Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part five: how-to or instructions)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face how-to prompts.  Kids are not the best at breaking tasks down to their component parts.  Hence, kids should really practice how to mentally break down a task—and how to write about it.

How-to prompts can easily become culturally biased.  I tried to think of the most basic how-to prompts that I could, but they are still based in a certain culture.  For example, not everyone in the world eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Heck, these days kids think that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come from the freezer!  But I’ve seen it as a practice prompt, so I included it here.

Some suggestions for writing a how-to:

Pick a topic quickly: This becomes important if the prompt lets students write an instructional paragraph on whatever they wish. Kids will spend forever thinking of just the right thing.  I suggest that they choose quickly, based on what is easiest to write about.   That leaves time for better planning, more vivid details, more interesting syntax, etc.  (You’d hope!)

Break the task into steps—but not too many.  I recommend no more than five.  If possible, stick to a magic three structure.  After all, details can always flesh out the paragraph or essay.  When you’re being judged on your paragraph/essay writing, you don’t want a laundry list of steps.

Use transitions: the basic first, next, last are good—if you know how many steps you’ll need.  Otherwise, you may say “last” and then add one more thing.  To be on the safe side, consider “first, second, third.”  It won’t win any awards, but it’s foolproof.

Remember that it’s still a paragraph: give a topic sentence and a conclusion.  Try to fit in details.  Vary sentence structure as much as you can.  Little things will elevate a simple list to something resembling a paragraph.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun!


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