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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Student "How To" Essay Problem

Students tend to leave many gaps in writing How To essays. I think when this happens they're essentially writing with the teacher in the back of their mind. They think, “She already knows that, so I won’t include it in my paper.” I tell students to pretend they are writing for a child in kindergarten or first grade who is at an age that they still need everything explained to them in great detail, with no information excluded. I have a fun test to see how thorough they are being when they write a How To paper. We actually attempt to do or make something specific, following the directions laid out by the student, from the preparation clear through to the conclusion. This shows any gaps the paper may have, or any questions left unanswered for those who are trying to follow the paper. Sometimes we can’t even get past the introduction, due to some important materials or ingredients that are missing. Other students get lost somewhere along the way when giving the steps. I tell my kids to try to remember the when to, what to, why to, how to, where to, and some precautions for each step, when appropriate. When we are able to make it through an entire paper and completely follow all of the directions with no confusion, the student knows he has done well and will receive a good score as a reward. Once again, with the idea that most kids learn more with a visual to guide them, what is better than hands-on experience? As an additional bonus, you may even end up with a snack to share at the end of the lesson!

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