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November 7, 2014 A Student-Led Study in How-To Writing By Kriscia Cabral
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Second- and third-grade students are still being introduced to a variety of genres. I want to make sure that they are being exposed to different forms of writing, and to help them find the ones that resonate strongest with them. As it turned out, one of my students asked to share with his classmates a book that he had made at home. That request turned into a genre study on how-to writing. Read on to see how one student's work inspired others to take a writing risk and create their own expository pieces.

    At the end of every day, I take time to reflect with students about their day. This is a time when students can share about their learning, remind me of upcoming events, or tell a quick story to the class. It was during one of these sessions that I was approached by one of my students about a book that he created in his spare time. He really wanted to teach his classmates how to make a paper rocket, and just so happened to have a book that he created to pair with it. I was intrigued. I asked him to bring in the book and let me view it prior to his reading and sharing. This student came the next day with a taped-together book, along with a step-by-step guide on how to make a paper rocket.

    I was so impressed by his attention to detail. He had a title page, a list of materials, and a thorough set of directions that were easy to follow for second- and third- grade students. I couldn’t wait for him to share with his classmates the work that he had done. It was as if one of our second grade students had created a mentor text and we were studying the author's work.

    As this student read his story to us, I wrote on the board what we had noticed about his writing. I prompted student thinking with questions like, “What was the format that he used to write this book? How was it different from a book that told a story like what we read during read-aloud time?” This was the start of our investigation into how-to writing.

    After reading the story out loud, this student was able to take over our class at the end of the day and become our expert instructor on making paper rockets. We created a big circle around him and he guided us through his how-to book.

    When students were finished, they gave feedback on what they liked about the book, some suggestions, and ways to improve. Here are notes that I have gone over with my students about providing proper feedback prior to this lesson.

     

     

     

    What I Learned

    • Children are so amazing and talented.

    • They love the opportunity to shine in something they do well.

    • Allowing students to give and get respect without the teacher voice being present is incredible.

    • Everyone loved learning something new.

     

    What Happened Next

    After the first student shared, the domino effect began. I had other students who said they knew different ways to make a rocket, while others wanted to show the class how to draw something. I thought, “This could be a great way to get kids sharing with peers and secretly writing without even realizing it.” My response to all the pleading was, “First you have to write up how to do it and then you can share with the class.”

     

    What is Happening Now

    Now I have students who are writing and drawing all kinds of how-to descriptions. I have saturated our classroom library with recipe books, game board directions, and how-to crafts for students to study and learn from. We note our take-aways from one how-to writing example to the next, and post it in the room as a guide for students interested in writing their own expository piece.

    There is a sign-up form that students use when they want to share something. I review what they have written the day before and then confer with them about their writing if necessary. Once changes are made (if needed) the selected student will first share their writing piece with the class, and then take over as our expert instructor for the task. 

     

    Ideas for Student How-to Pieces

    While the ideas truly come from students, these are a few that might spark the interest of some:

    • Paper rockets

    • Paper airplanes

    • Drawing an animal, car, plane, etc.

    • Origami

    • Magic tricks

    Promoting student voice and the power of sharing has created a special connection amongst my homeroom students. They have respect for each other and the talents they each hold. Students get excited and cannot wait to learn from each other. I get excited to learn as well. It is a great way to end our days, remembering that school is a place to learn all sorts of things.

    The fact that I’ve been able to get students writing was an added joy to the treat of watching students shine as they share their joy and passion with peers.

    What ways do you incorporate how-to writing in your classroom? I’d love to hear more in the comment box below.

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

     

    Second- and third-grade students are still being introduced to a variety of genres. I want to make sure that they are being exposed to different forms of writing, and to help them find the ones that resonate strongest with them. As it turned out, one of my students asked to share with his classmates a book that he had made at home. That request turned into a genre study on how-to writing. Read on to see how one student's work inspired others to take a writing risk and create their own expository pieces.

    At the end of every day, I take time to reflect with students about their day. This is a time when students can share about their learning, remind me of upcoming events, or tell a quick story to the class. It was during one of these sessions that I was approached by one of my students about a book that he created in his spare time. He really wanted to teach his classmates how to make a paper rocket, and just so happened to have a book that he created to pair with it. I was intrigued. I asked him to bring in the book and let me view it prior to his reading and sharing. This student came the next day with a taped-together book, along with a step-by-step guide on how to make a paper rocket.

    I was so impressed by his attention to detail. He had a title page, a list of materials, and a thorough set of directions that were easy to follow for second- and third- grade students. I couldn’t wait for him to share with his classmates the work that he had done. It was as if one of our second grade students had created a mentor text and we were studying the author's work.

    As this student read his story to us, I wrote on the board what we had noticed about his writing. I prompted student thinking with questions like, “What was the format that he used to write this book? How was it different from a book that told a story like what we read during read-aloud time?” This was the start of our investigation into how-to writing.

    After reading the story out loud, this student was able to take over our class at the end of the day and become our expert instructor on making paper rockets. We created a big circle around him and he guided us through his how-to book.

    When students were finished, they gave feedback on what they liked about the book, some suggestions, and ways to improve. Here are notes that I have gone over with my students about providing proper feedback prior to this lesson.

     

     

     

    What I Learned

    • Children are so amazing and talented.

    • They love the opportunity to shine in something they do well.

    • Allowing students to give and get respect without the teacher voice being present is incredible.

    • Everyone loved learning something new.

     

    What Happened Next

    After the first student shared, the domino effect began. I had other students who said they knew different ways to make a rocket, while others wanted to show the class how to draw something. I thought, “This could be a great way to get kids sharing with peers and secretly writing without even realizing it.” My response to all the pleading was, “First you have to write up how to do it and then you can share with the class.”

     

    What is Happening Now

    Now I have students who are writing and drawing all kinds of how-to descriptions. I have saturated our classroom library with recipe books, game board directions, and how-to crafts for students to study and learn from. We note our take-aways from one how-to writing example to the next, and post it in the room as a guide for students interested in writing their own expository piece.

    There is a sign-up form that students use when they want to share something. I review what they have written the day before and then confer with them about their writing if necessary. Once changes are made (if needed) the selected student will first share their writing piece with the class, and then take over as our expert instructor for the task. 

     

    Ideas for Student How-to Pieces

    While the ideas truly come from students, these are a few that might spark the interest of some:

    • Paper rockets

    • Paper airplanes

    • Drawing an animal, car, plane, etc.

    • Origami

    • Magic tricks

    Promoting student voice and the power of sharing has created a special connection amongst my homeroom students. They have respect for each other and the talents they each hold. Students get excited and cannot wait to learn from each other. I get excited to learn as well. It is a great way to end our days, remembering that school is a place to learn all sorts of things.

    The fact that I’ve been able to get students writing was an added joy to the treat of watching students shine as they share their joy and passion with peers.

    What ways do you incorporate how-to writing in your classroom? I’d love to hear more in the comment box below.

    Thank you for reading.

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

     

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