As soon as the Connecticut Mastery test is completed in early fourth grade, the writing focus shifts to developing expository writing skills. This continues until the next Mastery Test is given in sixth grade. Naturally both narrative and expository skills continue to be used by most people for a lifetime. Since I feel that this unit is relevant to a fourth grade and higher classroom, I am including a section on using poetry to develop expository writing skills. The procedure is quite similar, but the structure of the writing changes. Again, I will use "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout" to illustrate my approach.
After reading about Sarah's adamant refusal to take the garbage out and the resulting catastrophe, students will discuss the consequences one must face when one avoids fulfilling certain responsibilities such as doing your homework, not cleaning your desk or room, not bathing, not being civil to others, not brushing your teeth, and any others they bring up for consideration. They then will be asked to select three of these responsibilities that they actually refuse to do or wish they could refuse to do. They will then take those three responsibilities and write a five-paragraph essay on "Three tasks I really don't want to do!"
The elements they are taught to include in their expository essays are: an introduction of their topic, three paragraphs, one each on the three main elements of their topic, followed by a conclusion which relates back to their introduction and includes a forceful concluding sentence. They are urged to have a strong, original, clear introduction, to elaborate on their three main points with personal recollections, which may or may not be entirely true, to continue the use of descriptive language that was stressed in expository writing, and, as always, to finish off with a strong conclusion.
As with narrative writing, they will be given a form on which they will sketch the basic outline of their essay: introduction, three main points, conclusion. They will then proceed to complete their piece, which will be shared as their narrative work was shared. Constructive criticism and rewriting will follow. Appropriate illustrations may also be included. A variation on the suggested topic might be to select one task that you hate and then elaborate on three reasons why you hate to complete it or perhaps three reasons why you think you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
A more general expository essay may be developed at the unit's conclusion in which the student examines three characteristics found in the poetry of Shel Silverstein referring to specific examples to support their choices. Another might focus on the student's three favorite poems by Shel Silverstein.
If a teacher desires more information and general suggestions for relating text to written response, I refer that teacher to the New Haven School System's reading department that has distributed considerable material on the topic.