We are finishing up our unit on writing “how to” books, and this year I added a new component. Since we have been working with Kidblog, I decided to assign a homework assignment to help support our “how to” work. I usually have an assignment where the kids are supposed to teach their family how to do something. It is not something they turn in, but they get the practice and pride of being the “teacher” at home. This year I tweaked things a little bit to incorporate Kidblog. (If you want more information about what we are doing with Kidblog, you can read my original post by clicking here.) I asked each student to write one blog post, teaching their reader how to do something. I asked them to include a “you will need” list, numbered instructions, and a picture if possible.
I have been blown away by what my kids have produced! First, it is important to note that I ask them to do the writing. I let parents know that I am looking for student written work, so invented spelling is expected. Here are a few examples of the posts my kids put up:
This project gave us a few more, unexpected advantages. At school, I opened up our blogs on the SMARTboard. Then I had each student come up and read their post to the class. This did a few things. The author had to practice some pubic speaking. The other students (who may or may not have done their homework) got excited about sharing (and doing) their work as well. And it gave us an opportunity to practice giving constructive feedback.
After each post I asked the class if they had any comments or suggestions. Often my kids were able to notice that the author forgot a you will need list, or they needed to use “first,” “next” and “last.” Because it was an open discussion, I was able to highlight positive features about every post, and we were also able to give suggestions.
For example, in this post we noticed how very specific and clear the instructions were. The student did a wonderful job explaining what to do with your body at each step of climbing a tree. A peer also made the very good suggestion that, on a “you will need list,” it would be a good idea to write “a strong branch.” What great feedback!
This next example was great because it included all the features that we have been working on. The kids noticed that it ticked all the boxes, but they did suggest including pictures to support the writing.
This is pretty powerful for young writers, and I was impressed at how quickly they were able to get the hang of picking out both the positive features, and notice ways the writer could improve. By showcasing the students’ work in this way, we also got to see something special that each child is an expert at. And who doesn’t love that?
How do you have your students share and critique their “how to” work?