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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Scaffolding Expository Writing: Text Patterns to Text Skeletons

Sharon Kossack, Eric Dwyer, Hilary Landorf, Luis Martinez-Perez, Cengiz Alacaci.

Participants will...
A. Explore expository text patterns in subject textbooks (Describe, Compare/Contrast, Sequence, Cause-Effect)
B. Use expository text selections (in science, mathematics, and social studies) to identify the text frame within the paragraph and extract the text frame.
C. Use content from another, similar paragraph to write an alternative, transformed paragraph.
D. Explore pre- and post-test data for high school L.D. students who have used the Text Pattern-Text Skeleton Frame approach to expository writing.


Writing requires students to write in a variety of expository patterns: describing, comparing/contrasting, sequencing, and cause/effect. Students need complex knowledge and skills that will enable them to recognize the pattern they are expected to use, understand how to structure such a writing pattern, and apply it to content extracted from an expository passage using that appropriate structure.

PATTERN TO SKELETON: We have been experimenting with helping students identify text patterns within expository paragraphs, gathering a number of such samples over months of reading and studying, extracting out the various ways authors express the same paragraphs. When students are comfortable identifying the pattern, we guide them to extract out the paragraph skeleton, i.e., the basic format one uses to express in describing, comparing/contrasting, sequencing ways. For example:

DESCRIBING Text Pattern:

Fish are members of the phylum Chordata. They have backbones and do not hold a constant body temperature.

_____are ________________. They have __________ and ________.

Students are guided to use these extracted to create paragraph transformations, i.e., write in DESCRIBING ways. For example:

Turtles are reptiles. They have shells and reproduce by laying eggs.

Monkeys are mammals. They have tails and give live birth to their babies.

Throughout this process, students are encouraged to gather many examples of each text pattern and link it with the appropriate graphic organizer so their writing is a transformation of gathered data, not a formula. They examine Author's Style and try it on for size, improving their own writing style as they experiment with the techniques of capable authors. In short, they learn to write by reading.
Participants will see several examples of such writing. We will demonstrate how to assist second language, and learning disabled students to extract compare/contrast paragraphs and will show writing samples. The data from high school bilingual, learning disabled classes will be presented to illustrate the effectiveness of the reading to writing, pattern to paragraph frame approach.
Thus, participants will learn how to identify key expository text patterns in subject area selections, extract (and perhaps enhance) the paragraph skeletons from these selections, and transform these into new, transformed paragraphs.


Sharon Kossack  (United States)
College of Education
Florida International University

Sharon Kossack, Ph.D., Professor of Reading, coordinator of school-based Professional Development Academies which deliver at-risk-student-embedded, on-site M.S. degrees in Reading. Stateside coordinator of the Every Child Counts literacy and special education project in Abaco, Bahamas.

Eric Dwyer  (United States)
Assistant Professor
College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Florida International University

Eric Dwyer, Assistant Professor, Modern Language Education, associated with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program. Serves on Board of Directors for TESOL International. He's interested in vocabulary development of bilingual students.

Hilary Landorf  (United States)
Assistant Professor
College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Floria International University

Hilary Landorf, Assistant Professor, Global Education. Current research focuses on the study of the U.S. in Morocco, and the study of Islam in Miami-Dade County.

Luis Martinez-Perez  (United States)
Associate Professor
College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Florida International University

Luis Martinez-Perez, Associate Professor, Science Education. Directs the Science Education program, is program evaluator for a number of NSF programs

Cengiz Alacaci

  • Writing
  • Reading comprehension
  • Text Patterns
  • Paragraph Frames
  • Content Reading
  • Subject Reading
Person as Subject
  • at risk students (high school learning disabled)

(60 min Workshop, English)