With March in full swing and St. Patrick’s Day just next week I thought it would be fun to share out one of my favorite thematic writing units: How To writing! This type of informative writing allows students to become experts in a topic and hone in on specific writing skills such as adding details, writing for an audience, and continuing to practice the writing process.
How To writing is a very specific skill in that students learn to write step-by-step directions on how to do something. I always have fun with this unit because it allows for the teacher to demonstrate how authors should add detail where the writer assumes the reader knows what they’re thinking!
One example of this is my introductory lesson on How To. The topic I chose to demonstrate to the class is: How To Blow A Bubble. It’s a skill that all students should know and I can easily model my thinking for. I begin with a poster sized copy of my planning paper (included in download) where I think about the steps to blowing a bubble:
First, I put a piece of bubble gum into my mouth.
Then, I chew really hard for a while.
Next, I use my tongue to flatten the gum in my mouth.
After that, I chew some more to make it flexible.
Last, I blow a bubble.
Obviously you’ve noticed that my steps are very basic and include little detail. This is done on purpose as I will continue to model throughout the unit how to make my writing more engaging. However, this is typically the starting place that many of your kiddos will themselves be at in their writing. As we move through the unit and I introduce the next steps in their writing, I continue to use my blowing a bubble example to model for my kids how it evolves over time and eventually into a more cohesive and understandable piece of writing.
After I discuss this example I introduce to the class that the writing topic we’ll be practicing together is Catching A Leprechaun! Every year a pesky and mischievous leprechaun visits our school and plays tricks in our classroom. Students are instructed to develop and create a leprechaun trap in attempts to catch this little guy!
CREATING THE TRAPS
One thing that I’ve changed about this activity is no longer creating the traps during the school day. I found that having the parents involved with the creation of the leprechaun traps really helped students get creative and spend quality time with their families. This also frees up a lot of in-classroom time for students to begin working on the writing piece of this activity.
Send home the provided parent letter, which outlines the intention of the project and gives explicit directions on how to create the traps. Make sure it’s explained that this is their CHILD’S project and not theirs ;) I love seeing the traps come to school and how over the top some of them can be!
Now that the traps are made and the planning sheets that were sent home to be completed are returned to school, all students should be ready to begin their first drafts or finishing sketching their steps. It’s important that students have an opportunity to sketch how they built their traps because their illustrations will help them remember key details when they’re writing the directions.
EDITING THEIR WORK
Now that students have worked hard on their illustrations and writing out their directions, they are able to move on to edit and revise. This simple checklist allows students to ensure they’re looking for any mistakes and know how to fix them. Editing and revising is always an ongoing skill in my classroom and these checklists make it so much easier on my kiddos.
PUBLISHING & SHARING!
Once students have completed the writing process for this piece of writing they are finally able to publish their work! In this download there is a blank cover page and corresponding coloring page that students will color, cut, and attach to their covers. I recommend stapling their book along the top so when you display them their books flip up to read.
In their publishing, students not only want to use their best handwriting, but this is the time where they can spend a little more attention to their illustrations and color them in.