Writing a Procedural Text of How Mountains are Made

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SWBAT write a procedural text that includes supporting details and a simple conclusion.

Big Idea

How are mountains formed? We know, and can write the steps of mountain formation!

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

This is an extension of this lesson in which the children learned about how mountains are formed by using different models.  They took simple notes in that lesson and will use their notes to help them organize their ideas on a graphic organizer called a 4-square.  Then they will write a procedural text explaining how mountains are formed.

NGSS/Common Core Connection

The children will be writing a procedural text, about how mountains are formed.  In this they will be describing a connection between scientific concepts as they recount details from the text.

By the end of this unit, called Earth Changes, the children will have to understand how the movement of the crust and mantle creates changes, either quickly or slowly.  Thus the children need some background about how mountains are formed. 

Also as a science practice and part of the NGSS, the children are expected to understand and develop models.  In this lesson the children will be using evidence from their modeling in a previous lesson to write about the process.



5 minutes

To begin, we first review what we learned in the previous lesson about how a mountain is formed.  For reinforcement, we visit a website that tells how a mountain is formed.  If you want to sit back for a moment, you can click on the "listen" bar and it will read it to the children.  Make sure to also check out the photos in the "Wonder Gallery."  

(Just a note, the video on the page has nothing to do with mountain formation, although it shows nature in all of its beauty).

After we have reviewed how mountains are formed, I have the children pair up with their turn and talk partners. Turn and Talk Partners is a strategy that I often use when I want the children to have a short discussion. Their partner is the person who is sitting the closest to them.  I use this when we are having a quick discussion and I need them to get with a partner quickly.  Having the children explain their idea to a partner helps them clarify their thinking.  They also work on respectful listening of someone else's ideas. 

You are going to be writing a short paper today that tells how a mountain is formed.  We are using a 4-square organizer, so you will need to be able to tell how a mountain is formed in four steps.  The last step should tell us that a mountain has been formed.   So I would like you to talk to your partner about how mountains are formed.  Remember, you should be telling them in 4 steps.  You should use words such as "first, second, next.."  The last step should be something similar to "finally after millions of years, a mountain is formed" or "as you can see, this is how a mountain is formed."

Having the children voice the procedure of mountain formation helps them verbalize what they will be writing.  Sometimes children do not realize that writing is just getting their ideas down on paper.  So if you are able to talk about it, you are able to write it.  

My children break into their partner groups and explain how a mountain in formed (see video clip).  Something exciting happened as they were explaining.  Check out this reflection to find out more.



10 minutes

My class has written several different papers using 4-square writing organizer.  I utilize the 4-square organizer frequently when I am having the class write informational, descriptive or procedural texts.  It really helps the children organize their ideas and remember to include their supporting details for each point made.  Click here for a past lesson which has more details of using a 4-square organizer with children for the first time.  Since my children are used to using them, my directions will be much less than when I used it at the beginning of the year.

I pull the 4 square organizer "How Mountains are Made" up on the Smartboard so I can model their assignment.  

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The first thing we need to do as a class is to write our topic sentence.  Remember that our topic sentence tells about what our entire writing piece is about.  What can we write for a topic sentence? 

As a class we decide that our topic sentence should be, "Tectonic plates help to create mountains."  So I write that on the Smartboard for all to copy.  I still find at this point in the year that some children still need that scaffolding.  My students have written some topic sentences on their own, but since this is a difficult concept, I chose to write it together as a class.

Look at your Milky Way Observation sheet to help you write this explanation of how mountains are formed.  Look at your observation paper to help you remember what had happened.  What happened first?  Write that in a complete sentence in box one.  Make sure to start your sentence with a connecting word shown on the little pad of paper.  Then look what happened next.  Write that in box 2 in a complete sentence.  Check out what happened after that.  Write that in box 3 in a complete sentence.  Then in box 4 you should write a conclusion.  Your conclusion should state something to the effect that this is how a mountain is formed.  Make sure to use one of the connecting words to begin your thought in each of the boxes.

When you have written a sentence in each of the boxes, go back in box 1, 2 and 3 and add one detail.

Usually I have the children write their main ideas and then go back and add 3 supporting details.  However, since the topic itself is much more difficult, I have the children only write one supporting detail.   

I love integrating writing into the science curriculum.  Writing combines all of the thought processes. When the children write, they must think deeply first and think about the specifics of what they have just learned.  This deep thinking solidifies their thought processes, which helps them understand the science content more effectively.   

Organizing Ideas--Using the 4-Square

15 minutes

The children then begin working on adding their thoughts to their 4-square organizer.  They first write the topic sentence.  Then they write the 3 basic steps of mountain formation using box 1, 2 and 3.  I make sure they remember to start each sentence with a connecting word.  Then they go back and add one supporting detail to each box.  They end with writing a concluding sentence.

As they are working, I walk around to make sure every child is using the 4-square correctly.  I remind them to make sure each sentence starts with a capital and ends with a period.  I also remind them to check their spelling by looking on our personal word walls.

Click to see student sample 12 and 3.


20 minutes

After the children have filled in their 4 square organizer completely, I quickly check them over to make sure they have filled in the spaces correctly and it makes sense.  Then it is time for them to write their final copy on this final paper.

I would like you to take the ideas from your organizer and write them in a final paragraph.  Just like how scientists share their ideas, you will be sharing yours.  The 4-square paper helped to get you organized and now you need to take those same ideas and write them in a form that other people can read easily.  So I would like you to copy your ideas neatly on this final paper.  You should use your very best handwriting since you want your ideas to be read and understood.  Can you tell me how we should begin writing our paragraphs?  What do we need to remember?

I want them to be able to tell me that we start with a capital letter and indent using three fingers.  Reminding them of these important conventions is always a great idea.  

You need to write your topic sentence from the middle rectangle.  Then write what is in box 1, 2, 3 and then the conclusion which is box 4.  When you are done with your writing, I want you to reread your work to make sure it says what you want it to say and you have used proper capitalization and punctuation.

After you have reread your work, you may work on the picture.  You may draw a picture of a mountain, a mountain range or the tectonic plates.  You are the author and illustrator and you get to make that decision.

Reminding them of the things that need to be included in their final copy keeps those items in the forefront of their minds.  It increases the chances that their work will be much more polished.  Rereading their work is a great strategy for the children to understand that the words that you have written down should match the thoughts you have intended to make.  Mistakes are often made erroneously, and can be easily corrected if one takes the time to find them.


I use the How a Mountain is Made writing rubric to assess their writing.  Since our school uses a 3,2,1 scale, this is what the rubric reflects.  I reread each students' paper and check the appropriate box for their writing.  After I have checked the boxes, I look at the mode for the final score.  Having the breakdown of each skill greatly helps me to know each student's strengths and weaknesses for working with them in small groups and also for report cards.