Getting Started with Procedural Writing for kids

Young students love showing off their skills as they explain how to do certain tasks to others. Procedural writing informs the writer's audience how to do something. The goal is for students to write instructions that clearly and accurately teach others how to perform a task. In order for students to start procedural writing skills, they first need to understand what they are trying to give instructions on, who they will be giving instructions to and how they will divide and sequence their procedure into simple steps to follow. It is a good idea to provide youngsters with topic prompts for activities in which they are familiar with and which they are likely to perform regularly. Some prompt ideas based on familiar activities for young children include: "How to Make a Bed" or "How to Tie Your Shoes." To prepare young children before they begin writing on their own, verbally walk through how an activity is performed while presenting the steps by acting them out or using illustrations. When starting with procedural writing it is best to keep it short and simple. We want to build our student's confidence as they begin to sequence steps and write how to complete a task. To prepare young children before they begin writing on their own, verbally walk through how an activity is performed while presenting the steps by acting them out or use illustrations. I teach kindergarten and below is a sample lesson of how I presented a procedural writing lesson with my students on how to make a paper snowflake.

Begin by Modeling
Start by demonstrating for students on how to do a simple task. For instance I wanted to show my students a simple way to make a paper snowflake. I had a blank piece of white paper with a large circle on it. I modeled how to cut out the circle with scissors.  While I did this I did remind my students that when we use scissors we must follow scissor safety rules. They were also reminded to put their thumb on top while cutting and their thumb leads the way as you need two hands to cut with. One hands guides the paper while the other does the cutting. Young students need lots of practice with scissors and this was the perfect opportunity to remind students how to use them properly. Next I folded my circle in half two times to make a pie shaped piece. Since I teach kindergarten I did not want my students to fold a third time to make a pie slither since it would be too difficult to cut out the shapes in the next step. Then I modeled how to cut  shapes on the folds. Finally I opened up my snowflake and revealed it to them. Each year my students are always fascinated with how beautiful the snowflake looks when we open the folds. I also remind student the importance of picking up all the scrap pieces and writing their names on the back of each art project they make. 

Follow my Instructions
I gave the children instructions on how to make a paper snowflake. Each child had their own piece of paper with a large circle already on it. You could add an extra step and have them trace a large circle before getting started.  I reminded my students to follow the oral directions and listening carefully. As I stated the directions I emphasized transitional words such as first, next, then and last. I also explained that procedural writing/instructions needed to be written as commands and we had to be bossy. Students followed each direction as I had them first cut the circle.  Next, fold it two times. Then, cut out the shapes. Last, open up your snowflake. 
Model writing instructions
Next, I chose a child to make the snowflake again. This time the class had to give the instructions and I wrote them on the board. (Shared writing). The child who was making the snowflake had to listen carefully to the directions the students came up with while doing this. After writing the directions on the board and choral reading them as a class,   I chose a couple student to find all the transitional words in our writing and underline them with a blue marker. I also chose a couple of students to come up and find all the bossy words (verbs or action words) and underline them with a red marker. 
Independent procedural writing
The next day I let my students work on their own procedural writing piece. I gave them the following writing prompt with the transitional words written for them. You can grab this writing prompt for free by clicking here.

Students feel empowered when they can teach someone a task. They will feel a sense of accomplishment and self worth.  Procedural writing can be done at any grade level. We learn  95% of what we teach to others.   

My students really enjoyed this engaging lesson. It has helped them with sequencing events as  most students can now accurately explain how to perform simple tasks. To differentiate for some of my struggling students who may not have the language skills or the writing skills to complete this task, I do pair these students up with student who are more capable and helpful so everyone can learn. Here is a picture of my cabinet in which we proudly display some of our work. 

I have developed several writing prompts that can be used throughout the year. This pack includes everyday activities such as "How to Make your Bed" or "How to Make a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich." In the winter students can write about topics such as "How to Decorate a Christmas Tree" or "How to Build a Snowman." In the warmer months they can write about "How to Make Lemonade" or "How to Build a Sandcastle."  Sometimes I prefer my students to make a mini book in which they can illustrate each task and other times I just have them use this writing prompt paper. If you are interested in these writing activities your can check out here:  "How To Writing Prompts" or "How To Mini Books."

Do you do procedural writing with your students? How do you go about it! What are some strategies that you would like to share? Please make a comment and I will be happy to reply.