What do you remember about your writing units in elementary school? I remember being taught that all of my papers had to be written in five paragraphs: introductory paragraphs, three main paragraphs for the body, and a concluding paragraph. There was the sandwich anchor chart and the umbrella anchor chart, and of course each paragraph needed the famous transition words such as "first of all" and "in conclusion." How booooooooooring.
In order to introduce writing a well-researched expository paper, we first began by exploring topics that were interesting to us. Some students chose ideas such as hurricanes, chocolate, Bigfoot, Cleopatra, optical illusions, and so forth. Students were curious about so many different topics! With each topic, we wrote down several questions that we would want answered. "How is chocolate made?" or "How do optical illusions work?" We narrowed our lists down to our favorite two or three topics and went into the Instructional Research [IR] Room in our library to start looking for valid resources. With the questions in hand, students began looking for answers. As they gathered information, they wrote down facts on a notecard, one notecard per fact, with the resource's bibliography contents on the back so that they could cite these sources correctly later in their published piece. Once students had gathered enough information, they sorted their notecards into categories for their paragraphs and began writing, revising, and editing, until finally they were able to put together a final copy!
Honestly, this was my favorite writing unit thus far. Not just because students were highly engaged in what they were researching and writing about, but because of our final event. We had a publishing party where we invited special guests to come and read our pieces! We sent out letters to teachers, staff, siblings in the building, and other students we had relationships with. We set our published pieces on our desks and had a gallery walk, leaving comments on butcher paper that was set underneath.
Kudos to our fabulous writers for writing such wonderful and informative pieces!