#TeachingTuesday featuring Dr. Hodge

Narrative and Expository Writing: A Functional Linguistic Approach

Schleppegrell (2003) presents a three-step systematic approach to help teachers assess student writing in today’s K-12 classrooms. Grounded in functional linguistics, this approach identifies grammatical structures which, according to Schleppegrell (2003), are called upon to write in today’s classroom.

There are three narrative writing sequences and three expository writing sequences as reported by the English Language Arts Standards (California Department of Education [CDE], 1999, as cited in Schleppegrell 2003). The three writing sequences are summarized below building developmentally from simple to complex forms of writing (p. 9).

Narrative Writing

Briefly, narratives propose to “give an account of something dealing with sequences of events and experiences” (CDE, 1999b:227 as cited in Schleppegrell, 2003). In short, narrative writing is used to retell and create stories, including: stories, biographies, autobiographies, and short stories.

Pathways to Narrative Writing

  1. Recount- Report a sequence of events and make a judgement or express an attitude about events. Further development incorporates story grammar, such as plot, point of view, setting, characters, conflicts, resolution, twist or complication, and theme.
  2. Narrative- includes response to literature.
  3. Reflective Composition- Explore the significance and attempt to persuade a reader about the interpretation of a narrative.

(based on the Standards, CDE 1999a; b; as cited in Schleppegrell, 2003)

Expository Writing

Briefly, expository is intended to set forth and explain, including research and information reports, analytical / persuasive essays across different subject areas (CDE 1999a; b; summarized and as cited in Schleppegrell, 2003).

Pathways to Expository Writing

  1. Report- Describe how things are.
  2. Explanation- Develop a thesis through supporting details and examples.
  3. Persuasion- Make judgements and argue for a particular view (at the higher grades).

A Three Step Writing Assessment

Schleppegrell (2003) recommends that teachers should notice the verb grammar developmentally across four levels as illustrated in Table 1:

Table 1. Verb types with example extracted from a recount text
1.     Action


1.     Thinking/Feeling

Describe or define

2.     Saying

Dialogue or report

3.     Being/Having

Inner world

go, start, watch, take, look, arrive, line up, saw, wish, feel explain, said


have, are

From Schleppegrell (2003)

Table 1 highlights a progression in verb grammar. Notably, writing should first develop consistent use of action verbs. Subsequently, writing to express feelings can include “could have,” a feature not readily available to early or emerging writers. Consider the highest level, ideas about one’s inner world such as summary evaluations: “This is the best trip I had.” Here is a sophisticated form, but lacks paired past-tense noting that Table 1 shows mostly present tense. Additionally, many times the student’s target level showcases an inconsistent use, or in this case, a lack of variety in tense. Therefore, Schleppegrell (2003) recommends that teachers point out the occurrences of the correct form, and invite the student-author to apply the form consistently across the paper.

The second recommended step to analyze a student’s writing is to highlight the noun-phrase grammar. For example, does the student-author use articles consistently? Does the student-author use noun phrases consistently? Does the student-author use adjectives and, if so, check the control of prepositional phrases and relative clauses. Schleppegrell (2003) recommends noting the developmental level where the student-author lacks consistency; starting from the simplest to the more advanced forms. The following flow chart elucidates levels of development in noun-phrases.


Figure 1.  A Flow chart of Noun Phrase Grammar

Notable in Figure 1, “articles” such as “a” and “the” often challenge English learners.  Here the teaching tip is to direct the student in consistent use: an important skill to self-monitor and develop metalinguistic knowledge. Schleppegrell (2003) recommends teaching points based on the consistency and variety of the target form. Figure 1 starts with nouns and expands to descriptions and more elaborate complex sentence structures.

The third step recommended to analyze a student’s writing is to examine the linking clauses. The linking clauses will demonstrate cohesiveness. Some of the example linking clauses are: therefore, however, first, second, third, last of all, another point to consider, and, or, but.

Teaching cohesive markers seems to be easy to acquire for English learners by introducing target words or sentence frames. From experience in the field, I believe that student-authors latch onto the linking clauses readily because they enhance meaning-making; they assist memory by organizing and ranking; and they internalize orderliness of language. However, despite the ease of linking clauses, such an approach seems to counter the natural order hypothesis. Specifically, a good command of a variety of verb-forms naturally should precede the use of linking clauses. This is intuitive teacher theorizing. However, in practice, teachers often direct students’ to use linking clauses, even at the early or emerging stages of language development. Schleppegrell (2003), given my interpretation of the functional linguistic approach, on the other hand, recommends more attention to the order of language development in writing. Such ideas are important and enhance teacher decision-making in writing assessment.

In conclusion, Schleppegrell (2003) presents a three-step approach. When it comes to grammar and sentence structure, teachers are given little guidance because the Standards and Proficiency Level Descriptors do little to elucidate the progression of skills in narrative and expository writing (Schleppegrell, 2003). Using this functional linguistics approach highlights a natural progression and higher order. A systematic examination of grammar and sentence-structure in writing expository and narrative texts is fundamental to teaching and learning and the development of student-authors, K-12.



Schleppegrell, M. J. (2003) Grammar for writing: Academic language and the ELD Standards. Unpublished manuscript, final report, University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute, Santa Barbara, California.


Professional Development: WriteGirl seeking Women Writers!

Women Writers Needed!

Volunteer to be a creative writing mentor to teen girls and join a growing network of women writers.

WriteGirl (www.writegirl.org) is a creative writing and mentoring organization that empowers underserved teen girls in Los Angeles through mentoring relationships with women writers, hosting large-scale writing workshops at such places as the Huntington Gardens and the Autry. Since 2001, WriteGirl has maintained a 100% success rate in guiding girls to not only graduate from high school but also enroll in college.

WriteGirl is seeking women writers in all genres including novelists, poets, journalists, songwriters, copywriters, legal writers, and more to help lead workshops and inspire girls to express their creative ideas. Weekly and monthly mentoring opportunities available.

WriteGirl is also seeking professional women to volunteer behind-the-scenes with events, public relations, fundraising, and partnerships. (Strong communication skills required.)

Women should apply by September 20th, 2017 at www.writegirl.org/join-us. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at http://bit.ly/2tK9WUr. For questions, contact WriteGirl at membership@writegirl.org or call 213-253-2655.


Professional Development Event: Summit on (De)Institutionalizing Islamophobia on College Campuses

Join us on Friday, September 8th at USC

The Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice at the USC Rossier School of Education is pleased to announce our first official event: Summit on (De)Institutionalizing Islamophobia on College Campuses. The Summit will feature:

-Parwana Anwar, JD: Trial and Criminal Defense Attorney
Zulaikha Aziz, JD: Human Rights Attorney
Shabana Mir, PhD: Assistant Professor and Coordinator, General Education at American Islamic College
Marwa Rifahie, JD: Civil Rights Attorney at CAIR-LA
Najeeba Syeed, JD: Associate Professor of Interreligious Education at Claremont School of Theology

The Summit will address the legal issues and policies affecting today’s Muslim college students. It will explore thoughtful and empirically based understanding of the diversity and intersectionality within the Muslim community. Topics will include how the institutionalization of Islamophobia under the guise of national security is negatively impacting today’s Muslim college students, as well as discuss:

-Muslim ban
-Monolithic portrayals of Muslims
-Racialization of Muslims
-Violence directed towards the Muslim community

This one-day event on Friday, September 8th, 2017 will take place on USC’s campus. The Summit is open to higher education and student affairs professionals and scholars as well as student leaders. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided to attendees. Space is limited – you can register for the event here

Early bird rates are in effect until August 18th, with a limited number of student leader rates available at $50 and general admission rates at $150.  After August 18th, the limited student leader rates will be $60 and the general admission rate will be $175.

Please contact us at socialjustice@usc.edu if you have any questions or visit bit.ly/sept8summit.

Growth Mindset and Children’s Health




For at least the last decade, educators have understood the powerful connection between mindset and achievement — that when students believe they can learn a given subject, even a hard one, they stick with it longer, and do better, than if they believe they can’t learn or are “just bad at it.” Continue reading

“Your Values Must Be Crystal Clear”



Former superintendent and Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Deborah Jewell-Sherman offers advice for school leaders to dismantle bullying and create a culture of kindness and inclusion.”Bullying and harassment are just not acceptable,” says Jewell-Sherman. “And as educators, we are powerful in shifting that narrative.”


(continue reading here)

The GSG Fund to Support Undocumented and International Students Accepting Applications!

The USC Graduate Student Government (GSG) Fund to Support Undocumented and International Students is intended to provide financial assistance for undocumented students and for international students impacted by the recent executive order barring citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The fund will provide emergency support for students facing revocation of their student visas as a result of the current administration’s actions and also enable students who have benefited from the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to pay the required fees to renew their DACA status.protest

Students may apply for reimbursement or support for funding for the following expenses: Continue reading