Expository Writing with Quality Details

Ever since TEA came out with the new STAAR Writing specs, people have been a little worried about this whole expository thing.  I’ll admit it…I am, too.  Why?  Because our kids do SOOOO much better with narrative writing, that’s why!

But…BUT…that’s what our kiddos are required to do, so we must figure out a way to get them writing expository essays that are well-written with quality details.

Last month, as we were writing about our favorite seasons, I found myself asking my students the same questions over and over again.  After numerous conversations, I stopped and wrote down a paragraph of my own on the board with the same things I was telling my students…a “formula” if you will…and it WORKED!

Now, when I say formula, I’m not talking about the dreaded “formulaic writing” that TEA talks about.  I’m talking about using a specific sequence of Writers Tools that make sense together and help kids to write quality details.

So I created a “Build a Paragraph” pack to help them along.  Wow!  My students were REALLY thinking and adding sentences to their paragraphs that were on topic and added meaning to what they were writing…just like the STAAR rubric calls for!  SCORE!

If you are interested in purchasing this set for your class, click here.

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We also used a riddle for our introductions.  There are 6 introduction types that we are studying.  You can pick up some posters for your classroom all about expository introductions here.

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I wanted to share some successful expository essays that my kids created from this pack.  I think they are pretty darn good, if I may say so myself!  We still have some learning to do, but I like how they are now adding in details that enhance their papers.

To read them, click here.  We wrote about jobs we want to have in the future.

Let us know what you think in the comments!  😉

Ta ta for now!



  1. These look fantastic! I can’t wait to use them in class. One question, though, what tips/advice do you give students when they’re writing their topic sentence? Mine still get a little confused…

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Allison!

      We use Kernel Essays…and their topic sentences are their kernel essay sentences. Basically…it’s their reasons. We do an intro, then 2 body paragraphs, each with one reason why, and then a simple conclusion. If they can develop their body paragraphs with quality details, you’re pretty much at a 3. :)

  2. Diana Gross says:

    I love your work and am your newest blog follower. I, too, teach 4th grade in Texas. Your writing samples are so cute, however, are you concerned at all that all of the introductions are question leads with a “that’s right” in it? I’m so scared to teach a ‘formula’ for fear on STAAR day my whole class will use the same type of lead. I have a parent in my class who was a STAAR scorer, and she advised me to have the kids learn all the leads. So, I use this… http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top_teaching/2011/02/my-january-top-ten-list-writing-lessons-and-resources

    Would love to hear your thoughts about it.

    • Kayla Shook says:

      I actually give my students a choice of 6 types of introductions. This particular piece was right after teaching the introduction riddle, and that’s the introduction that most of them prefer. I wasn’t aware that they group the essays by class, but honestly, my end goal is to teach students strategies to be successful for writing beyond the STAAR test. If a grader wants to knock them for using an introduction style they have been taught, then I’m ok with that…because ultimately, the MAJORITY of the things they put into their writing they have been taught! Most 4th graders know VERY little about writing when they arrive in our classrooms, so for them to take the strategies and skills they have been taught and use them successfully is A-OK in my book. To me, this type of introduction is a style, not a formula. Teaching specific transition words or phrases is more of the formulaic writing that is taboo. Teaching a style is allowing the students to use a craft of asking open-ended questions to get their reader hooked into their writing.

      I’m glad you asked this question. I’m sure many others wonder the same thing. I’m so against this whole STAAR test thing anyway, but it’s something we all have to do. I guess it just frustrates me that sometimes the state is so hard on kids who are writing far beyond their knowledge of how authors craft their writing, which forces us to give them “formulas” to aide them along the way. Some see it as a craft and others as formulas. I guess we’ll never know who is right! 😉

  3. Diana Gross says:

    Agreed! I saw your December writing pieces, too, that used a question and ‘That’s right.” That’s where my question stemmed. My sweeties are really starting to get nervous, with good cause, but we know that it’s up to us to keep them calm… and write on! I love the things you’re doing and want to incorporate some into my writing block. At my school, we’ve recently adopted Lucy Caulkins for reading and writing instruction. The reading is OK, but I like the content of Being a Writer and Writer’s Workshop better. Best of luck to you and your class! We Texans, both big and small, will all ROCK THE STAAR!!

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