3 Easy to Implement Tips to Teach Procedural Writing

how to writing lessons

Having my students write procedural pieces is one of my favorite units to teach! The kids are always excited to share how to do something that they are good at, that they enjoy, or something that they just learned. Writing a piece about How to Catch a Leprechaun is always one of their favorites!

I love practicing how to writing with seasonal procedural writing projects like March-themed writing about How to Catch a Leprechaun which are fun, creative, and always high engagement for students. But before we practice with seasonal topics, I stick to formal writing workshop time to teach lessons that are designed to help students truly grasp the concept of how-to writing.

Here is how I break down this genre of writing for my upper elementary students in focused lessons to help them understand the nuances specific to this writing genre. These tips are perfect for any procedural writing lesson throughout the year.

3 Easy to Implement Tips to Teach Procedural Writing
Students are expected to write to narrative, expository, and opinion prompts. So when students find out that procedural writing is a form of expository writing, they can instantly connect to this genre and use what they know about expository writing to write procedural writing pieces.

Although procedural writing is a form of expository writing, students must understand that the purpose of procedural or “how-to” writing is to help someone succeed at doing something by following specific instructions. Students must teach the reader through their writing.

I love using picture books and modeled writing to help students see procedural writing in action! 

how to writing upper elementary

My favorite picture books to read as mentor texts for this unit include:

Another great way to show examples of procedural writing is to use modeled writing. By annotating modeled procedural writing together, students can see the elements of this writing genre in action and understand how to include these elements in their own writing pieces. 

3 Easy to Implement Tips to Teach Procedural Writing
All writing forms have patterns and structures specific to their genre. By explicitly teaching students the structure of procedural writing they will understand the key components. When introducing this form of writing, these are the three components I expect from students:
  • Introduction: Hook your reader, introduce the topic, and state what materials are needed to complete the task 
  • Support Ideas: Include detailed and sequential steps, strong action words, and illustrations to support the topic
  • Conclusion: Restate what you taught the readers to do.
Once I have gone over the structure of procedural writing, we revisit the picture books that were read to kick off the unit and identify these three components. As we gather them, we record them in graphic organizers. This helps students to see the evidence from the books but also teaches them how to use the graphic organizer when they head out to write their pieces. 

Students love using keywords to help move their writing pieces along. “How-To” pieces use temporal words (first, next, then, last) and strong verbs to explain how to do something. This is why we brainstorm a big list so that students have a word bank to select from when they are writing. Then we revisit the picture books to collect even more procedural writing keywords.

Grab the free procedural writing student guide right here!

how to writing activities
What makes procedural writing so engaging for students is that it gives them the opportunity to shine through writing pieces that highlight what they are good at, truly celebrating themselves! I have found that students love to pick topics that they know a lot about, like playing a game or sport or how to make their favorite snack. Be sure to also provide students with opportunities to write to topics that you select to challenge their writing skills even further.

Who doesn’t love a good tip when writing? I know my students love to hear me share writing tips that they can implement in their own writing. My favorite tips to share with students for procedural writing include:

    how to writing anchor chart grade 3, 4, 5
  • Know your audience.
  • Be clear! Clearly state the goal and materials needed for the task that you are teaching.
  • Include specific step by step directions with strong verbs.
  • Use sequence words.
  • Take it further by including illustrations and diagrams to help your readers succeed!

Now that students know how to write procedural pieces, get them to work! Don't forget to grab materials to have them "test out" each other's procedural writing pieces. 

Procedural writing is a highly engaging form of writing for all upper elementary students, including reluctant and struggling writers. By introducing procedural writing lessons with a topic that students are already interested in, like holidays or allowing choice, students become invested in writing their best pieces. 

I love to introduce procedural writing at the beginning of the year so that we can practice it throughout the fall,  winter, springand all year long. Follow the tips from this post and watch your students succeed!

Looking for more meaningful procedural writing activities for your students? Try these!

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Check out more writing tips:

It’s All About Revision // Tried & True Teaching Tools

Writing Prompts that Inspire // Feel-Good Teaching

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