Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#Slice 2013: 26 of 31- How to Blow a Bubble

This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Stacey and Ruth at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. 

One of my favorite parts of my position as a writing coach is getting to do guest lessons. Last week, I was talking to one of our kindergarten teachers about the different ways to get her students thinking about procedural writing. I mentioned that I had wanted to get the students to write a how-to book about blowing a bubble in a different class, but hadn't gotten the chance, so she immediately invited me in to try it out in her class.

When I told the students that we were going to write the steps for bubble-blowing, they were excited and they helped create a set of instructions that they thought would work. Then, I took out a pack of gum. Yes, I put the whole pack into my mouth since they had said to "put the gum into your mouth." Then, I put several pieces into my mouth since there was no specification of how much. "Chew it," they said, so I chewed a few times. They caught on and created more specific directions before I could create too many messes, although I did have to wash my hands a couple of times since the initial instruction had been to "flatten the gum on the top of your mouth."

While this lesson got a lot of laughs, the teaching point was clear. Writers have to be specific about their directions when they are writing how-to books. The class went on to create the following chart and their how-to books have become increasingly more specific and full of directional words.

 Our kindergarten students have gone on to create books and videos for next year's classes to explain procedures and routines to them. These videos have been incredibly motivating to the students and they have been careful to make sure that their details are precise and specific so that new kindergarten students will know exactly how to sign up for lunch. Common Core Standards jump to life when children have a purpose that motivates them and an understanding of the task. These children will accomplishing reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language standards and they were completely invested in the task.

Tony Wagner is one of my favorite thinkers about what students need in the 21st century in order to be successful. In his book, Creating Innovators, he writes about the importance of play, passion and purpose. While I am not sure that we inspired passion in these 5 and 6 year-olds (and we may not need to for young students since most of them still love school), I do think that we have incorporated play and purpose into the lessons and the results have been surpassing the CCSS. I'd welcome hearing about how others incorporate play, purpose and passion into their lessons in kindergarten and beyond...


  1. What a great idea for a 'how-to' lesson, although I'm surprised they are old enough to be able to blow a bubble! I've been doing some Poetry Friday lessons with a first grade class, Melanie. I think the 'play' part has been working with both rhyming words & then interesting words they like the sound of. They look for words to bring to share, & then add them to their journals. When reading some poetry aloud, they look for the 'sounds' of poetic language. Slowly they're starting to have an idea for writing.

    1. I worried about whether they would be able to blow bubbles, also. They were definitely able to describe the process. Thanks for the poetry share!

  2. I love your lesson and your chart. What an awesome reminder for the students as they compose their own how-to writing. This could be a lesson I may borrow in the future. I'm afraid that teachers think the play is out with the CCSS, but you have demonstrated it is not out.

  3. Fabulous lesson...and you broke down ways in which to be specific. Kids have such a hard time with that one...and "details". I had fun picturing you, surrounded by the little ones, blowing bubbles.

  4. Great lesson! As I was reading, I was thinking how I could share your ideas with our kindergarten teachers. Making movies for next years students is a great idea!

  5. This is a great lesson, Melanie! The Kindergarten teachers and I have been taking about how to get started with writing how-to books, and you've given us the perfect entry point. Thanks for sharing!