Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How-to Writing

One of the writing units we did this year was procedural writing.  I kept it simple and had the kids writing How-to "books."  We discussed what helps readers understand how-to books and one of the recurring ideas was illustrations/pictures so students had to include a picture of each step, with labels or captions.

A cute,  funny story to read to the kids is How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan.  While it isn't a nonfiction "how-to,"  it tells how to hide and be quiet when grandpa rings the doorbell,  how to eat snack with a grandpa, and how to play with a grandpa.

We started with a how-to wash your hands as a shared writing.  In the past I've always read Germs Make Me Sick by by Melvin Berger and then the kids wrote How to Keep Germs Away or How to Stay Healthy. It isn't a true how-to but it is a good practice one.  Most of the kids wrote a list of all things to do to Keep Germs away.  When I did it with first grade I got a lot of what I told them all the time:  cough and sneeze into you elbow; wash your hands with soap and water; blow and throw instead of keeping a tissue on your desk or in your pencil box; don't chew on your hair, nails, fingers, clothes, pencils, etc.  Occasionally I'd get something random like don't chew gum you pulled off your shoe.  (eww! Really?)   I'd pull out a big box of scraps and have them make a germ to glue as a topper to their paragraph/how-to.   This year I didn't have time for this part :(

We were in the middle of a Trash to Treasure project, which required the kids to use three or more recyclable materials to create a new "treasure" that had a purpose.  To tie it all together the kids had to then write a how-to make whatever treasure they made.  It turned out fabulous!  The kids were very creative.  Some of the treasures: robots, airplanes, organizers, jewelry boxes, masks, planters, bird feeders, and even a track for a ball toss game!

Here is the final copy paper and rubric I used.  I also included some variations if you don't need/want it  to be a numbered list.
topics/ideas to have the kids write:

  • how to wash your hands
  • how to stay healthy
  • how to be (mostly) germ-free
  • how to survive _____ grade
  • how to keep Earth clean/healthy(green school idea: recycle, reuse, etc.)
  • how to grow a plant

The ideas are countless!  Please post any ideas you have !  Hopefully I can post pictures of the treasure the kids created once I can get into school. (It's being tiled so it's a construction site right now) :)

I'd love to hear feedback on how you use it!
~ Colleen ❤


  1. Colleen,
    I saw you started to follow my blog, so I decided to check out yours too. I am wondering if there might be a great "How To" book that you could add to the Ideas linky I am doing on the Six Traits of Writing. I think you could highlight this product to go with it. :-)

    1. Thanks! I definitely can! How to Babysit a Grandpa is a funny fictional How-To book I read to my students this year.

      Thanks again!!!

    2. Colleen...I will fix the linky...the book thumbnails go on the linky, but the url is to this post! Great idea!