Writing Connections: Link Writing to Pupils' Daily Lives
Engage your learners in writing a set of instructions that relates to their experiences.
By Dawn Dodson
Think back to your middle school days. More specifically, the time you spent writing. Is it a memory that evokes a particular feeling, either positive or negative? Or, is it a forgotten experience? Allowing young learners to comprehend how their classroom experiences will affect and impact their lives is a direct path to engagement and long-term utilization of a life skill. That said, the term, informational writing, tends to draw a yawn out of most middle school writers. That is, until they understand what informational writing is, and how it impacts them. I like to introduce this concept through a unit of reading and writing a set of instructions. One key objective is to link their lives outside of school to our classroom reading/writing workshop time. The other key objective is to practice and improve reading and writing a coherent set of instructions. Although this is only one facet of the informational writing genre, it serves as an introduction to capture writers’ attention and help them link their reading and writing to their daily lives.
Reading and writing a set of instructions is a life skill that will engage young writers in various areas of their lives. From leaving a note to a friend about how to take care of a pet while on vacation, to trying to figure out how to assemble a piece of furniture, or install a software program, a specific set of literary skills is required. Informational reading and writing skills can be clearly linked to current life experiences, as well as to future endeavors. Collecting and sharing examples of informational literature is a solid first step in allowing learners to make that connection. Finding various examples is pretty simple. Examples can include recipes, software installation instructions, furniture or toy assembly instructions, and even a set of board game directions. Using these examples helps not only to introduce the unit of study to writers, but also helps them make the necessary real-world connections. Expanding on this concept, have students bring in examples of instructional writing from home. Collect and display these examples on a bulletin board that can be used later for reading and analyzing activities.
Reading and Analyzing Examples
As the class collects and shares examples of instructional writing, conversation can include how, when, and where each example is encountered. Working together, the class can also begin taking note of the vocabulary, format, and style of this type of writing. Building upon the class's conversation, pupils can work in small groups in order to continue an analysis that can also include an evaluation of transitions, and sentence structures in order to compile a list of characteristics that are common in this genre of writing. Each group’s list can then be used to create a class rubric for peer revision and editing. Everyone will use this rubric during independent writing time.
Writing a Set of Instructions
Once students have encountered multiple writing examples, defined a list of common characteristics, and chosen a writing topic, they are ready to begin. Some writers may choose to write a set of instructions on how to take care of their pet, while others may choose to write a set of instructions on how to play a favorite game or cook a favorite meal. Anything that interests the writer and brings a sense of enthusiasm to share with others can be a worthwhile topic. As writing develops, provide writers with a checklist to guide their writing and revision. This checklist will also serve as a reminder of the analysis and evaluation discussions that took place earlier in the study. After rough drafts are written, this is a good place to employ the student-developed rubric mentioned above. The resulting product is not only a coherent set of instructions, but also a refined life skill that is sure to be used time and again.
Other Lesson Ideas:
This is a pre-writing worksheet that helps pupils graphically organize their topic. The organizer guides writers through their topic by posing questions that help define and explain their procedure/instructions.
Here is a worksheet that can be used to help define different genres of writing. Through studying various characteristics of the different genres, this resource will help writers identify those characteristics.
Use this resource to provide your learners with the necessary steps for writing a set of instructions. It provides handouts to guide thinking as well as instructional strategies to help writers produce clear and sequential instructions.