Disclaimer: Holiday times are a good time to learn about other cultures through the various holidays students may celebrate. I believe that it is VERY important to be mindful of ALL of your students and their backgrounds. Planning lessons to cover an array of holidays from cultures you have in your classroom, as well as ones outside, is crucial. This helps to create a culturally sensitive space where students are represented and exposed to learn about people from all races and backgrounds. BONUS! Students LOVE learning about different holidays! Look for my Holidays Around the World post coming soon!
With that being said, it’s winter time. It’s that time of year. You know… when all the bells are ringing, carolers are singing… and children are bouncing off the walls! That span of time freshly back from a too short lived Thanksgiving break to winter break is INSANE! (Teachers, you are the real heroes!) Not only are the children literally vibrating in their seats with holiday excitement, our instructional time seems to go at 1000 mph! And of course we are expected to teach some important standards. But how the heck do we engage students and continue teaching? Well you make it fun of course! In this post you’ll learn about how I teach “how-to” writing with a fun and engaging holiday prompt!
Bookstores these days are filling their shelves with all the holiday reads. You may have seen all the different How-To books out there. How to Catch an Elf, How to Catch a Turkey, and well of course.. How to Catch Santa! This book is SO much fun for students and serves as a wonderful mentor text to cover this writing standard. So wonderful that I’ve created this companion activity to get into the fun!
When I begin teaching about how-to writing, I typically read a TON of mentor texts and complete a Noticings Chart with students. This helps students shift into the mindset of the author and how they might have gone about writing a how to story. We have many discussions until we have a solid understanding of exactly what how-to writing includes, such as an introduction, materials, steps, etc. Once we have this understanding, students are prepped and ready to begin their own writing!
While reading “How to Catch Santa” by Jean Reagan, we do a think aloud on the different pieces of a how-to writing and notice what the author did specifically. We stop and pause for students to brainstorm and discuss different ways they may want to try and catch Santa. After reading, I use the planning sheet below to craft my own writing as a mentor for students. I am always very specific to inform students that they may NOT use my ideas or ideas from the story because they MUST be original. Students may use pictures or words when planning and they are informed that their plan is a just quick sketch of what they will write about. I always tell students that plans should take NO more than 5 minutes to complete. Check out some of these creative kids planning sheets!
After all students have completed their plans on how to catch Santa, we come back together and students watch as I model my first draft from my plan. I always encourage students while writing to have a juicy introduction that hooks our readers and a strong conclusion that wraps up our writing for our readers. I explicitly show students how I use my plan to complete my writing and elaborate! I also show students while writing how I make sure all my steps are specific and make sense together… a HUGE part of how-to writing.
Now students are ready for their first draft! They work to use their plans to complete their first draft. It’s in this stage that it takes the most time for students. Support and guide them but there’s no need to worry too much about grammar and punctuation in this stage… we leave that for editing. Simply give them time to write. This is also a great time to confer. When that stage is done, then we shift into peer editing! They LOVE this part because they get to shift into “teacher mode” themselves, but most importantly, they really help one another make their writing better. We always use these awesome easy to use checklists to guide them through peer editing.
Once your students have written their plans, which are always amazingly creative, finished their first drafts, peer edited, they’ve come to the best part- publishing! You want to give them ample time to get it just right. Get them in the mood to publish their final piece of writing. While students work, I love to display a fireplace to give all the cozy vibes and we listen to instrumental holiday music. Students can publish a simple shape version of their choice or a chimney version and they are both SO fun! Check them out!
Anything that is a fun way to engage students AND cover standards is a WIN WIN in my book! With this activity and craft, students practice important writing skills, get seriously creative, and they have a blast! No matter how you’re teaching these days, I’ve got you covered. You can download both a print or digital version of the resource now by clicking on the pictures below!
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