Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Kids to Write: Writing to Inform
This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears  and The White Whale. She has been writing a series of posts on teaching children to write; you can view her earlier posts by clicking here!


Writing to Inform

Writing to teach or inform someone about a topic is a strategy that can be useful in all subject areas. Keep in mind the audience that will be reading the finished product. Age-appropriate projects can be adapted to target the participating students. This type of writing must be accurate. Often research is required to verify factual information. Incorporate research lessons into the search for historical or scientific facts. Take the students to the library and guide them as they locate appropriate resource books on their topic. Parents may be asked to assist at home with internet research.

HOW-TO

One of the simplest forms would be writing captions for pictures of how to do something, such as make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Children could list the ingredients, draw the steps and then label the pictures.

An extension to this activity would be to create a sandwich with colored construction paper to be glued onto the paper with the “How To Make” directions. To conclude the activity, bring the ingredients to actually make the sandwich and have a tasting party. As one student reads what to do, another student would follow exactly what they are told to do. If the sandwich turns out as desired, Great! If not, revisions may be needed in the directions. If you have students with food allergies to peanut butter, you could vary the activity with “How to Make Pancakes” or some other favorite food.

Teachers often ask preschool or kindergarten students to tell them “How to Cook a Turkey” at Thanksgiving. Their inventive answers are recorded and shared.

Older students may wish to write on the topic “How to Grow a Sunflower.” Combine visual representations of plant parts with the written directions. Have the students grow sunflowers in the spring. Start the seeds in the classroom and transplant them somewhere outside or at home when they outgrow the original container. It would be a fun summer project to measure the height throughout the summer and create a growth chart. At the end of the summer, the large bloom of the sunflower could be collected for seeds. The sunflower seeds could be used in a bird feeder or baked to eat the kernels.

The following books can be found in the Kaleidoscope collection of leveled readers:

 

Where Does It Come From? (Level D): “Where do apples come from? Apples come from apple trees.”

Seeds (Level G): “Apples, grapes, and lemons have few seeds. A peach has one seed. This seed is called a pit. Strawberries and melons have many seeds. Some seeds grow in flowers. Sunflower seeds can be eaten.”

INFORMATIONAL TEXT

Writing for informational projects may take many forms, from travel brochures about points of interest to stories on a particular topic. Choose a location and plan an imaginary or real class trip to that location. Have the students research and write about facts on the area, history of the destination, etc. What makes it a place that people want to visit? The field trip will be a success when the students are prepared to see things they have already learned about. If going to the actual place is not an option, some places offer virtual field trips on the computer. Students could create math word problems on distance traveled or elapsed time on the start to finish.

To extend the field-trip idea, plan a pretend weeklong trip to several destinations within one region. Research the weather for the time of year you might travel and create a suggested packing list. Assign different ways to travel on the journey to different groups. Ask them to write about how their trip might be different if they went by train, airplane, ship, car, bicycle, etc. Schedule a sharing time for the finished trip reports.

Choose a health-related topic and ask students to write about why it is important to their health to practice this habit. Examples include brushing teeth, exercise, or eating a balanced diet. Ask them to research factual data to support their presentation. Progress for the individual or the class could be charted. The data could be analyzed and written into a summary.

Create a set of factual trading cards on a topic. An example could be important historical people and their contributions. Students could work with a partner to research information to include. This could be an ongoing project as the class studies about different folks from the past.

Select a topic from history and ask students to write about how it has evolved over time. An example would be the purpose of horses. In times past, horses had a very different meaning to people than today’s horses do. The book Work Horses will show students why these horses were needed to help with jobs.

Work Horses (Level F) “Before there were tractors, farmers had big horses called draft horses. Draft horses pulled plows and helped the farmers work the fields.”

Children have a natural curiosity to learn factual information. Tap into this and let them suggest topics of interest to learn more about. We can learn many things from each other and from the personal experiences the children bring to the task of writing.


For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheet by clicking on the image below. 

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