of informative/explanatory texts.

You'll notice on the continuum that there are three groups of essays under the informative and explanatory texts heading.  As you move from left to right along the continuum, essays within those three groups contain increasing amounts of narrative.

After students have mastered the basic thesis-and-support pattern, you can begin easing them toward modifications of the basic pattern. You do that by assigning writing prompts that give students an option to use some narrative technique in lieu of the more traditional three pieces of evidence.

Knowing which expository essay types contain the least amount of narrative can help you there.

Use the list of expository essay types in the I/E text group next to arguments to start you thinking. You shouldn't have too much difficulty coming up with an authentic ELA writing prompt that calls for persuasion, analysis, or classification. See if you can find one that lends itself to an anecdote or event summary.

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 Expository essay types with a little narrative

Five expository essays in the I/E texts category that typically have some narrative are these:

  • textual essay
  • critical essay
  • classification essay
  • persuasive essay
  • analysis essay

Five expository essay types that typically have a bit more narrative are these from the center column under I/E texts:

  • contrast essay
  • definition essay
  • illustration essay
  • compare-contrast essay
  • comparison essay

The five expository essay types that typically have the most amount of narrative compared to other I/E texts are these:

  • process essay
  • how-to-essay
  • cause-effect essay
  • descriptive essay
  • literary analysis essay

What to read next

If you detoured here from instructional strategy 5, you can go back to that page about teaching one writing pattern or on to strategy 6 about the one writing process to teach.

If you reached this page via a search engine, you may wish to start from the beginning to see what you missed. Here are your choices:  HOME page. Instructional strategies. IS1 Teach required writing. IS2 Aim for competence. IS3 Align objectives to goal. IS4 Plan 3/4 point finish. IS5 Teach 1 writing pattern. IS6 Teach 1 writing process. IS7 Individualize remediation. IS8. Do daily writing practice. IS9 Give fast feedback often. IS10 Require full documents. IS11 Assess for competence. IS12 Wait for writing skill.

Content on this page was first posted at you-can-teach-writing.com on 2008-08-15 and updated 2011-12-16 by Linda Aragoni. She posted this version to yctwriting.com on 2018-01-01. 


Use Common Core lingo

Even if you don't teach writing in one of the US schools that have adopted the Common Core State Standards, you can save yourself grief if you use the terminology of the Common Core instead of traditional essay terminology: argument, narrative, and informative/expository text.

Linda says how to test your expository essay prompts.

Hints and helps that are useful for good students are not enough for struggling students or those with learning difficulties. Students who struggle with writing need explicit directions and live models of how to write.

Linda's signature beneath a comment about teaching writing.