Writing Workshop Series: Post #5 - How-To Writing & 2nd Grade Common Core EQs Freebie

I'm finally back for another writing workshop post!  But, before we get to that I thought I would share a little something with you.  I created some 2nd Grade Common Core EQs for a friend of mine and thought maybe some of you could use them as well.

There's a chevron print in both ELA and Math and a Hollywood print in each.  Click to download.

How-To Writing Unit
This is typically a short writing unit, but we pack a lot of fun into it!  I always start this unit by telling my students that I want them to write directions for doing something that they know how to do very well - slide down a slide!  I don't stress adding details, etc....I just let them write it how they think they should.  Then, I put it to the test!  That's right...we go outside and I randomly (okay, so not SO randomly, I'm kind of scanning these and putting them in order of weakest to strongest as we're heading outside) select some to read.  I attempt to follow the directions EXACTLY as they wrote them.  If they didn't write to climb the stairs, I don't.  If they didn't write to sit down, I don't.  I usually go through about 6 of them before FINALLY reading one that is clear enough to successfully make it down the slide!
When we get back inside, I tell them that I have a friend from another planet {Al the Alien} and that he will be visiting our classroom soon.  Since he's from another planet he doesn't know how to do ANY of the things we do here on Earth.  I tell the students that I know he would love to slide down the slide, but they will need to be able to explain exactly what to do in order for him to be successful.  They all revise their writing and the improvements are INCREDIBLE!  

Of course, I don't REALLY have a friend from another planet, but I do have some cool Alien hats and boots that I found in the Target dollar bin last year that I pull out the next day!  I let some of them take turns being Al the Alien to attempt to follow their friends' writings.  I also continue to bring up Al throughout the unit - "Would Al be able to follow those directions?"  It works wonders!!

The next day, students make an expert list as a prewriting activity (things they know how to make, do and be).  I also have students hold "how-to" discussions with a partner (I do this for most of my writing units).  I give them cards with topics on them and they have to take turns explaining in words how to complete the tasks.  I find that these "writing talks" are very beneficial, as they let the students experience the genre through discussions before actually putting it into writing...this really helps those who struggle with IDEAS of what to write!

Over the next few days, students work on How-To writings based on their expert lists.

I wish I had more read-alouds for this unit, but a couple that I love are...

We use the second book toward the end of the unit, once students have mastered how-to writings.  They always think it's hilarious!  We write our own class book about "How to Visit the Principal's Office" where they write about how to get sent there!  Of course, the last page assures readers that we would NEVER do any of those things....instead we would just ask for a tour.  :)
I'm wondering if anyone has used the above book (or other books in this "How-To" science series).  They look like they might be a good addition to this unit, but I'm wondering if they might be a bit too easy for 2nd graders.

One of my favorite projects to do during this unit is the "Monster Exchange" or "Monster Swap" (won't that be perfect with my new theme this year?!)  There's an actual website where you can pair up with another class from somewhere else in the world.  I've done that before and it works wonderfully as long as your partner class follows through!  Now, I usually do this project within my own class (partnering my own students with each other).  Basically, each student draws a monster then writes directions for "How To" replicate his monster.  These directions are given to the partner and they have to try to draw the monster using only the written directions (they can't see the monster beforehand or ask for any clarification).  Then students compare monsters to see how well their "how-to" was written!
We make several class books in this unit, also!  You can see all of the How-To resources from this unit at Teacher's Clubhouse.

As a celebration to this unit, I hold a "Teach It Day" where students actually teach their classmates how to do something that they are an expert at!  I send a letter home to parents about this special day and students work on the writing at home to bring to school on "Teach It Day."  I've had students teach their classmates how to make paper airplanes, how to draw monsters, how to braid hair, how to do a cartwheel....the possibilities are endless.
They love being the "teacher" for a lesson!  Do you have any activities that you love to incorporate while teaching "How-To" writing?

All posts in this series:


  1. Hi, I teach kindergarten writing using Lucy Calkins Writer's Workshop. I like your ideas for the author's celebration and the mentor texts you use! I am your newest follower! Come visit soon...http://msshopesclass.blogspot.com/!


  2. Fabulous Freebie and writers workshop example!!

  3. Your ideas are wonderful. I wish I was in your class.

  4. I love this!! All of it!! I haven't gotten to planning my writing units yet but I am going to use your things for sure. Question: Do you have a way to keep track of what point each student is at in the writing process? Or do they just self monitor?

  5. Your ideas are great! I am going to try to incoporate some of them in my fourth grade class! Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Again.."I love you, man"
    Thank you!
    I love the slide idea, it's was easier than the PBJ or brush your teeth ones....I can't wait to share them with my class and my team!

  7. HI! This might be a ridiculous question...but, when I downloaded your common core posters, the print on the posters didn't show up. How do I download so that the posters look like what you created? I have a Mac, so I'm not sure if this affected the reason it downloaded differently.

    Thank you!

  8. Christiana,
    You probably need to switch your PDF reader so that font shows properly. MACs use their default "preview" to view PDFs, but it doesn't read all fonts. :( Just download the free Adobe Reader and then right-click on the file and choose "open with" to select Adobe Reader. That should fix it. Let me know, if not.

  9. Thank you for the EQ posters! These will look perfect in my classroom : )


  10. Hi Amanda! I LOVE the blog.. thank you so much for visiting us over at Simply SWEET TEAching! I'm so happy to find another SC blogger. :) I took a look at your Teacher's Clubhouse site too. Is that the only site you post your stuff on? Do you have a Teachers Pay Teachers site too? Just wondering. I love the How-To Writing Unit..fabulous!

  11. Hi Amanda! I absolutely love your writing ideas that you are sharing. The slide idea is fabulous and I can't wait to try it out with my kiddos!

  12. I love the monster idea. I need to pick that up. This year we did how to blow a bubble and of course I am the one who ended up with gum all over my face. I use a lot of food in my how to unit! I use a lot of food in any unit!

  13. Thank you so much, Amanda! I have them now!! :)

  14. Yay! Glad it worked for you, Christiana! :)

  15. I love the idea of trying to go down the slide based on their first writings. I might have to give that a try!

    Teach on a Limb

  16. Great idea with the slide! Much easier than the PBJ intro I've been doing. Thanks for the book suggestions too! How-to writing is one of my favorites to teach and the kids love it too. I've had great success with how to eat an Oreo, blow a bubble gum bubble, and make a pizza (we made minis on English muffins)
    The Common Core Classroom

  17. Wonderful! I was just transferred to 2nd grade after 24 years of teaching upper el. The How-To unit is to start this week and I had nothing to follow, to get started. Thanks for sharing your ideas "freely".
    Scott Jensen

  18. You will LOVE 2nd grade, Scott! Hope these ideas helped to get you started. :)


  19. I just found you blog, and LOVE your ideas!! I wish I would have found this sooner.....going to incorporate some of your ideas after the New Year. Thanks again,

  20. Thank you SO much for the Essential Question Freebies!!! They are perfect and I appreciate your time, effort, and generosity! What a life saver this is!

  21. As a parent I am very happy to after seen your concept that you've share is here about the writing workshop. Such kind of concept and essay writer service is very essential to all of us for our child education help.

  22. Love the EQ's. I loop from second to third so I'm looking for the third grade set. Do you have other grade levels on your TPT store?


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