At this point in the year, you’ve probably taught a few different writing units. Maybe you’ll have already practiced personal narratives, some informational writing, and possibly opinion writing as well. Now it is time for one of the most engaging types of writings to teach to littles… procedural or otherwise known as how-to writing. The reason this topic is so engaging for students is because THEY get to become the experts and teach their readers how to do something new!
#1 : Introduce your Experts
The first thing I like to do when beginning this unit is to hype it up for students. Engagement is key and this unit is no different! I begin by telling students that they are going to be able to be an EXPERT teacher on their favorite topic. I tell them that these experts write and publish pieces so everyone can learn about the topic. I ask students if they are up for the challenge of a brand new style of writing that they may have never used before in order to teach people how to do something they love. By setting the stage, it stirs up excitement for them and prepares them for something new. Get as creative as you need to in order to get your students excited about this unit!
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After you’ve hooked your students on this engaging topic, it’s time to show them that each and every one of them IS an expert. This is the perfect time to bring in a circle map for students to share all their thinking. Start by modeling yourself on what you’re an expert at. It is important to think aloud for students and explain how you know you’re an expert. For example, “I am going to write down teacher on my map because I have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.” This shows students how to choose topics in areas where they know they are an expert.
After you’ve modeled for students, it is time for them to brainstorm all the things they are an expert at. Before sending students to record their expert topics, build time for students to share with a partner and gather ideas. Some students will not feel confident in being experts… at first. By incorporating peer discussions and supporting students as they work, each student will become more confident with at least 5 topics they are an expert on.
Just like other writing units, we move through the writing process and practice honing these skills during our writer’s workshop. Begin by brainstorming topics for students. While students are working, it’s important to emphasize to students that they should only record topics they can teach to someone. For example, if I have never ridden a bike, I am not an expert at bike riding. This helps students really hone in on topics they know A LOT about.
Circle maps are a great way for students to brainstorm what topics they are already experts on and it can live in their writing folder throughout the entire unit in case they run out of ideas.
#2 : The Magic of Mentor Texts
Since this is a brand new type of writing for most students, it’s important when introducing this topic to provide students with a TON of great examples. After we have worked on our list of what we are experts at, we are ready to see HOW this writing looks. I love using mentor texts to really showcase this type of writing and there are SO many amazing books out there to help you do so.
Together, we read a few different great examples and chart what we notice about how the writing looks and what it includes. Below you’ll see a list of great mentor texts and our notice anchor chart.
How to Read a Story by Kate Messner
How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller
How to Make Bubbles by Erika L. Shores
Peanut Butter and Jelly by Nadine Bernard Westcott
How to Make Slime by Erika L. Shores
How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan
How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder
How to Wash a Wooly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson
How to Teach a Slug to Read by Susan Pearson
How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps by Jennifer LaRue Huget
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#3: Model ALL the Steps
This is a different type of writing so it’s important to learn all the steps involved in this type of writing for the readers. Modeling the steps is going to be REALLY important for students so they know exactly what is needed in their writing piece. Just like with the writing process, first brainstorming happens, then planning. Using this graphic organizer, it really helps students map out each section they need for their writing. When students begin listing their materials, it is important to explain that they need to think through EVERYTHING someone needs to do what they’re teaching them about.
Next, it’s time to start the steps. This is the most important part of the writing because it is where the teaching, or the “how-to”, happens. Students need to understand that if they miss anything or write their steps out of order, then the reader will not be able to learn how to create or do what they are teaching. This is where explicit modeling will support students. Going one step at a time and showing students exactly how to teach their readers what to do is going to be SUPER helpful to your little writers. When beginning this unit and their first piece, I like to have students spend a lot of time on the carpet “pretending” to go through each step and sharing it aloud with a partner. This really helps them get in the mindset of teaching and not missing any crucial information for their readers.
Once our draft is finished, we pull out our checklists to ensure we are completing each step during our editing and revising process. As you work through all these steps with students, let THEM guide the mini lessons. What I mean by that is to really pay attention to where a lot of students are struggling. Do you notice that they need more support listing materials? Are they struggling with hitting all the steps? Let students guide you with what their needs are. The first two weeks of this unit will be pretty guided. However, once students understand all the pieces, they are given more freedom for the remainder of the unit and this is where you can differentiate and cater to individual students and their specific needs.
Are students really struggling? Stop. Don’t be afraid to revamp and regroup. Complete one how to piece together first. Choose a topic for the entire class and have them complete EACH step with you. This is an easy way for students to learn the important steps and get practicing before completing their own.
#4: Culminate the Learning
The students have worked hard to become experts on their topic and teach their readers how to also become a master at their craft. So why not celebrate?! Below you’ll find some adorable writing crafts to show off all their learning.
After students have finished the unit, I love to end it with a real life hands-on lesson by making the writing come to life! For example, if they complete their writing craft on how to make hot chocolate, bring in hot chocolate for everyone to make by following the writing! Other examples include making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, root beer floats, delicious lemonade, pumpkin carving, making applesauce, etc.
‘Author’s Share’ events are also always SO fun and you can get as creative as you and your kids want. You can invite families to come in for all the little author’s to debut their how-to writing. Students LOVE sharing how much an expert they are on their topics.
#5: Supplement Your Writing Resources
Why not load your student’s up with ALL the support and resources for them to become strong, independent writers?! Once you experience the shift of your student’s writing after mastering small moment stories, writing just may become your favorite subject to teach! Below you’ll see some of the other writing resources I love to use during writing.
I really hope you enjoyed learning about how to teach procedural writing to your students! This really is such a powerful unit that teaches your students SO many new skills! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including the We are Experts FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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