Stay with me if you are looking for great ideas to teach procedural writing (how-to) in your K-4 classroom. In this post, I share exactly how I teach procedural writing with my students.
Before I begin, I want to let you know that this information can also be viewed or listened to in video format.
Introducing Procedural Writing
Students write narrative, expository, and opinion writing. Procedural writing is a form of expository writing. The purpose of procedural writing, or “how-to” writing, is to help someone succeed at doing something by following specific instructions. Students must teach the reader through their writing.
Knowing this, I like to introduce mentor texts for students to examine first before starting writing.
Procedural Writing Resources
There are a lot of resources these days for how-to writing. Use cookbooks, magazines, gameboard instructions, and newspapers. The Internet is another excellent resource. Here are some of my favorites:
I've even made some units of my own you might be interested in trying out. Click here to learn more.
- How to Babysit Grandma by Jean Reagan
- If Your Monster Won't Go to Bed by Denise Vega
- Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan
- Read to a Grandpa or a Grandma by Jean Reagan
- Read a Story by Kate Messner
- Scare a Ghost by Jean Reagan
- Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green
- Find an Elephant by Kate Banks
- Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder
Study the Language of Procedural Texts
As students examine the resources, ask students what they notice about procedural writing. Depending on the age group of your students will determine your focus.
For example, K-2 students might focus on time-order words, the parts of the procedural text, or types of how-to texts such as recipes, directions, and craft instructions.
With 2-4, we focus on sentence and text structure, parts of speech, and text features such as headings, bold text, and lists.
Language Experience Approach
Once students study the texts, create the craft and recipe, develop their directions, or make board game instructions. Whatever the activity, this shared experience help students build background and vocabulary.
One of my new favorite activities is the one below. Using Google Slides, students try to replicate an image using shapes. It makes for a great choice when having to teach online, too. Here is an example for my February unit of Abraham Lincoln.
I love to pull in technology during this portion of the lesson by taking pictures and videos of the steps for creating their craft or recipe. Use these photos later when completing the projects.
It's Time to Write
Now that students understand the text features of how-to writing and have had the experience of using the text to create or develop something, it is time to write about the experience.
The first draft can be written in one of two ways:
- Have students write their procedural writing using paper and pencil.
- Have students use the technology to write their story.
IMPORTANT: The decision to use technology is dependent on several factors. Most of the time, my students write the good ole fashion way using paper and pencil, but sometimes I let them write their first draft using technology.
These are all factors I look at when making my decision:
- If students can get their thoughts down on paper quickly
- They can understand how to use the technology
- We don't have a lot of time
Use a Graphic Organizer
Graphic organizers make an excellent scaffold for students when writing procedural writing. The graphic organizer helps students plan out their writing since it has the headings for each part of the how-to text.
Revise and Edit
Have students use an editing checklist to revise and edit their work.
Publish the Writing
Here are some of my favorite project ideas to publish student work:
I always use the iPad app for this project. I'm sure there are other ways to make a collage on different devices.
My all-time favorite way to showcase students' writing is using Book Creator.
I've used this app with Kindergarten to twelfth-grade students. It's an easy-to-use app, yet it has many excellent features to make unique interactive books.
Seesaw and Google Slides
I clump these two apps together. Students use the slides to create the steps for the how-to. One thing I do enjoy about Seesaw over Google Slides is the ability for students to create video and audio right inside the app.
Grading with a Rubric
I have a lot of teachers ask me how I grade student writing. I'm most interested in assessing if students can teach the reader through their writing. Rubrics help.
I use rubrics to help students self-evaluate their work and allow me to grade their writing. Rubrics are a great way of setting the expectations for the paper. I love having students help me build the rubric, too. It helps to hold themselves accountable.
Now that students have a great piece of writing, it is time to share it with the world. Invite parents, other classes, or add it to a class blog. Whatever you do, let students know they are authors!
If you are interested in learning more about my procedural writing units, you can check them out on my TPT store.
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