What Writing Types and Genres Is Your Child Expected to Know?

Teenage girl writing in journal
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Starting in elementary school, children begin to recognize that stories and texts follow specific writing types and fall into genre categories that work together to serve particular purposes.

Use of adjectives and adverbs for descriptive writing begins between ages 7 and 9. At that time, they will also begin grouping sentences together into paragraphs. Children learn how to use different types of writing between ages 9 and 11. By middle school, they are writing reports and multi-paragraph essays.

Four Types of Writing They Must Know

When your child comes to you for help with a writing assignment, the first thing you probably do is ask what the topic is. But it's also important to find out how the instructor expects the writing to be framed, and what techniques or styles are expected to be included in the work. There are four basic types of writing that students will learn as classes become more writing-intensive:

Narrative

Narrative writing tells a story. Though it’s most commonly used when in personal essays (along with the lines of "What I Did to Celebrate the Holidays"), this type of writing can also be used for fictional stories, plays, or even a plot summary of a story your child has read or intends to write.

This is likely the most frequently used of the four most common types of writing, and students will spend a significant amount of time learning how to write narratives. Narrative writing is frequently, but not always, in the first person, and is organized sequentially, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Descriptive

Descriptive writing is used to create a vivid picture of an idea, place, or person. It is much like painting with words. It focuses on one subject and uses specific detail to describe that upon which your child is focused. For example, if your child is asked to write about his favorite ride at an amusement park, his writing will not only tell the name of the ride and what it looks like but also describe the sensation of being on it and what that experience reminds him of. In upper grades, a student's descriptive writing should be more subtle and nuanced, using figurative and metaphorical language.

Descriptive writing is used in descriptions of fictional and non-fictional characters, poetry parts of book reports, and in various kinds of observational writing.

Expository

Expository writing is to-the-point and factual. This category of writing includes definitions, instructions, directions. and other basic comparisons and clarifications. Expository writing is devoid of descriptive detail and opinion.

Expository writing is a crucial skill. Students will need expository writing not only in school but also in many potential careers that aren't primarily writing-oriented. Students must be able to organize their thoughts, follow a plan, and in higher grades, conduct research to support their theses. It requires thinking on multiple levels.

Persuasive

Persuasive writing is a more sophisticated type of writing your child will be introduced to around fourth grade. It can be thought of like a debate in writing. The idea is to express an opinion or to take a stance about something and then to support that opinion in a way that convinces the reader to see it the same way.

Persuasive writing contains an explanation of the other point of view and uses facts, statistics or both, to disprove that view and support the writer's position. Some examples of persuasive writing include essays, debate position papers, editorial pieces such as letters to the editor and book or concert reviews.

How Genres Can Help

There are many different writing genres. General genre categories include comedy, mystery, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror and many others. The genre your child chooses should first be determined by the writing type, then the tone, content and sometimes even length.

Once students learn that a narrative tells a story, persuasive writing works to persuade a reader, and expository text gives the reader facts or instructions, they can then use genres as a way to organize their ideas and get them started on telling compelling stories.

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