Friday, August 7, 2009

Expository Fiction

Since I first discovered the fun of reading The Onion, I've enjoyed expository fiction. Even if you're not aware of the term (which I may have made up), you've probably read this kind of text. Expository fiction is written like an expository piece, but includes entirely made-up details.

Kids enjoy this kind of text, too. It's even more fun when the expository fiction goes along with an interesting fiction text. For example, the authors of The Spiderwick Chronicles also wrote an "actual" field guide to the magical creatures. It has all of the conventions and features of a regular field guide--entries, habitat notes, captions, and the like--for all that it is completely made up. Readers can follow up with The Care and Feeding of Sprites. Written like a typical guide to pets, it tells kids how they can capture and keep sprites!

More recently, DK Readers published Star Wars Epic Battles. From the outside, this looks like a regular DK Reader, the kind that might tell about vehicles, space travel, or interesting jobs. But on the inside, it explains various battles from Star Wars. And it uses a variety of text structures to do so, explaining how the battles were fought and won. I can see this as a book that will hook even the most reluctant reader.

What can you do with expository fiction? For one thing, it's another great way to teach text features. As I read aloud the novels from the Spiderwick Chronicles to my students, they passed around the Field Guide to find pictures of the creatures that were mentioned. They quickly learned to use the Table of Contents to help them navigate through the book!

Expository fiction also has great applications as a tool for helping students to write quality expository text. Writing a research report is a tough task for a young learner. Not only does she have to read and understand the new information, but she also has to put that information into an unfamiliar genre. Expository fiction relieves some of this pressure. Instead of having to learn and remember new information, the learner just has to make up some details. What fun! Kids can learn how to write cohesive paragraphs by putting together their own field guides to imaginary creatures, writing their own pet care guides to imaginary creatures, or making imaginary newspapers.

I started using expository fiction with my sixth graders several years ago. Students created their own country, and then wrote a five-paragraph essay to describe the features of that country. It was a fun and interesting way to introduce expository writing. If you'd like to take a look, the entire unit is posted for free at

No comments:

Post a Comment