Writing and Sharing Our How-To Books

This is a piggyback-post to an earlier one:  Getting Ready to Write How-To Books.  I finally did the software updates on my computer and some of the applications changed.  I usually hate when that happens, but this time Apple added something to my dock called "Photos" and pictures I thought I had lost were suddenly available!! Honestly, it felt a little like Christmas.  And when I looked through the photos, I found pictures I had taken of the children's work during our study of How-To books.  Woo hoo!  So I thought I'd share a few.

The one about going scalloping is too cute.  Wait 'til you see it.  I still laugh every time I read it.

First though, I thought I'd show you one of the early lessons in the unit.  (See the picture above.)  We had already begun our inquiry and become familiar with the format of How-To books and we were talking about how writers of How-To books have to know their topic well and think carefully about the steps, visualizing each one so they're sure they don't leave out anything important.  We also discussed how important it is to be specific with details whenever giving directions so the reader knows exactly what to do.  

Something I usually do when beginning a unit is ask all the children to try something with me.  By having everyone do the same exercise, it lays a common foundation that anchors the rest of the unit.  So I told the children something I knew how to do well was draw a fish.  The papers in the photo above are the end result of that lesson.  I did my thinking aloud and the children listened as I was intentional about visualizing, acting out, and rehearsing my ideas before writing them down.  I also referred back to some of our mentor texts, sharing how those authors had more than a few steps, so I probably needed to slow down and make sure I didn't put all my directions in just 1 or 2 steps.  When I was finished, they all felt empowered and completely confident they could do the same, so I asked them to think of something simple they could draw well and gave a few examples to nudge their thinking:

• a flower
• a football
• a tree
• a bed
• a swingset

It took 2 days for them to work through this first exercise and after that we spent time making our own personal lists of things we knew how to do well.  These lists fueled the rest of the unit as kids kept working, learning, conferring, revising, and sharing draft after draft with their peers.

You know, as teachers, I know we're not supposed to have "favorites," but I have to tell you Sean's How-To book about scalloping is my favorite.  I wish you knew this kid... he's such a muffin.  The way he gets excited about everything is probably why I like his book so much.  He took this topic very seriously and shares it as if he's being interviewed by ESPN.

It made me want to go scalloping.  And I don't even like seafood.

Sean's Draft:

Text:  Have you ever eat a scallop?  They are delicious!  Let's go to the grass flats and go scalloping!  

(He elevated his book by including an introduction.)  

Text:  • a snorkel  • goggles  • a net

Text:  Step 1 - Go to the grass flats in your boat.  It needs to be four feet or three feet.  That is shallow.  And you are not allowed to go scalloping in Manatee County.  

(Look at the words he decided to make bold.)

Text:  Step 2 - Find a scallop and dive down and get it, but hold your breath.  A scallop looks like this.

Text:  Step 3 - Come back to the surface for air and put your scallop in the net and start scalloping again and again.  And when your net is full of scallops, then you go to your boat and put all your scallops in the bucket of water.

Text:  Step 4 - Go to the spring and play.  Your parents will clean the scallops for you and if your parents do not know how to clean a scallop, call 721-.....

(This cracks me up... he gives out his parents' phone number!  Well, we did learn that authors of How-To books give helpful tips.)

Text:  Step 5 - Go home and put your scallops in the refrigerator and when you want to eat them, you can flavor them!

(During the sharing session, he told us all about how his mom cooks them in garlic butter.  Clearly, Sean is an expert on scalloping.  Aren't all kids?)

Time to Share

If you've seen some of my other posts, you know we love sharing in Trina Deboree's classroom.  Her kids are super sweet and they serve as our audience for our final published pieces.  For this unit, I invited each child to bring in one artifact that was relevant to their book.

Of course, Sean brought in a snorkel. 

And demonstrated how to use it.  :)

As you're planning your unit, don't shortcut a formal (or semi-formal) sharing session at the end.  It gives the children a real purpose for writing and empowers them to be expert speakers.

Clockwise from Upper Left:

• How To Tie a Shoe
• How To Ride a Scooter
• How To Throw a Football
• How To Make a Goal (Soccer)

And, finally, make a special place in your classroom library to house their final books. Having them publicly displayed and available for others to read places a tremendous value on their effort and creates an identity as a community of writers.

If you need templates for your students' How-To books,
you can pick these up at this link:

Happy teaching!  :)


  1. Another great post! Sean's book is so cute. He is a sweetie. Love him! Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Kids are so open and helpful... I think it's so funny that he gave out his dad's phone number! :)

  2. Will you be putting together a TpT set and blog post about Opinion Writing? That is our next unit of study with Lucy Calkins. Thank you so much for the great information for How-To Books. I just finished teaching that for the first time this year and I want to do it so much better next year- your post helps me so much!

    1. Carrie... we did an "Opinions & Reviews" unit where the kids wrote their opinions and rated things like movies, toys, cafeteria foods, and books. It was one of the shorter units, but I'll look in my files and see if I have enough to put together. Thanks! :)

  3. Aren't Firsties so much fun? Love this blog entry. :-)


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