Procedural writing or “How-to” is one of my favorite units to teach during Writers’ Workshop! There are so many fun ways to introduce the unit that will engage students. One of the best ways to help students during any writing unit, however, is the use of mentor texts. Mentor texts provide concrete examples of great writing and are motivating! Like I’ve said before, kids love to emulate authors they admire.
In this post, I’ll share some great picture books to use as mentor texts for how-to writing in your classroom, along with a few mini-lesson ideas.
This post includes affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage if you purchase through the links, at no cost to you. View my entire Amazon list of Mentor Texts for How-to Writing here.
How to be a Cat by nikki mcclure
The book is quite simplistic, only featuring one word per page. The story is about a young kitten who is learning how to be a cat. This is a great mentor text for early kindergarten or students who are still writing just a word or two per idea.
Students can choose their favorite animal and write their own How To Be A _______ book!
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
This is a great mentor text to use when you are introducing labeling to your students. You may recognize this author’s name from her two most popular books, Leaf Man or Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.
Our unseen narrator walks the readers through the steps of making vegetable soup, beginning with growing the vegetables in their family garden. All the tools and plants are labeled.
EXTENSION: At the end of the text is a recipe for vegetable soup that you can also discuss with your students. You may not want to make soup, but we did make a recipe in our class during our how-to unit! Read about our how-to writing unit here.
How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson
This is both a fun read and a fantastic mentor text for students. When you first open the book the dedication page is filled with funny pictures of bath products one may use on a Woolly Mammoth! A young girl attempts to give the reader a step-by-step guide on how to wash a muddy woolly mammoth but things don’t go according to plan and extra steps are added.
This is a great mentor text for how-to writing for a few reasons:
- It has a great introduction, which isn’t always easy to find in how-to books (many times, they start with steps).
- All the steps are labeled; Step One:, Step Two:, etc.
- It also includes tips that can serve as a model for adding details!
- There are captions for some of the steps.
- It’s so cute and funny!
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt
This might just be my FAVORITE mentor text for how-to writing!
You may already be familiar with the Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt. They are humorous stories that are popular among students.
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend is a great addition to your bin of mentor texts for how-to writing because of the wonderful charts and diagrams!
In the story, Scaredy Squirrel creates a plan to meet the perfect friend. Once you’ve read the story aloud to your students, you can use individual pages as examples for mini-lessons.
Scaredy Squirrel creates a chart with everything he needs to meet a friend. Display and discuss the items with your students, Then have them create a “supplies” page for their own how-to writing piece.
On another page, Scaredy Squirrel lists everything he shouldn’t do if he meets someone who could bite him! Have students look back over their stories. Is there anything that one SHOULDN’T do? This is great for adding a WARNING page or caption.
How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley
Giving an animal a bath seems to be a common topic among picture books! I promise both have earned their spot on this list. This book would make a perfect mentor text when you are discussing editing or revising with your students. Through trial and error, the young girl has to revise her steps adding more details each time.
For example, the first step begins as, “Fill the bathtub with warm water.” and ends up as, “Put a little warm water in the bath. The water should come up to your cat’s knees.”
If your students have ever tried to give their cat or dog a bath, they will surely relate to the hilarity of this book!
If you do use the prior text along with this one you could have your students compare and contrast the two. They could discuss which text gave the best instructions for washing a pet.
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko
This text is different from most procedural writing texts as it’s a collection of poems. The poems have been selected by former educator and poet Paul B. Janeczko. Each poem is from a different poet, ranging from classic to contemporary.
Since the poems vary by length and complexity, they can be used for multiple grade levels. The shortest poem, How to Pay Attention, is just two lines long:
Close this book.
To make your how-to writing extra fun, check out these differentiated Interactive How-to pages. Kids use the pieces to ACT OUT the steps before writing them! There’s nothing like hands-on learning; doing it first helps kids when it comes to writing the steps.
This is also available in my TpT store here.
It also includes large color cards for you to model with on a pocket chart (or for students to use in groups).
GRAB A FREE SET of HOW-TO Pages here.
Bonus Book: How To by Julie Morstad
I’m including this as a bonus as it’s a great book for exploring ideas for what students can choose to write about. One struggle that young students can have is that they don’t think they are good at anything or know how to do anything worth writing about.
This book will also get your students engaged as the illustrations for each how-to are a bit unexpected! For example, how-to wash your face shows a young girl in a rainstorm.
I hope you have discovered a new mentor text to help strengthen your student’s writing! Comment below if you do plan to add one of these books to your classroom. I would also love to hear what your favorite how-to mentor text is!
Don’t forget your FREE How-to pack!