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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Water: Narrative vs. Expository Texts

Africa, Lesotho, Madagascar
Grades 9-12
Language Arts & Literature, Social Studies & Geography
1-2 class periods

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.

  • 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 photographs.
  • Be able to write a narrative text and an expository text of their own.
  • Expository texts: is a type of writing, the purpose of which is to inform, explain, describe. Examples are cooking instructions, driving directions and instructions on performing a task.


  • Water in Africa Theme Page
  • World map
  • Student readings of narrative and expository texts (find link above)
  • Sensory Detail Graphic organizer (find link above)


  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 (find link above). 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. Hand out the sensory detail graphic organizer (find link above).  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?
  5. 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.
  6. Using the Madagascar and Lesotho photos from the Water in Africa Theme Page, 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.

Frameworks & Standards

Essential Questions
  • 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?
  • Science Standards
    • NS.9-12.6 Personal and social perspectives
  • Language Arts Standards
    • NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for perspective
    • NL-ENG.K-12.2 Understanding the human experience
    • NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying knowledge
    • NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing research skills
    • NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multi-cultural understanding


The Water in Africa Theme Page 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.

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