Narrative vs. Expository Texts
Many students, especially students with limited English language skills, have difficulties determining the difference between narrative and expository texts. This unit will use vignettes written by Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Lesotho and Madagascar to compare these types of texts. As final products, students will write both a narrative essay and an expository essay. This unit was piloted with high school second language learners.
Five 45-minute classes
English, reading, geography
How can looking at something from two perspectives affect my view of it?
How can I adapt my writing style to convey different information about a place?
Internet access to the Water in
Student readings of narrative and expository texts (PDF or
Graphic organizer (PDF or RTF)
Evaluation Rubrics for Narrative and Expository Essays (PDF
Supplemental pictures of Lesotho and Madagascar (optional)
Language Arts 1—Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the
Benchmark—Writes expository compositions (e.g., presents information that reflects
knowledge about the topic of the report; organizes and presents information in a logical
Benchmark—Writes narrative accounts
Language Arts 7—Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for
reading a variety of informational texts
Benchmark—Differentiates between fact and opinion in informational texts
Geography 10—Understands the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
Benchmark—Understands the imopacts of culture on ways of life in different regions
- Know what a narrative text is, know what an expository text is, and be able to
explain the difference between the two.
- Be able to find sensory details in narrative texts that they can match to
- Be able to write a narrative text and an expository text of their own.
1. Although the focus of the lesson is the difference between narrative and expository
texts, begin with a brief overview of the countries of Madagascar and Lesotho. Locate the
two countries on a map of Africa, comparing their physical features. For example, Lesotho
is landlocked, whereas Madagascar is surrounded by ocean. This will help the students to
have a schema for the texts they will read. Also introduce the topic of water usage,
a common theme in these texts.
2. Pass out the Lesotho narrative texts (PDF or RTF). Discuss narrative texts. Map out the characteristics of
narrative texts on the board: narratives describe personal experiences, use
sensory details, and are told from a first person point of view.
3. Read the first narrative with the class, then discuss the content for comprehension.
How is life in Lesotho different from life in the United States? Do students have to wait in line for
water in their community? Do they have to carry it home? Are they having a dry year?
4. Read the text again, this time pausing to identify the characteristics of the text.
For example, in the first sentence, the narrator refers to "we," the first person
point view, and later describes the sound of water flowing. Discuss the text with the
students. What are its characteristics (for example, personal experience, first person
point of view, sensory details)?
5. Hand out the sensory detail graphic organizer(PDF or
RTF). As a class, have students write the sensory
details of the text under the correct headings. Discuss what senses the author describes.
Does she cover all five? Are some more prominent than others? Are any not described at all?
6. Homework: Have students read the second Lesotho narrative text and fill out a
graphic organize for it.
1. Discuss the previous night's homework. Put the graphic organizer on the board
or overhead projector and fill it in with the details that the students found during their
readings. Discuss again the qualities of narrative text. Tell students to hold on to their
graphic organizers for use during Day 3.
2. Hand out the Lesotho expository text (PDF or RTF). Discuss expository texts. Explain to students that an
expository text is written to inform, explain, describe, or persuade. The Lesotho text,
for example, describes the geography of Lesotho. Talk about the characteristics of
expository texts (written from a non-personal point of view, and generally lacking sensory
details and a sense of storytelling). Read the text together as a class, pointing out its
characteristics. For example, notice that the text is not written in the first person. The
reader is presented with a description of Lesotho from a non-personal point of view. The
text is broader, referring to the country in general, rather than a specific incident or
3. Ask students to take out their graphic organizer. Allow them to work a few minutes
trying to fit the expository text into the organizer. With the exception of a few visual
details, it will be difficult to find the sensory details of the text, reinforcing the
differences between the two text structures. Pass out the Madagascar texts without the
identifying labels on top, and two copies of the graphic organizer. Have students work in
pairs to identify which texts are the narrative and which are the expository. Students
should fill out the graphic organizers for the narrative texts for homework.
1. Using the Madagascar and Lesotho photos from the Water in Africa website (online or
printout), have students work in pairs to identify details from the texts that they see
in the photos. Each pair of students should choose at least two pictures that emphasize
sensory details that they identified in the text. For example, if a student identified the
visual detail of the "water cans waiting in line for the water," then they would
choose a picture of the water cans or well. Each group can choose photos and write one sentence to justify why they chose each picture. At the end of class
have groups share their photos and justifications with the rest of the class.
2. If the teacher wishes to limit the photo choices, the following are photos that
correlate well with the texts: Lesotho: LE0113, LE0226, LE0230, LE0303, LE0309, LE0403, LE0502, LE0507, LE0702, LE0706, LE0711 ,
Madagascar MG0111, MG0215, MG0231, MG0313, MG0634.
Days 4 and 5
1. Pass out the rubric (PDF or RTF) for writing narrative texts and discuss it with the
class. Talk about each of the areas and review the qualities that make up a good narrative
text. Ask students to write a narrative text of their own, describing a place that they
know well. It can be their hometown, a park, their house, their room, or any other
favorite place. Students should write to the rubric, making sure that their essays contain
all the elements in the rubric. (This may take more than one day.)
2. Students do the same with the expository text, writing an essay about the same place
as the narrative text, using the expository rubric (PDF or
Student essays are the end product, and should be assessed according to the rubrics
that were discussed in class. Final assessment should be done with the
rubrics as a guide. The rubrics use a 25 point scale that you may want to modify.
The Water in Africa website contains excellent examples of narrative texts on countries other than Lesotho and Madagascar. The lesson could be modified using texts from countries to meet district or state standards.
About the Author
Carly Sporer Garrett was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia in 1995–96. She currently teaches English and reading at Palomar High School in Chula Vista, CA. She tested this unit with her second language learning students and said,“I worked with narrative and expository texts with my students. They all really liked the Africa vignettes. Even though it wasn't the main point of the lesson, the students were talking about water usage—which I thought was very cool."