Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Expository Nonfiction: It Leads to Success in School!

Today, Marlene Correia will be discussing the fourth item on the 5 Reasons to Share Expository Nonfiction with Students. Thanks so much for your thoughts on this topic, Marlene.
Success in school is important to everyone—educators, parents, guardians, and, of course, students, and a powerful body of research shows that exposing children to a rich, diverse array of expository writing can help in a variety of ways.

The Gateway to Literacy
For starters, as Melissa discussed in this post, studies clearly show that as many as 42 percent of elementary students prefer expository nonfiction over fiction and narrative nonfiction. Unlike narrative nonfiction, which tells a true story or conveys an experience, expository nonfiction focuses on facts and figures, ideas and information—things that many young readers value because they’re goal-oriented readers. They want to understand everything in the wide world and how it works.

While some info-loving kids manage to develop as readers despite a dearth of expository books, others don’t. Instead, they receive the unfortunate label “reluctant reader.” Research shows that these children will only thrive as readers if they have access to expository nonfiction on topics of personal interest. In other words, for them, expository text is the gateway to literacy.

Understanding and Evaluating Complex Texts
But the benefits of expository nonfiction don’t end there. The Common Core and most state ELA standards expect that students will be reading increasingly complex texts as they move from one grade level to the next.

When schools give early elementary readers access to expository nonfiction, children will have plenty of opportunities to discover and explore the key elements of this writing style. Even the simplest expository writing introduces new concepts and specialized vocabulary. It also contains a variety of text structures and text features, including charts, graphs, infographics, timelines, diagrams, maps, hyperlinks, and embedded videos.

When teachers and librarians read aloud finely-crafted expository children’s books, they model how students can and should approach this kind of text when they read independently. They can teach children to ask the following questions about accessing and understanding information:
—How do I monitor what I’m reading to make sure I understand the information?
—What do I do when I come to a part I don’t understand?
—What if I’m reading for a particular purpose? Do I need to read cover-to-cover?
—How do I know where to find what I need?


Educators can also model what Kylene Beers and Robert Probst refer to as reading with a “skeptical eye.” In Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note (Heinemann, 2016), Beers and Probst say:
“Fiction invites us into the writer’s imagined world; nonfiction intrudes into ours and purports to tell us something about it.”
But is that author’s information accurate and are his/her conclusions reasonable? These are questions that students must learn to ask themselves whenever they read information texts.

But just asking the question isn’t enough, children must also develop the skills necessary to evaluate the information on their own by asking such questions as:
—Is the information accurate?
—Is the information up to date?
—Is the author biased?
—Does the author present a variety of perspectives?
—Is there an important point of view that the author does not include?

The more experience children have reading expository nonfiction, the more capable they will become in struggling successfully with understanding and evaluating complex texts.

Writing to Communicate Information
Because expository text is a critically important way of summarizing, synthesizing, and communicating thoughts and ideas, it's the style of nonfiction writing students will be required to produce most frequently throughout their school years and in their future jobs. Whether they’re working on a report, a thesis, a business proposal, or a company newsletter, they’ll need to craft expository prose that’s clear, logical, and interesting. The sooner and more often children have the opportunity to read and write expository nonfiction, the better off they will be in school and in life.

Dr. Marlene Correia is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District in Lakeville, MA. Marlene has 15 years of experience in K-8 education as a classroom teacher and special educator. Dr. Correia has also taught undergraduate and graduate education courses at Framingham State and Bridgewater State University. She is the co-author of Informational Texts in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade- Three Classrooms. Dr. Correia is a past-president of the Massachusetts Reading Association.


1 comment:

  1. Yes! Books full of charts, graphs, infographics, timelines, diagrams, maps, hyperlinks, and embedded videos are especially wonderful for kids who prefer to take in information visually! For some people, especially people with dyslexia, text or too much text can be an obstacle to getting information they are desperate for. Some kids love information and learning but they don't love text. Thank you!