How-To Writing Ideas


This past week, we have been working on writing “how to” books (procedural nonfiction) in our second grade writer’s workshop.  I began the unit by reading aloud a mentor text to students (a how-to book I found in our guided reading library) and asking them what they noticed.  I also showed students a “how to” video from YouTube, since that is where I personally get most of my own DIY ideas from!  🙂  

Next, we brainstormed ideas about topics that we were “experts” on.  The students chose their topics and began planning their books.  I usually just give students a graphic organizer, but this year I offered the option of index cards.  Most of the kids chose to write out their steps first on the index cards before copying them into the organizer.  This was especially helpful for my struggling kids, and those who prefer “hands on” learning.  It also helped students because they could rearrange the cards or add in extra steps without having to erase everything.

Once they had written in the actual graphic organizer, I gave them paper and they started to write.  Later in the week, I taught a lesson about adding more specific details to their writing.  For the lesson, I blindfolded one of my kiddos and explained that we were going to have to use our words to teach her exactly how to draw something.  I drew a smiley face on the board so that Miss Blindfolded couldn’t see it, but the other kiddos could.  I had the kids take turns giving her directions to help her try to copy the smiley face on the board – without telling her what she was drawing.  I prompted them to be extremely specific and detailed with the instructions they gave.

The kids, of course, thought this was hilarious!  As you can see, her smiley face didn’t quite turn out looking like mine.  I wrapped up the lesson by asking students to think of their readers as being “blindfolded” in a sense.  I reminded them that their readers may never have done the thing that their how-to books are teaching, so it is up to them as the writers to provide very specific details.  The kids enjoyed it, and I do think it drove the point home.  Plus, as I confer with them in the future and try to get them to use more details, now I can refer back to “blindfold” lesson and I’m sure they will remember it!


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I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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