How to Writing for Kids | Procedural Writing in First Grade!

December 13, 2021

Wondering how to teach how to writing in your kindergarten, first, or second-grade classroom?! In this post, I share exactly how I teach how-to writing in 5 easy steps that you can follow with your own students! 

Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:

If you’ve followed me for a while, then you know that writing is one of my favorite things to teach our youngest learners.

In fact, I have an entire teaching membership all about teaching writing to K-2 learners! It’s called the SJT Writing Club and you can find out more about that here >>> SJT WRITING CLUB

One of my favorite units included in the club is teaching students to write “how to” pieces. This is where students will write an informative piece sharing the steps it takes to complete something. This is the students’ turn to be the teacher and this type of writing is a whole lot of fun! I decided to break down this writing into 5 easy steps for you to use with your students (although there are many more detailed steps I include in my actual lessons, of course!).


Step 1: Do a lot of brainstorming

After you have explained what procedural, or how-to, writing is to your class, have them brainstorm a list of things that they know how to do. When I started teaching, I used to teach procedural writing largely based on prompts that I read or thought of for my class. However, over time I realized that I get a lot more out of my students when they are able to choose their own topics. They will often be more invested in what they are writing and usually have a lot more to say when they get to write about what they are interested in.

I first model how to brainstorm ideas, then I will have my students dump all of their ideas on a brainstorming sheet like the one below, listing all the things they know how to do at school, outside, at home, or in the kitchen. 

Your students can hang onto this sheet and store it in their writing workshop folder to reference throughout this unit!


Step 2: Zooming in

After your class has brainstormed a bunch of different ideas, you can explain that we will only be sharing about 3-4 steps in this lesson. Therefore, if a student brainstormed that they know how to be a chef, they will likely not want to choose that procedural idea because it takes a lot more than 3-4 steps to become a chef. You can encourage them to zoom in on that idea and think of something more specific that they can teach others how to do in a few steps (for example “I can make a grilled cheese sandwich”).

To practice this, I like to have my students use the “Zooming In!” worksheet below to practice taking broad ideas and zooming in on something more specific. 

After we do this guided practice sheet together, I would encourage my students to go back to their brainstorming sheet and see if they can zoom in on any of their ideas.



Step 3: Plan It Out

After zooming in, students will have picked one idea to get started with! During this step, you are going to teach your students about transition words, telling a story in order, and narrowing down the 3-4 steps it takes to do something.

I like to use worksheets like the one below with picture boxes and a few lines for students to write on. 

I have many different versions of a planning sheet like this one in the writing club to meet your students’ varying needs, but the idea is the same. Students will draw a quick picture and a beginning sentence to plan out their steps with transition words! If you would like, you can have students plan out a few of their brainstormed ideas on sheets like this one to flush out their thoughts.



Step 4: Stretch it Out

Once our steps are planned, this is when we add some details and begin creating our booklets. To do this students will go back and look at all the one-page planning sheets they wrote in step 3 and choose one to stretch out and use to make their own how-to booklet. They are going to take each step from their one-page story and stretch them out to fill one full page for each step, like the example below:

Above you can see step 1 of a student sharing how to make a necklace. This is also a great time to teach your students about nonfiction text features like labels and captions that your students will use to expand their stories. After they have stretched their steps out across the pages, you can encourage your students to go back and add more details to their writing.

Once my students have added some details and stretched their work across the pages, I like to give them a cover page to their booklet so it looks more professional.



Step 5: Publish It!

Publishing is the last step to make sure our writing is ready to be seen by the public (their teachers, classmates, parents, etc.). I like to make sure that I validate my students’ work in this step by emphasizing how much work they have put in steps 1-4 from brainstorming, to zooming in, to planning, to stretching it out and adding details, captions, labels, etc. to write a full story.

I usually have students first run through a quick editing checklist to make sure they have proper spelling, punctuation, etc.

Then I like to use the following publishing checklist to check and double-check their work:

I love these publishing checklists as a way to really walk through and make sure we’ve included everything we need for each genre of writing. I have one for each genre of writing in the SJT Writing club!

Once your students have completed their stories and they are ready to be published, make sure you give them the opportunity to read to each other or the class so everyone can celebrate their work!


If you aren’t a member of the SJT Writing Club, I also have a smaller unit in my TPT store for teaching students how to write “how-to” stories. You can find that here >>> HOW TO WRITING


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