Exposition: Informational Writing and Public Speaking
Academic Year Language Arts
In this course for 7th through 9th graders, students will learn the ins and outs of effective expository writing and speaking in multiple real-world contexts. They will learn how to find, understand, and present information to make their ideas understood by others, building an outstanding foundation for academic and professional writing. Along the way, they’ll investigate and report on events within their own homes or neighborhoods, craft a personal essay, create an original historical documentary, and learn how to communicate scientific research findings in clear, concise language. Each unit will also include a focus on a different genre of public speaking, developing oratory skills and practice.
In the first unit, students take on the role of investigative journalist, digging into a real story from their own lives. While reading articles by the world’s top journalists, they learn to gather and organize facts, conduct interviews with sources, and synthesize the information they've gathered into a magazine-quality investigative article. The unit closes with a live broadcast of AoPS Nightly News, with all students giving a live report on their investigation.
In the second unit, students study and join the long tradition of the personal essay. Most famously used in the college application, the personal essay is the writer’s space to express their ideas. Students will practice introspection and metacognition as they articulate not just a belief but also the experiences that have led them to hold it. At the end of the unit, students craft an essay worthy of real-world writing contests.
In the third unit, students become documentarians, tracing the historical development of an aspect of the modern world. They learn research skills, with an emphasis on locating and collating sources, and how to build a coherent and persuasive narrative out of seemingly disparate events. At the end of the unit, students create a documentary detailing the historical patterns they’ve uncovered.
In the final unit, students put on their scientist hats, designing and conducting an independent experiment to research a scientific question and derive their own conclusion. They master skills crucial to clear scientific communication, including framing the thought process guiding an investigation and articulating complex and abstract concepts to a lay audience. At the end of the unit, students present their findings in the form of a TED Talk, blending hard data with engaging public speaking.
What happens in class?
Each unit begins with an exploratory period in which students learn new writing, speaking, and research skills. They are encouraged to cultivate their abilities as the unit progresses and they encounter more advanced expository forms. Each unit ends with a final project that is developed through a structured process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, and performing.
Each day of class will include a blend of the following types of activities:
- A review of the skills learned in the previous lesson
- A full-class discussion in which students practice their informational writing and public speaking skills
- A writing assignment that includes either smaller writing prompts to help students build writing stamina or allows them to focus on developing their unit project
- A reading assignment in which students read a text and develop close reading skills with the teacher’s guidance and support
Students should expect to spend about 1-2 hours on homework every week. Homework will include: practicing skills learned in class through questions in the Homework Tab, long-term writing assignments connected to the unit project, and assigned reading in one of the four quarterly books.
During class, the teacher will give students direct, oral feedback on skills and projects. This in-person feedback is key in helping students revise and improve their writing while they are working on the unit projects. At the end of each writing project, students can expect to receive evaluative written feedback from their teacher.
- How We Got to Now
- Select articles from Global Investigative Journalism Casebook
- What If?
- Breakfast on Mars
Note: To ensure students have the best experience, it is recommended that they do not read the course texts before class starts.
Schedule in 2023-24
All times Pacific.