“Garden School” – Annotated Samples – Narrative, Opinion, & Expository
The Value of Teaching the Organization of each Genre of Writing
Whenever I’m presenting an EW workshop, I always sense that during the first hour participants are getting just a tad squirmy. I can almost read their minds… “When is she going to get to the actual writing??”The fact is, we spend this all-important time identifying the various genres, author’s purpose of each, and the related organizational structures. The more I become engaged with teachers through training, the more I realize how important this first basic lesson is. Thinking back to the classroom, I recall how often we’d skip this critical foundational work in an effort to “get kids writing!” Taking the time to help students learn to identify the structure of narrative, expository, and opinion/argument writing not only helps them become better writers, but more strategic readers – but they can’t do it unless teachers are prepared to provide, clear, directed instruction that empowers them to do so.
One of the challenges in teaching genre is that it can be challenging to find clear-cut examples to use for teaching purposes. It’s helpful for kids to view “side by side” – narrative, expository, and opinion texts on a similar theme. In this way they can begin to see the very clear differences in purpose, organizational structure and salient features of each.
In this particular lesson, students are presented with three pieces of writing on the subject of “Garden School”. One is narrative, one expository, and one opinion. Students are taken through the various elements that distinguish each genre of writing. They annotate in the margins, noting the key genre-specific features. Informed in this way, they’ll understand how to better plan and write their own stories and essays. As they read, they’ll be able to deconstruct the text, aware of authors’ craft and purpose. Is it an entertaining story with a beginning, main event, and extended ending, or an informative text with a clear introduction highlighting the main ideas to be discussed, and a conclusion? Or, does the author express an opinion backed by solid reasoning?