Expository essays describe or explain something; they "expose" the subject of the essay. The expository essay takes the topic and describes it factually and objectively. It describes something as it is, or as it happened. For a young student practicing the exposition of a topic, this type of essay helps separate fact from opinion and trains the student to write with clarity and conciseness. Although the expository essay can be written in a number of formats, the five-paragraph format is one frequently utilized for fourth-grade students.
Brainstorming and Prewriting
This is an important first step in writing any essay, especially the expository type. Discussing the main idea and helping the children form a basic skeleton or frame of their essays through mind mapping or a web will help them organize them into paragraphs. The ideas collected in this manner should be divided into mental "paragraphs." When the children feel confident about their points and have completed the initial task of drafting or prewriting, it is time to begin the essay.
The Introductory Paragraph
Paragraph one is where the fourth-grader sets down his main topic sentence. If the essay is about "The Importance of School Rules," then he will write down the main idea of the essay: what school rules are and why schools have them. The opening sentence captures and contains the thrust of the entire first paragraph and summarizes the content of the following three paragraphs. This paragraph should be no more than five or six sentences long, and each sentence should link with the one after it.
The Main Body
The next three paragraphs should expose or explain in a step-by-step manner the thesis or main idea of the first paragraph. For example, paragraph two could give the importance of uniform rules, paragraph three could explain classroom behavior and conduct rules and paragraph four could be about rules for studying and tests. Each paragraph should contain five or six sentences about the main topic and link thematically with the first paragraph. It is important to teach the children to be clear and exact in their expression.
In the conclusion, paragraph five, the child should restate the main idea or thesis of the essay but not summarize the whole essay. If he has explained the importance of school rules, for example, then he could state here why it is important to follow school rules, i.e., how they help later on in life by teaching discipline and good behavior during the formative years. Closing the expository essay in a paragraph where the student gives an overview -- without repeating what has been stated earlier -- is a good resolution.