Looking through some of the blogs this week, what Kayla wrote in her 9th entry, which focused on expository writing, caught my eye. Kayla wrote:
The students had no motivation whatsoever because the topic wasn't interesting to them, so they were extremely bored, and they were given a prompt and told to write. I really like using graphic organizers and I definitely think that they have their time and place and I think that students should have had the chance to use a graphic organizer, or even learn how to use one so that come testing day they could use their scrap paper to make their own.
In this exert, Kayla was writing about her struggles to get students engaged in expository writing. I agree with Kayla on the importance of graphic organizers. Many students do not use graphic organizers because they not only do not understand the importance of them, but how to use them. Reflecting back to my years in school, I vaguely remember using graphic organizers. If I used graphic organizers, I used them because the teacher handed me a worksheet and expected me to use it for that moment. In undergraduate school I was taught various graphic organizers, but even though I failed to understand the importance of them. Not understanding why graphic organizers are essential is not a good concept for a teacher.
Now that I am in the graduate program, I understand why we need to emphasize graphic organizers in the classroom. In Dr. Hopkin’s LTED 625 class, we are reading a text that has what appears to be hundreds of them. The text, Teaching Reading in the Content Area by Urquhart & Frazee (2012) not only gives you the strategy, it tells you when and how to use it in the classroom. If I know I want to teach my students a certain strategy, I can refer back to this text. For example, I am trying to have my 7th grader learn good study skills, especially for vocabulary words. He told me he does not study so I know my role is to find various study strategies that I think would work for him, until he finds one that works. Even with Tompkins (2012) I learn various organizers. This text focuses more on the writing process and genres, but still provides me with various organizers. In the letter Personal Writing chapter, Tompkins (2012) supplies the reader with various writing outlines that we can use in our classroom. I am teaching my students how to write persuasive letters so Tompkins’ (2012) “Forms for Friendly and Business Letters” found on p. 118 provides me a generic outline to use for my students. What I enjoy about Tompkins’ (2012) is that she provides me with real life examples of how I can incorporate them into the classroom. Informational texts are great because they provide a vast amount of knowledge but, narrative texts dwells into a more personal level. You see what worked and how/why it worked. In the end of a informational text, all I want to really know is if the strategy actually works and how one gets it to be successful in the classroom.
Another exert I enjoyed from one of my classmate’s blog entry was Jaimie M’s blog entry 7: “Expository Genre.” The exert I pulled from her entry is:
One of the most important aspects of teaching this genre is to start exposing students to expository text at a young age. By exposing them to an expository text it causes them to think about topics in a different manner. Young children are always asking questions, because of that, exposing them to expository texts will only allow children learn about more topics that they were once unfamiliar with.
After reading this, I could not agree anymore. As a teacher, I am constantly reflecting on the thought of “What if my students have been exposed to this sooner?” By familiarizing children with a variety of texts, especially expository, students will have an easier time not only understanding how to read the texts, but also enjoying them. In the program we read that exposure at a young age to vocabulary and language (written and oral) is a predictor for comprehension. With the common core, we are expected to start exposing our young students to this type of text in order for them to become more familiar with it and have an easier time comprehending the material.
People may argue that expository texts are uninteresting more young children as they might be too ‘dry’ or too ‘boring.’ But to combat these common arguments, Tompkins (2012) provides a list of expository children’s books on p. 203. I do agree that they are not always interesting, but that’s why we have to find ones that are. What we need to do is simply survey our students and find out what topics they find interesting. I would much rather read a fiction text over a expository text. But once I do find an expository text that peeks my interest, I will divulge straight into it and any other books like it. This summed up my 10th grade year of high school. I became obsessed with reading texts about the Kings and Queens of England to the point where I knew more about Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine day queen,’ than my global teacher did. I even got to do a brief summary to the class about her. As a teacher, it would be great to have a student so interested in an expository text that they knew more than me.