How-to topics appeal to boys’ desire for practical, concrete and hands-on information. Reading or writing this sub-genre of non-fiction is appropriate for boys of any age group, reading level, or with any interest – sports, science, hobbies, anything!
The best part about writing a “How-to” is that even reluctant writers will be excited to share their knowledge. Depending on the difficulty of the topic, boys may find they already know all the information they need to explain how to do something. It’s an empowering feeling to be knowledgeable and even more so to be able to share that knowledge.
The topics from which boys can choose are endless. Keep it simple at first. Encourage them to start with a topic very familiar to them – one they could write about from their own personal knowledge. For example: How to Throw a Curveball, How to Make a Paper Airplane or How to Edit a Video.
Discuss with your students or sons, how to format and order the information. A basic format could be:
Description: Brief explanation of what the how-to will teach.
Materials: A list of the materials that will be needed for completing the project or learning the new skill.
The Steps: Numbered instructions on how to create, build or learn the topic. Encourage boys to begin each step with an “action word”.
Tips: Tips or tricks that may provide an alternative to one of the steps. This is another place where boys can show-off their knowledge.
Once boys are familiar with the format, they may wish to take on a more challenging topic – one that would require some research on their part. For example: How to Measure Distance on a Map or How to Make a Magnet.
How-to projects are a great way to encourage boys to both write and read while including their personal interests. The step-by-step format requires them to organize their thoughts and formulate a sequential plan in a way that can helps develop their thinking and writing skills. And the experience will give boys a huge confidence boost when they realize their own knowledge is useful, informative and can even be helpful to others.