Sunday, September 23, 2007

On Writing a "How-to" Paragraph

I am always on the search for new twists to teaching the standard year after year concepts. Here is just a new idea for the old "Steps in a process" paragraph that kids need practice writing. It has been a fun lesson.

I began a discussion, as I do before each new paragraph writing lesson, showing students several different copies of picture books related to the topic of icecream. The books were different in that one was an example of narrative (story) writing. The other was an example of expository (informational) writing. It is important that kids are able to differentiate the two and understand the words, narrative and expository, since I refer to them all year long.

Since this is going to be a paragraph writing lesson that will result in a "Steps-in-a-Process" paragraph, we will actually end this part of the lesson in reading and discussing the informational book. I have carefully chosen a book that is both well written and beautifully illustrated.

Gail Gibbons is such an author! She is a master at children's non-fiction writing. Children love her books because of the wonderful pictures. Icecream; The Full Scoop is the book of choice for this lesson. Can you guess what we are going to be writing about? You've got it! We are writing about how icecream is made. After reading and discussing the book, we also visit an icecream factory through the virtual tour online: Ferdinand's Icecream Photo Tour @

Now my excited young writers are ready to write down their notes about the three major steps to the making of icecream. Once they have done this, we begin constructing the "How to" or "Steps-in-a-Process" paragraphs. It is amazing how confident they are about what they have learned.

When kids are confident about their knowledge of a given topic, they are excited about writing it down.

I use the Step Up to Writing method by Maureen Auman to give them a model on how to do expository paragraph writing. They love this "color-coded" method of organizing their paragraphs.

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