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Sunday, December 28, 2014

How To Teach How To Writing

Every year, my sixth graders complete a Language Arts unit on writing instructions.  I always enjoy this unit because at the end each student gives a demonstration on their instructions.  I love watching them gather the courage to stand up in front of the class and explain to others how to do something. {I am not sure that they enjoy the unit as much as I do though!}

The unit does have its challenges though.  Writing instructions is very different from writing a narrative or report.  Every step of the process must be made clear enough that another person can follow that step.  Adding enough details seems to be a problem for the majority of my students.
One of my students demonstrated how to make candy trail mix!

I like to start the unit with a fun activity that shows them the importance of details, specifically spatial words and phrases {another focus of the unit}.  I choose one student to come to the board.  I then give them very vague instructions to draw a snowman.  I say things like "draw a circle. Now draw another circle.  Draw two sticks." I include all of the snowman parts without telling where they should go.  At the end, I usually ask, "What did you draw?" Of course, it is usually unrecognizable.  Then, I tell them that they drew a snowman and talk about the importance of giving clear directions.  Next, I discuss what spatial words and phrases are {words that tell where}.  Finally, I let another student come to the board.  This time I give clear instructions to draw a snowman pointing out the spatial words I use as they draw.
Another student taught us how to build a fort out of blocks.
The kids love drawing on the board, and the simple activity really seems to show them how important the details are when writing instructions. From there we work through each step of the writing process until each student has completed a neat final copy!

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