- Generate ideas and create a plan sheet for a procedural nonfiction book
- Write procedural nonfiction book
- Discuss the importance of procedural nonfiction books
- Chart paper and markers
- How-To Planning Sheet printable
- Multiple procedural nonfiction books to be read before this lesson and all throughout the duration of your How-To unit
- Pencils and pens
- Writing paper
- Construction paper in various colors
- Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
- Create a How-To Planning Sheet template on a sheet of chart paper to demonstrate how students should use the How-To Planning Sheet printable to organize their ideas. You should plan out your example ahead of time.
- Make two copies of the How-To Planning Sheet printable for each student.
Step 1: If you haven't already discussed nonfiction in class, explain the difference between fiction and nonfiction books. Show multiple examples of nonfiction that students might find in their homes, like science magazines and books, newspapers, and picture books.
Step 2: Discuss procedural nonfiction books. Be certain to include books that cover various interests, such as games, repairs, cooking, etc. Inform students that writers of how-to books are subject matter experts and that everyone is an expert at something.
Step 3: Tell students that even they are experts at things, and give them a few examples of what this means. Generate and organize ideas on a sheet of chart paper. If desired, make a list of each student's expertise.
Step 4: Share one thing that you are good at and tell them that you are going to write a book about it. Organize your idea into five parts aloud in front of your students. Walk it across your fingers (each step is a finger). Write the title of your How-To book on your sample How-To Planning Sheet template.
Step 5: Number your first square and begin to sketch your first part. Write a key word underneath the picture. Then move to the second square and do the second step of your how-to book. Repeat through to the fifth step and show students that they can add a box manually, if necessary.
Step 6: Ask each student to think about something they do that makes them an expert. Then ask them to turn and share their idea and steps with a friend. You can also have students share ideas in small groups.
Step 7: Give students time to organize their ideas, then call each student by name and ask them about their ideas. If a student does not have an idea in mind, ask them to remain on the rug so that you can work together to generate an idea. Ask the rest of the students to begin to sequence their ideas on the How-To Planning Sheet printable.
Step 8: Model how to transfer work from the plan sheet to writing paper. Model how to add details to drawings, sound out words, use the word wall, and use of writing conventions.
Step 9: Confer with each student to assess their readiness to move on with the process.
Step 10: Provide class time for students to write out their steps and add illustrations on writing paper.
Step 11: Have students put covers on their books using the construction paper. Students should also write a title and color the pages of their books.
Step 12: Keep all of the how-to books in one area of the classroom and encourage students to read them and ask the authors any questions they may have.
Supporting All Learners
Stronger writers will be able to produce more detailed procedures. Awareness of each writer's capabilities will allow you to direct students to write easier or more challenging work.
- Students can write multiple how-to books about their various interests. Depending upon how often your students write, this unit could last 3–6 weeks.
- Try to incorporate and expand students' awareness of nonfiction procedural texts by reading and following fun procedural texts during other class times. It's easy to find texts that tell you how to make and fly kites, build volcanoes, draw cartoons, fold paper airplanes, make pie crusts, and more.
Scholastic publishes several these books that fit right into this unit:
- Tomatoes to Ketchup by Inez Snyder
Making ketchup is a fun and easy follow-up activity.
- Milk to Ice Cream by Inez Snyder
Make ice cream in the classroom!
- Wax to Crayons by Inez Snyder
Make crayons as a follow-up activity.
- Fruit Salad by Helen Depree
This is a great book for the kids. Short and direct, the writer guides the reader to put a certain number of foods into the salad.
- A Monster Sandwich by Joy Cowley
- Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie De Paola
- Maisy Makes Gingerbread by Lucy Cousins
Everyone loves Maisy!!! What a mouse, and this one is just as fun as the rest. This book has great illustrations and wonderfully descriptive language.
- Benny Bakes A Cake by Eve Rice
- Building A House by Byron Barton
Step by step, these builders get the job done.
- Building a House by Paul Stickland
This text displays what labeled pictures look like.
- Bruno, the Tailor by Lars Klinting
This text uses exact sequence language (first, second, next). It is a great example of how organized and precise a writer's language needs to be in order to properly inform and guide a reader.
- Chop, Simmer, Season by Alexa Brandenberg
This text gets five stars from us and not just because we love good food. Brandenberg offers one action word per page to describe how to cook up this fantastic menu.
- Beans to Chocolate by Inez Snyder
We love the language in this book. It is a great one to read prior to any writing lessons. It may be hard to do this activity, but fun to read about.
- Inform parents about the unit and the ideas you're discussing.
- Ask parents to place focus on nonfiction procedural books that they use and will be using at home.
- Inform parents of your celebration/publishing date, so that they can praise the students' work that same night or invite them to the celebration.
- Have your students successfully generated, organized and written their how-to books?
- What worked and what did not work?
- Observe each student's ability to sequence and organize.
- Review and examine their completed work. Compare their plan sheet with their finished work. Did the children add details that were not on the plan sheet? Were they able to extend themselves and add details within their pictures and words?
This lesson is adapted from the how-to unit from the Teachers College Reading & Writing project.