The "How-To" piece is one we practice often; this type of expository writing forces the students to think of steps in a process, using sequence, transitional words, illustrations and examples. The "How-To" is factual and logical. We often start our students with prompts such as "How to make a sandwich", or "How to wrap a present", or "How to give a baby a bath". Then we move on to more sophisticated topics which stem from reading non-fiction text, such as "How to start a vegetable garden", or "How to build a bird feeder", or "How to make a home-made volcano."
All of these rely, of course, on background knowledge. You can't ask students to write about things they haven't experienced, or don't care about! But what if you asked the kids to think about how to make their teachers crazy? You know they're experts!
I was feeling somewhat frazzled last week with a billion things to do. We were all in need of a little levity. So I invited my students to write "How to make your teacher CRAZY!"
The results were fantastic. My students couldn't wait for writing time. With this piece, they moved more quickly than usual from planning, to drafting, to revising, to editing. During writing conferences, I laughed out loud at what they dared to think up!
This time, each and every student published their writing. I made a cut-out of a crazed teacher (looks familiar?) and put everything up on the bulletin board outside our room. This piece of writing, frivolous as it was, showed me what I needed to see. My kids have come a long, long way.
I'm crazy about them.