WRITING: Introduction to How-To writing

Objective: Students will discover the importance of descriptive language in expository writing through this exercise.

Vocabulary: adjective

Time: Approximately 1 hour 

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need: 9×12 paper, manilla envelopes, writing paper, pencils, crayons, rulers, and other drawing materials.

Preparing For The Project: Introduce How-To writing to your students.  Reading a how-to essay to the class, or following the steps of a how-to essay are both great ways to help students to understand the direction their work will need to take.  For a couple of great illustrations and writing prompts, check out this blog: http://lasotaslittlelearners.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-writing.html

Discuss with your students how important it is to consider each step carefully as they prepare to describe the process they are about to explain.  As a common illustration of this, I’ve seen teachers bring a loaf of bread and some jelly to the classroom. The teacher will ask the class to explain how to make a jelly sandwich.  Many times, a student will offer the instruction, “Spread the jelly on the bread,” and the teacher will smear jelly over the bag of bread.  Because the students’ assumed that the teacher would already know that he or she should take the bread out of the bag, they forget to include the instruction. 

Illustrating how important descriptive language is in how-to writing is often very beneficial to the students as well.  Similar to the illustration above, a student may offer, “Put the jelly on the bread,” as a sufficient instruction.  Often times the teacher will place the whole jar of jelly on top of the bread.  Using specific adjectives and other descriptive language helps the audience to understand the instruction given.  In this case, spread would be a much more descriptive verb than put.

To Illustrate this further, students  will help a classmate create a work of art. 

Project time:

1. It is now your students’ turn to practice how-to writing. Pass out drawing paper, writing paper, pencils, rulers and crayons to the students.  Students can work independently to draw and write their instructions. The assignment is for students to  describe how to draw a clown for a classmate.  As they draw on one piece of paper,  they will also write the steps of how to draw their clown on their writing paper.  Remind them to use their details generously.  Is the paper landscape or portrait? What materials come first?  What size is each shape?  Where does each shape belong? What is the name given on the crayon that is being used? Can another child repeat what I am drawing without seeing the artwork? Students should use as many of the tools as they can to be as descriptive as possible.  Give students approximately 45 minutes to draw and write. DSCN0638 DSCN0637 DSCN0649

2. When the students have finished their drawing and their writing ask them to double check their work.  Students will then slip their drawings into the manilla envelope and staple the instructions to the outside of the envelope.


3. Later, pass out another piece of drawing paper and the sealed envelops to a different student, or if you have the luxury, trade your packet with the packet from another class in your grade level.  The object is to give the packet to a student who is unfamiliar with the artwork inside. 

4. Students will follow the steps that were written on the front of the envelope give to them.  Invite the students to be as literal about the instructions they are following as you were when you put the jar of jelly on the bread.  The exercise works best if students do not assume any missing information.  Students will need about 15 minutes to complete the steps on the envelope. 


5. Allow time for your class to meet and collaborate with the writer of their packets.  Discuss what important information was missing, and how the writer could have instructed their audience more effectively.  Allow time for students to give positive feedback as well.  

Assessment:  Students should have access to the drawing that was made from their writing.  Guide the students through a self-assessment process, or create a rubric for students to gauge their level of success in the exercise.  For further illustration, find a few students who may be willing to volunteer their writing to be an example to the class.  As a class, re-write the steps. Post them on your classroom blog and a invite readers to respond with a photo!

WRITING: Awesome Alliteration Activity

IMG_2163Objective: Students will be able to create alliterations based on the poem “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” By Jack Prelutsky.

Vocabulary: Alliteration

Time: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need: 12X18 Paper, Pencils, Sharpies, and Colored Pencils or Crayons

Preparing For The Project:

Introduce the concept of Alliteration to your students. Read the poem, “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” by Jack Prelutsky to the students.  If you would prefer, there is a clever video of a man reading the poem in a silly voice with fun animation on You Tube. The link is below:


Work through the different flavors of ice cream with the students and decide which flavors are alliterations and which flavors are not (for example, “Cocoa Mocha Macaroni” is not an alliteration, but “Checkerberry Cheddar Chew” is).

On A piece of scratch paper, have the students write out a list of 5 new Bleezer-style flavors that are alliterations. To make the flavors crazy, I often ask them to pair 1 dinner flavor with 1 dessert flavor (Taco Tapioca Twist).  I also advise the students to keep their flavors to food items only, or some students have the tendency to become gruesome.  Finally I write a list of adjectives we might typically see at the end of ice cream flavors.  Here is my list:

Twist, Dip, Swirl, Sherbet, Nut, Fudge, Chip, Chunk, Chew, Cluster, Ripple, and Ribbon

Project time:

1. Guide the student through the drawing process using the drawing guide PDF below.

Bleezer’s Ice Cream

2. Pass out crayons or Colored pencils and allow the students to color their work.  Have the students think about their flavors, and encourage them to chose their colors based on their original Bleezer-style flavors.  As students are coloring their work, I walk around and correct spelling.

3. Students can write their flavors in their best penmanship along side their ice cream scoops. If I have time, I lightly write lines with a ruler that students can use as a guide for writing.

Assessment: Hang the artwork around the room.  Have students make a list of their favorite alliterations from their classmates’ work.  Discuss their findings.  If students have access to ipads, students could blog about their experience and post a picture of their work.  Students could ask readers to respond to their post by providing their own Bleezer-style ice cream alliteration.  Teachers can tweet a link to student blogs for more traffic; the #commentsforkids will guide other educators to interact with your students’ writings.