3 Types of Writing an Expository Essay You Must Teach!

Writing an Expository Essay

If you have not come to this blog post to get an in depth look at the expository essay, I would read no further. If you are trying to get a handle on expository writing than read on. I refer to the expository essay as the informational essay. Students are not crazy about this essay because although most essays require evidence, a quote here and there, the expository essay requires much research and information. As the writer you are presenting well-researched information to your audience. Expository essays come in and explain, inform, and describe. The expository essay has gained popularity and has even been turned into a one year high school senior year level course, where students craft expository writings. Expository writing in an expository course covers anything from opinion pieces, personal narrative (college essay), letters, , speeches, and essays. So the question remains, how do you write an expository essay? There are many different ways on how to write an expository essay. Let’s begin with an opinion piece.

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Writing an Expository Essay: Opinion Piece

A great way to teach the opinion piece is to have students read multiple controversial articles and come up with an argument of their own. Once they come up with an argument of their own they are to use ethos, pathos, and logos in their essay. The most frequented of the three in the expository essay is ethos. Expository writing must include a lot of ethos (appeal to emotion) in their writing. This is appealing to the audience’s emotion. Logos is an appeal to logic, and pathos is an appeal to pity or sadness. If one were to write about how zoos are bad for animals they would include a lot of evidence about mistreatment, and the positive side of non-captivity in order to evoke emotion. Journalism uses a lot of ethos in their writing/reporting and are constantly trying to appeal to the audience emotions whether that be anger, or passion depending on the cause.

Student introductory example of an opinion piece on global warming: how to start an expository essay.

“Two weeks ago one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States in a decade devastated the city of Houston, Texas. Hundreds of thousands are now homeless with nowhere to turn. Weather analytics company Weatherbell reports, “an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana during a 6-day period,” proving everything really is bigger in Texas (Griggs). As the hurricane neared its close on September 2, a Cat 5 storm in the form of Hurricane Irma is preparing its strike for Florida. Although it remains early in the time slot, estimated costs for the devastating hurricanes totals to 230 billion dollars. As these two desolating hurricanes hit the United States within two weeks, the question of global warming’s impact comes into play.” The writer provides all necessary information about the hurricane prior to taking their stance about the state of global warming. Note all of the research information that is provided vs. opinions about the information. The information in the opinion piece provides what the writers opinion is. How do you write an expository essay? Let’s look at expository writing in literature.

Writing in Literature

Writing an Expository ‘Essay

Authors frequently insert their own voices into their writing. For example from “Into the Wild” by Krakauer, the author switches from what is the main character’s voice (Chris) to his own voice often. He has opinions about the main character, and it is clearly his voice that takes over Chris’s. Expository writing in literature would be to look at the author’s voice rather than the character’s voice. This is the difference between a literary analysis and an expository essay analysis. The rubric below has requirements of an expository essay. I know….how annoying to provide a rubric in the middle of a blog post, but I have received so much inquiry into the expository essay that I thought it might help. Afterall. If you don’t want to read it, skip on over.

The author’s (Krakauer) opinion about the character (Chris) and this very true story changes as the story moves forward. Originally the author believes the main character to be selfish and self-centered. He believes that he hurt his family unimaginably and unforgivably but he learns as he continues to write the story of Chris MCandless, that there was far more behind what Chris did than was first known. Chris left his home, and family stating that he would never return. He made good on that promise when he didn’t return from the wild. His body was found on an abandoned bus. Many thought he was selfish because they were unaware of the abuse and of what was happening in his home. Once the author knows this, his opinions about Chris change as does his tone in his writing. This piece of literature serves as a great choice for an expository essay because the author’s opinions and voice can be heard throughout the text. Below is an example of the rubric requirements that would go into an expository piece of writing.

Significance of essay is clear and impressive; impressively defines a key characteristic about the author. Engaging content is accurately connected to reflective portion. Reflection shows ample evidence of growth and learning on the part of the author.
Link between memorable introduction and conclusion clarifies event’s significance. Organization is purposeful and expertly balanced to convey both meaning and advance purpose. Transitions effectively and seamlessly move the reader through the action.
Voice is distinct, purposeful and clear. Offers a personal perspective clearly articulated as unique to the author. Voice enhances the purpose of the writing. Voice is clear and coherent throughout the entire essay.
Specific clear nouns, strong verbs, & modifiers show mastery and command of language. Specific words powerfully communicate tone.
Sentences skillfully written to hold the reader’s interest and advances writer’s voice. Displays varied sentence structures & lengths that create a cohesive flow throughout the narrative.
Grammar & punctuation correct, & copy is virtually error free.  Writing is complex enough to show skill in using a wide-range of conventions
Rubric for Expository Essay
Writing an Expository Essay


The typical narrative is a creative story told from a a first person point of view. Students begin writing the personal narrative at a young age. Most narratives take a lot of creativity and little research. However the expository narrative includes research into the narrative.

A student example for how to open a personal narrative speech is as follows,

“Failure is when I fail to achieve my goal, or when I fail to do a task, or when I don’t stack up with everyone else. Failure affects my life forever because it molds how I approach things. My experience with failure was that I didn’t make the high school soccer team freshman and sophomore year. I was so devastated that I mourned for months. I am usually a very happy and determined person, so feeling defeated wasn’t normal for me. The event made me a different person, and I thought it was going to kill me.” The rubric in which I use to grade a narrative speech as as follows:

The presentation has an excellent organizational pattern.  Introduction outlines the key topics to be discussed that are further clarified in body. There is a clear connection between the different pieces of the presentation as they provide a cohesive, engaging product
Excellent presentation skills are used including visual aids, eye contact, clear speech, and evidence of rehearsal. The presenter has control of all bodily movements and both speaks and gestures with purpose.
The presentation has displays thoughtful insight on text and personal life. Proper citation and integration of credibility is perfect in sources. A clear focus on each of the individual elements of the project is present. Thoughtful depth and reflection are found throughout personal elements and a cohesive whole structure is evident throughout the presentation.
The presenter balances each area of the presentation well and meets the time requirement of 3-4 minutes.
The presentation utilizes visual aids and appropriate technology (PowerPoint, photos, graphics, videos, music, etc.) to enhance the quality of the presentation
The student meets all expectations for appropriate dress. Males: Slacks, dress shoes, shirt and tie (optional). Ladies: slacks, appropriate length skirts, blouses, dress shoes. No Jeans
Speech Rubric

The student would need to do research on failure, what it looks, feels like and how it affects people. He would then need to compare and reflect how his own shortcomings affected his state of mind. How do you write an expository essay is next.

Types of Essays

Final On-Demand Essay

This is the big essay that comes at the end of a unit or semester. So how do you write an expository essay? It is important to set up students for success on the expository essay. You must provide students with a prompt. For the purpose of this blog post I will use the topic on crime and punishment in our juvenile system so the question, ultimately, how should we determine the most appropriate punishment for a crime? Once students have their question, you give them a list similar to the following questions:

When answering the prompt, consider the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of punishment? 
  • What role does that punishment play in achieving justice (for the victim and their families, for society, for the offender)?
  • What is the appropriate way to use the power of the justice system? What factors (mitigating circumstances, background of an individual, race, class, socioeconomic circumstance) must be considered in order to provide appropriate punishment?

In order to respond to this prompt you will need to:

  • Analyze the way in which race, class, gender, and age impact the way punishment is currently delivered, and should or should not be delivered in an ideal society. 
  • Consider how the justice system should or should not address disparities in incarceration and punishment. 
  • Understand the different functions and types of punishments that can be provided based on the age of individual and their background circumstances.
  •  Have a clear and logical argument to support your stance that is supported with a minimum of four cited pieces of material from a minimum of two different sources.

Writing an Expository Essay

Note that in the prompt there is a clear outline of research students need to do in order to write this essay

Requirements: Requirements for the essay should be clearly stated. If I were to continue with my example for crime and punishment, the requirements would look as follows:

  • An introduction that answers both questions in the prompt and provides a clear thesis. It can be very short. 1-2 sentences.
  •  At least four citations, from at least 2 sources, either direct or paraphrased with parenthetical citation
  •  As many paragraphs as you think are needed to make your point. Some will choose 2 chunk paragraphs, others may choose multiple shorter paragraphs.
  •  A clear conclusion that summarizes the points made above
  • A works cited that provides correct MLA citation for all sources cited in article
  • Complete a precis on your own work.

Students need a lot of check points along the way and their paper should be checked often. First their questions, you should check the progress of their research as you go. Students should have an outline, and there should be support and help from teachers and peers as they go.

Let me know how you assign the expository essay in the comments below.

If you would like to read about the narrative essay, please read my blog post here

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