Procedural writing informs the writer's audience how to do something. For children to develop good procedural writing skills, they need to understand what they are trying to give instructions on, who they are giving instructions to and what steps they will be dividing their procedure into. It is a good idea to provide children with topic prompts when they first attempt procedural writing.
Simple Everyday Activities
When children first begin practicing procedural writing it is a good idea to give them prompts for activities with which they are very familiar and that they are likely perform on an everyday basis. Keep it short and simple. This builds a child's confidence in his ability to accomplish procedural writing because he is secure in the knowledge of how to complete the activity. Some prompt ideas based on simple everyday activities for children are "How to Brush Teeth" and "How to Make Your Bed." To prepare young children before they begin writing on their own, verbally walk through how an activity is performed while presenting the steps visually with illustrations.
Games or Sports
Procedural writing about games or sports is a good idea for children who have had prior experience in procedural writing. It involves taking a physical activity that children may not have previously thought about in a step-by-step fashion, and breaking it down into individual steps. Some good examples of prompts for procedural writing about games or sports are "How to Play Uno" and "How to Play Soccer." Though these kids have done procedural writing in the past, it may still be wise to allow them to physically create the activity prior to beginning their writing. While they are playing the game have them take notes on the steps they are taking.
Procedural writing in which the child is asked to give navigational directions is useful because this is an activity almost every person will have to do at least once in her life. It is important for children to be able to give directions to locations based both on physical descriptions of the surroundings and on road maps. An idea for a prompt based on physical descriptions is "How to Get Home from School;" this makes a good homework project focused on procedural writing. An in-class activity related to navigation provides each child with a road map and then asks the students to write about "How to Drive from School to ..." and allow each person to chose her own ending destination.
Procedural writing can seem a very unimaginative activity in the eyes of a child, so it is helpful to try to create prompts that allow children to use their imaginative skills. A good example of an imaginative prompt that allows children to explore their fantasies is "How to Care for ..." and allow each child to choose his fantasy pet. Another good example of a prompt that encourages children to use their imaginations is "How to Make the Perfect Snowman." Children can be encouraged to illustrate their imaginary pets or snowmen for these prompts.
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