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Learning how to write how-to essays
Need to know how to make pizza? The perfect waffle? A lava lamp?
How about how to deep sea fish?
No need to run a Google search. Rebecca Hopler’s fourth grade class has you covered.
Informative/expository writing is at the center of the fourth grade’s writing curriculum. Recently Mrs. Hopler’s students practiced their skills by writing how-to essays.
The students first brainstormed topics that they were interested in or were familiar with. Then, with Mrs. Hopler’s guidance and the input of each student’s writing buddy, the writers selected their topics.
“Letting the students pick their favorite topics is a crucial part of the process,” said Mrs. Hopler. “Children have to be invested in what they’re writing in order to maximize excitement in the project. It also helps motivate them to develop better writing skills.”
Students next consulted the Internet to conduct further research on the proper materials needed and the exact sequence of steps for their essays. Some kids, such as Jayden Rush, were already well-versed in their subjects.
“Deep sea fishing is my favorite thing to do when I go on vacation in Florida,” said Jayden, who was introduced to the sport by his father two years ago. “You get to go out on the water and see different types of fish. I think I caught 16 the last time I was out.”
In each writing assignment the class does, Mrs. Hopler selects specific writing techniques to focus on. With the how-to essays, special focus was given to using transitions, vivid language, and active verbs. Students highlighted these words and phrases in different colors when typing their final pieces. The proper and effective use of these writing techniques were some of the most important skills that students took away from the assignment.
“I learned the importance of putting details and vivid language into my steps so my essay would be easier to understand,” said Anish Patel.
“The main thing I learned was how to use transitions properly so that my essay would flow better,” Jenna Alessandrini said.
The final essays, which were illustrated with graphics found on the Internet, were posted to a bulletin board outside the classroom to show off the work of the how-to experts inside.
Finding the inspiration to overcome obstacles
Tinc Road students recently heard important messages about overcoming obstacles, setting goals, and making positive choices from a representative of New York Road Runners, the organization that sponsors the New York Marathon.
At an assembly for fifth-graders, Michael Rodgers, vice president of development and philanthropy of NYRR, told his personal story of how a love of running eventually led him to overcome his childhood academic struggles. When the opportunity arose in school for him to join his first running team, his mom had one requirement: He had to get his grades up. That was the inspiration for him to dig deep inside and find the determination to do whatever he could to succeed in school.
Mr. Rodgers went on to earn degrees from Elon University and l’Université de Liège, and have a successful consulting career working with non-profit organizations before joining NYRR.
“Michael was inspirational,” said Lauren Bretzger, one of the physical education teachers who arranged Mr. Rodgers’ visit. “The students learned the importance of goal setting and striving to reach those goals. I think it was important for the fifth-graders to hear these crucial messages before moving onto the middle school. Making the transition from elementary school to middle school can sometimes be difficult, but we hope through Michael's story students will feel empowered and motivated.”
Ms. Bretzger and physical education teacher Brian Allen coordinate a program here at Tinc Road that is sponsored by NYRR. The program, called Mighty Milers, encourages kids to exercise and helps them recognize the importance of physical activity as a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. About 180 Tinc Road students in grades 3-5 participate in the program and set goals to run and/or walk a certain distance and earn rewards along the way for hitting various milestones and achieving personal goals.
Since the beginning of the school year, the participating students have run nearly 8,000 miles in total.