Wednesday, 28 March 2012

exposition angst

Parents of children in Australian schools will be familiar with NAPLAN tests that begin in year 3.  There are four tests; numeracy, reading (comprehension), language skills (grammar and spelling) and writing.

The writing component involves writing an exposition or essay.  They must state an opinion and give reasons for this opinion.  They are provided with stimulus for their thinking and guidelines for how to go about their exposition.  Quite generous.

Last year, when my first was in year 3, prior to the tests in May, the English component of her school work was wholly occupied with writing expositions.  She had to write so many expositions that by the time the tests were over and done even her poetry came out like exposition.

However, it wasn't an easy experience.
I don't know what to write! 
I don't have an opinion about that! 
I don't want to make one up!   I'm not supposed to make one up!

The topics didn't interest her.
Children should be allowed to chew gum in class. (class?)  
TV is better than books. (What's TV?)  
We should conserve water. (Why? Our water tank constantly overflows.  It rains all the time.)
Mostly there were tears.

And now my second is in year three.  We are no longer enrolled in an Australian school so NAPLAN doesn't concern us so much.  But I thought I'd teach her to write an exposition none-the-less.  We used the same book as last year. The topics were the same.
They're stupid! 
I'm not writing about that! 
Can't I write about something I'm interested in?
And then, just as the first tear began to roll and just as we locked heads for the fight, there was a thought.  Why couldn't she write about something she is interested it?  And I desperately floundered around in my brain trying to think of something she is interested in.
Fairies.  Would you like to write about Fairies?   
How about 'Fairies are better than Goblins?' 
But that's not real. It has to be real. 
You have to write an exposition.  Write it about something made up and later on we can try writing one about something real. 
She smiled.   
And we were off.  Not that it was easy going, but we were going.

And so I have learnt something.  If you can separate the content from the process of writing then the process of writing (may be) easier.

I have also learnt that topics that are supposed to appeal to children don't, even if they are based in their own experience.  Fairies trump gum every time.

I'll post her exposition next.


Anonymous said...

Fundamentally, Year 3 children are took young for expositions. Even Year 7 struggle with them. I think it is silly expecting this sort of writing form children so young.

Anonymous said...

sorry about the typos

Rachael said...

So in your experience, year 7 still struggle with exposition even though they've had to write them since year 3?

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachael

That is our experience too!

Initially, whenever I tried to get Tim to write there would be tears and complaints and sloppy work. Once we separated content from writing, he took off. It was the IEW material that gave me the idea. I give him the content, something that will interest him, and he writes it his own way. He now enjoys writing and is developing a good writing style. (usually with life-threatening adventures slipped in wherever possible. No fairies.)

I love Bethany's exposition. Fairies really are better than goblins, aren't they!

Love Jill

Anonymous said...

I liked the fairies and gobluns. But what about "Boys shouldn't pick all the mangoes while they're hard and green."


Rachael said...

Hi Sue,

Now I'm sure she'd (both of them) have an opinion about that!

And Jill, it was that course that first started me thinking about it (content and process). Sophie had a similar experience to what you have described for Tim.