ALEX Learning Activity


Expository Writing: Expand Vocabulary

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Jessica Byrd
System:Butler County
School:Butler County Board Of Education
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2812
Expository Writing: Expand Vocabulary
Digital Tool/Resource:
Expository Writing: Expand Vocabulary
Web Address – URL:

This learning activity uses a strategic approach to introduce students to the academic vocabulary they need to understand before writing an expository essay. The activity uses quadrant cards to help extend student learning beyond the basic definition of the term. The following terms are included in the learning activity: transition words, target audience, supporting details, thesis, conclusion paragraph, body paragraph, introductory paragraph, objective tone, formal style, text organization, exposition, and body paragraph.  

This activity was created as a result of the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2021 (2021)
Grade: 8
8. Produce clear, coherent narrative, argument, and informative/explanatory writing in which the development, organization, style, and tone are relevant to task, purpose, and audience, using an appropriate command of language.

a. Write narratives that establish a clear purpose, use narrative techniques, and sequence events coherently.

Examples: narratives - memoir, short story, personal narrative; techniques - dialogue, pacing, description, reflection;
sequencing - chronological, reverse chronological, flashback

b. Write informative or explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas or processes effectively, by developing the topic with relevant information or data from credible sources and using appropriate transitions and precise vocabulary.

c. Write an argument to defend a position by introducing and supporting a claim, distinguishing the claim from opposing claims, presenting counterclaims and reasons, and citing accurate, relevant textual evidence from credible sources.
Unpacked Content
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Narrative writing
  • Argument writing
  • Informative/explanatory writing
  • Writing development
  • Writing organization
  • Style
  • Tone
  • Task
  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Command of language
  • Narratives
  • Clear purpose
  • Narrative techniques
  • Sequence
  • Informative text
  • Explanatory text
  • Credible sources
  • Transitions
  • Precise vocabulary
  • Argument
  • Defend a position
  • Claim
  • Opposing claim
  • Counterclaims
  • Relevant evidence
  • Accurate sources
  • Credible sources
8. Students know:
  • A narrative is a piece of writing that tells a story.
  • The purpose of argumentative writing is to convince the reader to take action or adopt a particular position.
  • Informative or explanatory text is a piece of writing that provides factual information that was gathered from multiple research sources.
  • The development, organization, style, and tone of writing will change depending on the writing task, the purpose of the writing, and the intended audience.
  • Formal academic writing should demonstrate an appropriate command of language.
  • A narrative is a piece of writing that tells a story, such as a memoir, a short story, or a personal narrative.
  • Narrative writing includes techniques, like dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection.
  • Events in narrative writing should be sequenced in a coherent manner, such as chronological, reverse chronological, or the inclusion of flashbacks.
  • Informative or explanatory text is writing that examines and explains complex ideas or processes, utilizing information from multiple credible research sources.
  • Informative or explanatory text has an organized structure, and usually begins by clearly focusing on the topic, providing credible evidence, and ends with a conclusion.
  • Informative or explanatory writing should include academic, content-specific technical word meanings.
  • Words that indicate transitions.
  • The purpose of argumentative writing is to defend an opinion.
  • Argumentative writing includes introducing the topic by stating an argumentative claim, relevant evidence to support the claim, distinguishing the claim from opposing claims, acknowledging counterclaims, and a concluding statement.
  • Evidence to support the argument must be collected from various accurate and credible sources.
8. Students are able to:
  • Produce clear, coherent narrative, argument, and informative/explanatory writings.
  • Identify the writing task, the purpose of writing, and the intended audience in order to appropriately adapt the development, organization, style, and tone of the writing.
  • Demonstrate command of the written language.
  • Write a narrative with a coherent sequence of plot events and a clear purpose.
  • Incorporate narrative techniques in their narrative writing, including dialogue, pacing, description, and reflection.
  • Gather credible information and data from multiple sources.
  • Write an informative or explanatory text with an organized structure and formal style that develops the topic and utilizes appropriate transitions, credible information or data, and technical vocabulary words.
  • Write an argument to defend a position.
  • Gather evidence from accurate and credible sources to support the claim.
  • Include a claim and relevant evidence in argumentative writing.
  • Acknowledge alternate or opposing claims in argumentative writing.
  • Present counterclaims and supporting reasons in argumentative writing.
8. Students understand that:
  • There are different genres of writing that serve various purposes.
  • The writing task, purpose, and audience should be considered in the development, organization, style, and tone of the writing.
  • Formal academic writing should display their command of the English language.
  • Narrative writing can take many forms, but there should be a coherent sequence of events.
  • Literary techniques are tools that can be used to create a piece of narrative writing.
  • Literary techniques in narrative writing contribute to the overall meaning and purpose of the text.
  • Informative or explanatory writing follows a predictable, organized text structure that utilizes appropriate transition words and precise vocabulary.
  • They must gather their information and data about the topic from multiple credible research sources.
  • Using credible information/data can support a writer's ideas and claims.
  • Writers elaborate on details included in the text by using formal academic, content-specific technical words.
  • To effectively defend a position, they must present relevant, well-organized evidence from accurate and credible sources.
  • An argument can be more effective if a writer acknowledges opposing viewpoints and counterclaims.
Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to define and provide examples of ten vocabulary terms that are related to expository writing, such as organization, style, and tone. 

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

1. The teacher will share the resource with students by adding it to their digital classroom or sharing it with students directly via email. Students will be prompted to make a copy of the learning activity.

2. The teacher will explain the learning objective using student-friendly language. 

3. The teacher will provide instructions for completing the activity using the following language:

"Today we will use quadrant cards to explore the meanings of ten new vocabulary terms. Learning these terms will help prepare us for when we write our expository essays. Take a few moments to read the directions to yourself and preview the example on page 2 of the resource." 

4. The teacher should allow students time to read the directions and preview the example. The teacher will ask students if they have any questions.

5. Before students begin working on the activity independently, the teacher should call their attention to the example on page 2 of the document. The teacher should discuss the example card using the following language:

"On page 2, you will find an example of a completed quadrant card. In the top left section, you will find the vocabulary term. Please note that the terms are specific to the writing process. You will find it more helpful to define the terms by doing a general Google search than by looking up the definitions using a dictionary. In the top right section, you will see a definition or explanation of the term or a synonym. In the bottom left section, you will find ideas that connect to or are examples of the term. The bottom right section contains an image of the term. If the term is too abstract to show in pictures, you can type an antonym for the term in this section. If there are no further questions, you may begin."

6. The teacher should walk the room and monitor student progress. 

7. After about 30 minutes, the teacher should encourage students to finish up their work. The students will submit their assignments by uploading them into the teacher's digital classroom or sharing it with the teacher directly.

Assessment Strategies:

Use this Answer Key to help assess student learning. Students may submit responses that differ from those in the key. Give credit for each term if the student has an accurate definition and relevant examples. Only award credit if the student has identified the term correctly as it relates to expository writing. 

Advanced Preparation:

The teacher will need to preview the resource and make sure they are familiar with the terms and the quadrant cards. 

The teacher should share the resource with students by posting it in a digital classroom or sharing it with students directly. 

The teacher should establish a method for how students will submit their work. 

Variation Tips (optional):

The terms in this resource can be adjusted to provide instruction on a variety of topics. The teacher can add an image bank or word bank to support students who need differentiated instruction. 

Notes or Recommendations (optional):

This resource can be printed if the teacher would like students to draw their images.

Corresponding activities are available here--

Compare and Contrast Essay: Writing Lab

Compare and Contrast Essay: Writing Prompt & Rubric

  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: cards, essay, explanatory, expository, formal, informational, objective, quadrant, tone, transition, vocabulary, write, writing