Using Expository Text

Rachel Mills, May 12, 2016

Think about the way you come to understand the world around you. What do you read to find out about the climate of a region you plan to visit? What do you consult to identify the bird that just flew past your window? In fact, what are you reading right now? The answer to all these questions is expository text.

We are surrounded by text whose primary purpose is to convey information about the natural or social world. Success in schooling, the workplace, and society depends on our ability to comprehend this material. Yet many children and adults struggle to comprehend the text.

We should not wait to address this problem until students reach late elementary, middle, and high school, when learning from text is a cornerstone of the curriculum.

Nell K. Duke

What is Expository Text?

Expository text makes up a large percent of what adults read on a daily basis. We see adults reading expository text not only to keep up with current events, build a bookshelf from IKEA but also to do their job! We see teachers reading textbooks, lawyers reading legal papers, policeman reading reports and records and veterinarians reading medical books.

Expository-informational books do not include story elements such as characters, goals, and resolutions. Instead these text might be characterized as reports, using expository text structures such as cause and effec, comparison-contrast, sequence, description, and problem-solution. Expository books explain the natural and social world, including animals, places, and cultural groups. (Dreher and Kletzien, 2005)

We can use these great texts to teach our reading skills! In planning for skill teaching, it is important for teachers to examine all grade-level expectations for skill development and state standards for their students. Then, look at the expository text resources that are being used in read aloud, shared book, guided reading and content area studies to determine how a target skill could be demonstrated, practiced and then assessed.


Teaching Opportunities with Expository Text

1. Interactive Read Alouds

1. Reading aloud to our students is one of the most important ways we can facilitate their development as a reader. The benefits of including expository text into your daily read aloud will most likely be significant. Expository text have language patterns that are different a fictional text. When we use expository text during our read aloud we are exposing our students to the pattern in a comfortable way and also show them how a proficient reader engages with expository text. Most of all, expository text read alouds demonstrate that reading for new information can be interesting and fun! (Hoyt, 2002)

2. Interest Groups

When we allow students to follow their interest and passion we are helping aiding in the making of a creative, life-long learner. Teachers can allow students to work in interest groups during a set time during the school year, or as an extension. Teachers act as a facilitator during this time by helping students learn to find expository text and reading the information to determine if their wonder has been answered. As groups become experts or "geniuses" on their topic, they can share what they learn with their classmates. (Duke, 2003)

3. Purposeful Writing

One purpose of expository text is to relay information, our students should write expository text to convey information to others who want or need it. Some examples of authentic expository writing samples could be:

  • Students could write brochures about exhibits for use at local museums
  • Students could create posters about the school garden to display in school hallways
  • Students could write books on topics to donate to the school or classroom library

For our primary students, parents or other family members, and familiar groups in the community could all become meaningful, and appropriate audiences for information our students are learning about in the world around them. (Duke, 2003)

4. Phonics Instruction

Rather than displaying a commercially produced alphabet chart, have students create an alphabet using real-world materials such as leaves, grass, flowers, pencils, wrappers and pictures. When alphabet charts are made by the students, students can use their world knowledge to relate more easily to the letter/sound correspondences you are trying to teach. Linda Hoyt, author of Make It Real states that these homemade alphabet charts can bridge language barriers, naturally activate world knowledge, and stimulate an interest in the real world. (Hoyt, 2002)

5. Grammar

After reading an expository text for the content or information, students can explore grammar within a meaningful context. In a guided reading lesson, students can investigate nouns, verbs, adjectives and whatever other content skills are needed within the passage. Through this activity the teacher is able to support and teach grammar while still holding a high standard for content area learning. (Hoyt, 2002)

6. Cloze Lessons with Expository Text

Cloze activities support comprehension of the text. Teachers can do a variety of different types of cloze activities such as inferring unknown words, or determining the beginning or ending sounds of a particular word. (Hoyt, 2002)

A cloze activity using expository text could look similar to this.

Did you know that _alruses, seals, and sea lions are all in the same animal ____________? They love _ater and have bodies that are designed to make __________________ easy. Their torpedo-shaped bodies slide smoothly _ _ rough the ocean, which helps them to _______ for their food in the water.

7. Independent Reading Time

Time for students to read expository text is important! Teachers should provide time for students to read self-selected expository text. One way to encourage students to read expository text, along with other genres, is to keep a reading log. (Kletzien, S. B., & Dreher, M. J.,2004)

Why Teachers Should Choose Expository Text More Than Fiction

Primary grade ELAR instruction should include the use of expository text for both reading and writing. State standards, standardized test, and national educational organizations recognize the importance of young children being able to read and understand information. Also, children enjoy expository text, often finding them more motivating than storybooks.

1. Students are Curious

1. Students' natural curiosities are sparked when more expository text is introduced into

each day. Expository or informational text has a motivating potential because our students are curious about their world. Curiosity is a powerful motivator for reading, and our students that have interest are motivated to read about it in expository text. These curiosities can also lead to a greater confidence in their ability to read as they become "experts" in areas of interest. (Duke, 2000)

2. Students Need to Expand their Vocabulary

By the later elementary grades, vocabulary knowledge is an excellent predictor of reading comprehension. Unfortunately, many books designed for school reading instruction contain limited vocabulary, and some science texts for young children even promote misconceptions by using less accurate words.

To help students improve their understanding it is important for teachers to scaffold vocabulary before reading expository text. It should be the goal of the teacher to provide dialogue and experiences using the vocabulary before reading. This can be done by frontloading. The more the students know about the terms in the reading the easier it will be for them to understand the text. There are several ways to frontload vocabulary such as: Frayer Model, RAFT, vocabulary cards, or choiceboards. (Hoyt, 2002)

3. Students Need to Know How to Organize Information

Once students know and understand that expository text gives us information to answer our question, students will need to know what do to with that information. Teachers can help students develop information literacy by providing many opportunities for students to seek information in meaningful ways for real purpose. Teachers can model how to use information and take notes, by using the text features. (Kletzien, S. B., & Dreher, M. J.,2004)

Tips for Parents

  • Be aware of the types of text to which we are (and are not) exposing your children to. What are your children seeing you read. Is it mainly the same type of text? Subscribe to newspapers and informational magazines to help your home become more print rich.
  • Devote some funds for books and other materials to the purchase of expository-informational text.
  • Read more than just storybooks to your child before bedtime.
  • Does your child ever ask questions? Help them to find the answer using expository text instead of just telling them the answer. This will also help students to become better problem solvers.
  • Let your child help build the next piece of furniture, or anything that comes with instructions, that your family purchases. This shows them that reading and understanding expository-informational text is important.

Webliography site, funded by the Florida Department of Education and hosted by Northwest Florida State College, has an extensive list of online resources separated by grade level that can be used by parents and educators alike to enhance literacy development and complement classroom learning. This site, Reading Rocket, not only provides great articles on how to teach expository text structures but also has videos that you can watch to see it in action. This research-based site is geared towards both parents and teachers! Along with videos, articles and lesson plan it also provides a list of expository texts for primary readers. This site, provided by the University of Oregon, gives teachers and parents alike a lesson on how to distinguish between expository text and all other text. The site provides examples of books that are expository and not expository. It also provides free graphic organizers to use when reading expository text.


Bluestein, N. Alexandra (2010). Unlocking Text Features for Determining Importance in Expository Text: A Strategy for Struggling Readers. The Reading Teacher, 63(7), 597-600.

This article addresses the theoretical underpinnings of comprehension strategy instruction for both proficient and struggling readers before going on to explain how the external features of expository text serve as an ideal foundation to learn how to determine importance in nonfiction. Specific methods for utilizing the text features of both narrative and informational nonfiction texts to explicitly teach how to determine importance to struggling readers are detailed.

Pentimonti, J. M., Zucker, T. A., Justice, L. M. and Kaderavek, J. N. (2010), Informational Text Use in Preschool Classroom Read-Alouds. The Reading Teacher, 63(8), 656-665

The purpose of the present study was to conduct a comprehensive study of book genres used in preschool classrooms. Text titles gathered from the reading logs of 84 preschool teachers were analyzed and coded for genre (narrative, expository, or mixed). Expository or mixed texts were then further examined according to topics covered. Analyses indicated that (a) narrative texts dominated the genre of text being utilized in preschool classroom read-alouds, representing 82.3% of texts read, (b) among the 125 texts identified as expository or mixed genres, the topic of living creatures was the most common focus, and (c) informational texts on the topics of transportation and geography were read very infrequently. These findings suggest that informational texts are seldom read in preschool classrooms and that when children are exposed to them, the topics addressed do not reflect a wide range of information about the social and natural world.

Stephanie L. Strachan. (2014). Expanding the Range of Text Types Used in the Primary Grades. The Reading Teacher, 68(4), 303–311.

Primary-grade students’ experiences with text should prepare them to critically read an extensive range of text types throughout their schooling and career, a primary goal of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, research demonstrates that narrative text overshadows other text types in the primary grades. The purpose of this article is to share four approaches to help primary-grade teachers purposefully and successfully expand the range of text types read, written, and discussed in their classroom. By increasing young children's experiences with different types of texts, teachers can augment their students’ knowledge, prepare students for texts they will encounter throughout life, and promote student interest in a range of genres.


Duke, N.K. (2000). 3.6 minutes per day: The scarcity of informational texts in first grade. Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 202–224.

Duke, Nell K. (2003) Reading To Learn from the Very Beginning: Information Books in Early Childhood. Young Children, v58 n2 p14-20.

Hoyt, L. (2002). Make it real: Strategies for success with informational texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kletzien, S. B., & Dreher, M. J. (2004). Informational text in K-3 classrooms: Helping children read and write. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.


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