Lesson plan

How to Do School

Every young child (and adult!) loves being an expert in something. By helping students realise that they are experts in many areas, their confidence and writing will expand by leaps and bounds.
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At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to write a how-to story that includes at least 3 directions.

(5 minutes)
  • Call students together with their writing notebooks and a pen/pencil.
  • Ask students to think about what it was like when they first started school. What things were overwhelming or confusing? What are some things they needed to learn how to do? As students start mentioning things, list them on the board.
  • Explain to students that today they are going to have the opportunity to help younger, newer students. One way to pass along useful information is through how-to stories. Today, they will write how-to stories to explain to younger, newer students how to do the things that confused or overwhelmed them when they first started school.
(10 minutes)
  • Choose one of the topics off the list. (For example, saying the Pledge of Allegiance.)
  • Then, ask a student to stand up and demonstrate doing this activity. Before the student begins, explain to students that every activity is made up of smaller steps. In order to write something down, one must locate pencil and paper. In order to go for a walk, one must put on and tie their shoes.
  • When the student is done demonstrating the chosen activity, ask other students what small steps they observed. (For the Pledge of Allegiance, students should mention standing up, facing the flag, placing one’s hand over their heart, and saying the words. If students do not suggest these, they should be guided to these ideas.)
  • Next, explain to students that these steps need to be done in a specific order. (For example, it would not be a good idea to say the words to the Pledge of Allegiance before standing up.)
  • Pass out the How-To Template from Education.com (The horizontal ones are simple and would work well for this activity.) Demonstrate for students how to take the small steps they have identified and place them in the right order on the worksheet. Then, encourage the students to fill the boxes with illustrations of the steps listed below.
(15 minutes)
  • Break students into smaller groups. Have each smaller group choose another activity from the list the class brainstormed earlier.
  • Pass out a How-To Template to each group and have the group work together to fill it out. While the students are doing this, circulate among the groups to answer any questions and correct any misconceptions.
  • Once the groups have finished, have them share their work with the class.
  • Explain to students that now they will have the opportunity to practise writing their own how-to stories. They can choose one of the ideas from the list the class brainstormed earlier or another idea of their own. When they are done, they will have the opportunity to share their work.
(20 minutes)
  • Before sending students back to work in the journals, any rules about appropriate behaviour during independent writing time should be reviewed. This is also a good time to double check that all students understand what is expected and no further questions exist. While students are working, any adults in the room should be circulating, monitoring, and assisting as needed. Playing soft music in the background can help create an atmosphere conducive to writing. Teachers can also have space set aside for students who would benefit from acting out the different steps necessary for their how-to story before writing them down. Keeping a list of requested words on the board can help students who may need assistance with spelling.
  • Enrichment:For a greater challenge, students can be encouraged to learn how to do something and write about that. They can also be encouraged to try following another student’s how-to directions. (Not only will they learn a new skill, but they will likely discover what works and doesn’t work for writing their own future directions!)
  • Support:For students who need a little extra assistance, the opportunity for a partner or adult scribe can be an invaluable help. Instead of having students work alone, mixed-ability groupings can be used during the “independent working time” to scaffold students’ understanding and writing skills. Additionally, for English Language Learners, offering dictionaries to translate between English and their native languages can be a huge assistance in finding the right word.

Computers can be used to help publish the final how-to stories for a little extra fun.

(5 minutes)
  • Throughout the lesson, the level of student participation and the quality of student answers can be used to informally evaluate the success of the lesson and the level of student growth.
  • A more formal assessment can be done based on whether or not students are successfully able to write down directions in an appropriate sequence for their how-to stories.
  • For an additional form of assessment, students can be assigned to write another how-to story for homework. Students should demonstrate the appropriate format for writing a how-to story in their future writing.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students together to share their how-to stories. (One way to make these presentations feel more special is to have a special author’s chair that students get to sit in as they share.)
  • As students share, have other students comment on things the author did that made the directions clearer or easier to follow. If directions are confusing, encourage everyone to think about ways that directions could be modified to be less confusing.
  • After students share, remind them of the importance of writing a supply list, including helpful illustrations, and clearly ordering directions. Encourage students to choose another topic off of their brainstorming list to try writing another how-to story.

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