Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How-To Books- Made EASY (and FREEBIES!)

I always look forward to introducing  writing How-To books to my class.   The children "get it" so quickly, and in two lessons, they write such precious books.  How much better can it be- and with everything you probably already have or can easily make.
First, I read this book to the children.
I bought these books quite a while ago from Creative Teaching Press.  I use this book to introduce writing How-To books.  I like this book specifically, because it uses our four magic "how to" words: first, next, then, and last.  You could easily write your own book like this as a sample. It is very simple.

I show the children how silly it would be to say, "First, we put a carrot nose on our snowman. Next, we roll a small ball for the head.  Then, we add a scarf.  Last, we make a big snowball for the base."  

Next, I introduce our 4 magic "how-to" words.

After I introduce the words (without the sequencing cards below), we reread the story and find the words in the book.

I randomly put  4 sequence cards on our chart, and call a student up to the board to order them correctly.  

After they order the cards, I choose another student to tell us a story, describing the pictures in order, remembering to use the four magic words.  

We do about three of these sequencing activities.  The kids love them, and can't wait for their turn- so we do more throughout the day to be sure everyone has a chance.

Then,  the students write their own "how-to" books.

I saved some sample books from last year to show the children.  They always enjoy seeing books written by REAL, LIVE past Kindergarteners!    One of this year's books happened to be written by a sister of one of my present students.  So- that little past-kindergartener is a star author in the eyes of my class.  

After we read, I have the children close their eyes while still sitting on the rug and think quietly about what they would like to teach someone how to do. I give lots of examples- how to walk a dog, how to take a bath, how to ride a bike, how to catch a fish... 

When the children have their idea, they put a finger on their nose, so that I know (and they know) they are ready to write.  This settles everyone down and helps them focus before they begin writing.

Teach 1,2,3 has a wonderful freebie called Color Your Writing.
The packet includes this writing paper that I use for my books.  I just made up books with a cover sheet and four pages of writing paper- one for each of our new words.

How-To books are a great way to review writing titles of books.  My kids often like to write a sentence for the title (or practically the whole book sometimes!).  The How-To books give me another chance to remind them that the title of their book is a name- just like their name.   

I call up a student.  I explain that "Jessica" is a title or name for this girl.  Her name or title is NOT "a girl with brown, curly hair who likes to play with horses."  These details can go in the story, not in the title. 

The first day of writing, we usually write the title and the first two pages.  We finish our books the second day. 

The second day of our How-To writing, we will begin by reading a good story with order, like any of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Series.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series

Amanda Abernathy shared these sequencing cards that go with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Sequencing Cards
 I also like Pete's a Pizza.  

Play "n" Learn has this fun little activity that you could cut apart and order.  The post also has some other fun activities to do with the book.

I have the children turn and talk, retelling  the story to each other using our four words.  Then we do a quick shared writing activity to retell the story we read together, using First, Next, Then, and Last.  During this  lesson, we will  talk about how important it is to get the parts of our story in the correct order.  

The children will go back, reread and revise their writing from the previous day, and then finish the last two pages of their books. 
Last, we share our books.
The children love sharing their stories with the class.  Here are some of  our first attempts writing How-To books, after learning our four important words. I just let them write and experiment with our words.  That was my focus for this lesson.  We will go back and revise for conventions, but this lesson was our introduction to using our new format and new words.  
How to Brush Your Teeth
(He was upset because he mixed up Next and Then- but it worked just fine. He is getting the idea.)

I love the floss in his teeth. :)
I just loved this one. I love his small, but detailed illustrations- all in his family room with the TV.
First, pet the cat. (Look at that dedication!)
Next, feed the cat.
Then, the cat loves you!
Last, give the cat lots of love.
This is my little artist- and she is coming along with her words.  

This was so sweet, because, as you could guess, her cat just had kittens.  
First,  you have to have it in the night.
Next, you need to play with something.  (Probably to pass the time waiting for those kittens!)
Then, you wait for it to come out.  (Look how excited she is!)
 Last, you have them.

I like to keep the child's first story just the way it was written, usually with only one sentence on each page using our four words- First, Next, Then, Last.   When we write a second how-to book, I will focus on adding a second sentence to each page and more detail.  Thanks for sharing our little writing lesson!
I found some fun sequencing FREEBIES on TPT that you could use as center activities or anytime to help reinforce sequencing and the sequencing words.

Chikabee shared this fun activity.

First Grade Fever by Christie shared this Sequencing Fun with The Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books.  The children make their own book and find the sequencing words. 
Sequencing Fun with The Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books

I LOVE this freebie from First Grade Cupcakes.  The children can practice using our sequence words to go along with making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sequence Paragraph

Sarah Paul has a sweet How To Make a Smore writing activity at her TPT store- also perfect for this time of year.  Side note: At the store yesterday, by the smore ingredient display, this man explained to me, for a good ten minutes, how "nowadays" with all the concern about germs, nobody's marshmallow stays on the skewer anymore because the skewer has to be all sterile and metal. The metal gets hot and the marshmallow falls into the fire.  When HE made them on a stick, (apparently the right way!) the stick stayed cool, and the marshmallow cooked from the inside out perfectly. He's not sick from using a stick, he kept saying!   His sister liked the marshmallows burned anyway, so she would have no problem just scooping it out of the fire...  I learned a LOT about this man, his family, and their summer smore routines.  
How to Make a Smore Writing ActivityHow to Make a Smore Writing ActivityHow to Make a Smore Writing ActivityHow to Make a Smore Writing Activity

Curriculum Castle shared these Lifecycle Sequencing Cards for butterflies and frogs, which would be great for science this time of year, too.  I keep looking for my frog and toad eggs in our pond!
Life Cycle Sequencing Cards - Butterfly and Frog {FREE}!Life Cycle Sequencing Cards - Butterfly and Frog {FREE}!Life Cycle Sequencing Cards - Butterfly and Frog {FREE}!Life Cycle Sequencing Cards - Butterfly and Frog {FREE}!
Nicole Roach shared these Plant Life Cycle sequence cards.

Plant Life Cycle, 4 Picture Sequence

If you do this activity in the winter, Communication Window shared these Cut and Glue Sequencing Worksheets that would work well to make, and then write a story to go along with the pictures.

FREE Winter Sequencing Cut and Glue WorksheetsFREE Winter Sequencing Cut and Glue Worksheets

I hope you found some new ideas and activities to use!  Have fun writing!


  1. Hey Carolyn,

    love your how to post! Great work learning for your kids! Some fantastic teaching ideas. Before I started animating my songs on YouTube I wrote lots of How to songs with my 1st graders a few years ago. I'll have to find those songs!

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