An Approach to Factual Writing

An invited article

David Wray
Maureen Lewis

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This article draws upon research work sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation. It is adapted from an article in the May 1997 issue of The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol. 20, No. 2, published by the Australian Literacy Educators' Association.


Our literate society demands that we read and write a wide range of texts. It is an observable fact that many of the texts we, as adult members of society, encounter everyday and need to deal with are nonfiction texts. Much of the research of the last few decades into the development of children's writing has tended to concentrate on personal and fictional texts; nonfiction writing often has been neglected.

The increasing demand that children read and respond to all kinds of writing (Department of Education and Science, 1990) means that we need to look closely at how we can help students become aware, and develop into competent writers, of differing nonfiction text.

Our work with teachers as part of the Exeter Extending Literacy (EXEL) Project (see, for example, Lewis, Wray, & Rospigliosi, 1994) has made it clear to us that extending interactions with nonfiction texts is an area of current concern among many classroom practicioners and that widening the range and quality of children's nonfiction writing is part of this concern.

In this article we suggest one way of categorizing types of factual writing and introduce a teaching strategy which can develop students' awareness of the structural and language features of a number of factual genres. The article consists of a number of sections, listed below, and readers might simply read these in the order suggested. However, the article also has been written as a hypertext, and readers might choose several alternative paths through it.


Author Information

David Wray (e-mail: was a professor at the University of Exeter when this article was first posted; he is now a professor at the University of Warwick, Coventry, England.

Maureen Lewis (e-mail: is a senior lecturer in literacy education at the University of Plymouth, England, and codirector of the Exeter Extending Literacy Project.

Reading Online,
Posted May 1998
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