The goal of this lesson was to build upon my students' understanding of the structure of informational paragraphs, which we have been working on throughout this unit, and their ability to collaborate to read and understand directions. Building upon these two areas meant that we could create a capstone project for the unit that would combine show off how much they improved in their ability to write an informational pamphlet with carefully sequenced directions.
Sometimes it seems I go backwards to reach an objective. I want my students to be able to write step by step directions, so in this lesson I made them read and follow step by step directions. I have found that if I first help my students follow directions, they have a clearer understanding of writing directions.
For this lesson I had them follow directions to make a craft (an animal mask in this case) so that later they could write their own set of instructions for a similar craft (in this case it was a carnival mask designed by themselves). I chose masks simply because at the textbook selections we were reading at the time were about masks. The lesson can easily be modified to make any craft, simple recipe or a simple science activity.
I told the class that they would make a mask; but that I would not tell them how. They would have to work together with their neighbors to figure out the directions. My students are seated in a way that puts students of different abilities side by side. Their reading skills are not so different that when they work together one would be doing all the work. Since they would have talk in order to figure out the directions and help each other as they worked, I reminded them the rules we had previously established for collaborative conversations. As any time there is a hands on activity, the class was excited and eager to try their best. This level of engagement makes classroom management simple, leads to higher quality work, and is just plain fun.
I gave them printed directions and told them that they had a few minutes to read them and re-read them. They should underline any words they had a hard time, and work with their neighbors to make sure they were understanding the steps they would have to follow. I circulated to help keep the conversations productive, and to help any pair that was truly stuck. When they finished reading the directions, I told them to take turns telling each other the steps they would follow to make their mask. I reminded them that they would work without my help, and that once they had their materials they would not be able to ask me questions. This was their last chance to clarify anything they didn't understand.
Letting them work collaborative in projects gives them independent practice in SL.1.1, and walking around while they did it gave me opportunities for informal assessment and for immediate modeling and feedback. This is particularly important for English learners. They listen to good models from their English Proficient peers, and they get to practice correct grammar when I hear them make a mistake or use phrases instead of complete sentences because I can restate their comment and have them repeat.
Since I knew that the directions were at a reading level that was above many of their independent reading level, I decided to work collaborative in writing directions that they could all use as they made their mask. This ended up being a great way to review W.1.2, focusing particularly on the closing sentence, which was a common weakness. I asked for volunteers to tell me each sentence. After listening to two or three I asked them which one we should use and why and I would write it on the board. You can see the paragraph we created in the resource section.
Once students said they knew what they had to do I gave them their materials. There is a you tube video you may find helpful. While the students worked, I was able to call students to work with me in conferences.
When students finished, they had to clean up and work on an independent activity.
At the end of the alloted time, I reassured the few that hadn't finished, that I would later give them time to finish their mask. Then I guided them towards a conversation of how reading and talking about the directions had helped them succed in making a craft all by themselves (or with a bit of help from a friend). I pointed out how the directions had all the steps, and were written clearly and in order. I emphasized the importance of clear sequential directions and explained that the next day, they would write directions for making another mask, this time one they had designed.