Thursday, January 27, 2011

How-To Writing

Our 4th graders are working on a project that integrates several pieces of the curriculum. One of the things they will be doing is making objects to sell for a charity of their choice.  To go along with the items, they will pass out How-To sheets to let buyers know how they can make the items at home.

To get started with this part of the project, we began looking at How-To books as mentor texts. I like How-To writing because I think it is a genre that can teach a great deal. I find it to be a good genre for teaching sequencing, reading like a writer, using clear sentences, and determining what is/is not necessary information.  Because this is a quick piece of writing, I feel like some good revision strategies can also be practiced. I find with shorter text, kids are much more willing to go in and reread and play with things. When they have written long, it is usually not so fun to go back and revise.

We started to study How-To writing this week. I used several of my favorite How-To Books from the library.   They included:

Better Homes and Gardens Snack Attack 
This Book Made Me Do It See How It's Made
365 Things to Do and Make (Usborne) 

Show Off
The Cookbook for Girls   

These books are all a little bit different in terms of their layout and the things they include in each set of directions. But they all have effective how-to pieces. Kids have looked at these books before--as readers and as they were looking for ideas of things to make for this project. Today, we looked at them as writers. My first thought was to give them the actual books to look at but they are so full that I knew that would get distracting. I knew that if I really wanted them to focus on both craft of the writing and the craft of the layout, I would need to choose some great examples.  So, I chose an example or two from each of the books and copied/laminated them. I gave each table a set of 8 of the same set of directions to explore and read-like-a-writer.

Then, together we came up with what made good how-to writing.   We then moved to talk about what made a good layout for how-to writing.  The conversation was interesting and I think we all learned a lot. Although this is only one piece of the writing for this project, it will be a fun one. I am excited to take their learning to the next level once they begin writing.


  1. I love how the fourth graders are going to pass out how to directions and the direct correlation to writing for a purpose. Please share with your staff.

  2. This idea of combining how-to writing with making objects to give to others is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it...I am about to pass it on. A.
    ps - Your daughter's blog has inspired my daughters who will be online with "Animalog" soon!

  3. ps - I meant "selling" with an intent to donate money. One project my 6th grader made to sell recently was bottle cap necklaces - little outlay, they sell fantastically, and they're quite attractive. Your daughter would like them too!

  4. What a great idea for a writing lesson! What kinds of things will they be making and writing about?

  5. I love this idea--ALL the components! Such a great idea to laminate a sample set for the students to look at and discuss.

    Please share the results!

  6. Thank you, for the great idea for a "How-to" writing lesson integrating reading and writing.


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