Writing a holiday “how-to” paragraph

by | Nov 20, 2017 | Teaching Homeschool Writing

Kids can write a descriptive how-to paragraph to explain a holiday-themed process step by step.

As holiday decorations come out and the tree or menorah takes center stage, children can become increasingly distracted, sidetracked, and fidgety in anticipation of upcoming seasonal celebrations.

Schooling doesn’t need to fall by the wayside during December! The holidays can be a great time to assign writing activities that focus on the festivities, allowing kids and teens to immerse themselves in the fun while encouraging productivity.

This month, have your kids write a paragraph describing a holiday-themed process where they explain, in a step-by-step manner, how something is done. Writing a process paragraph (or how-to paragraph) helps them plan, organize, and sequence the details.

Step 1: Choose a Topic

Help them pick a process that’s not too involved or complicated. With younger or reluctant writers, it’s especially important to keep the number of steps to a minimum. Also, the more familiar children are with the process, the easier it will be to write about it.

Here are some ideas to get them started. They can explain how to:

  • Wrap a present
  • Make latkes
  • Decorate the tree
  • Bake gingerbread cookies
  • Build a snowman
  • Be a “Secret Santa”
  • Set the table for dinner
  • Create a handmade greeting card
  • Make a holiday craft project
  • Play the dreidel game
  • String popcorn
  • Make a paper “countdown” chain

Step 2: Write the Rough Draft

Once your kids have chosen a topic (and narrowed it down to a specific task, if necessary), walk them through a few simple steps to guide and direct them.

  1. If possible, have them go through the process themselves before beginning to write. Take digital photos of them as they complete each step.
  2. Provide a graphic organizer to help them break down the steps of the process and plan the composition.  Here’s one can be filled in on the computer. Or download a free lesson sample from WriteShop I (grades 6+) that includes a Process Planning Worksheet.
  3. Next, have them begin to write the rough draft, explaining the most important steps first.
  4. Teach them to use transition words such as first, second, third, next, then, finally, or last.
  5. If the paper isn’t too long, or if the steps are too vague, they can expand each step by adding sub-steps, more detail, or colorful description.

Step 3: Make an Instruction Manual

Edit the rough draft together to ensure the steps are logical and easy to follow, and check for spelling and punctuation errors.

To publish their how-to paragraph in a fun way, have your children create an instruction manual. Here’s how:

  1. Invite them to choose the photos they want to use to illustrate the process. They will need to print out 4-6 pictures. Let them tape or glue each picture to the top half of a sheet of notebook paper, using a separate sheet for each photo.
  2. Next, have them copy their corrected composition onto the sheets of notebook paper, writing the sentence or sentences that each photo illustrates.
  3. Finally, encourage them to design and decorate a colorful cover, including a catchy title. Assemble the instruction manual and share with family members.

Activities like this how-to paragraph will keep your children happily writing, even during the busiest time of year!


  1. Janet

    This is a great activity for any holiday or season! Putting together those instruction manuals can make a wonderful family keepsake, to be passed through generations. I’m imagining, “What if my parents and grandparents, who lived through the challenging times of the Great Depression, had written up how-to paragraphs, such as these? What treasures to keep!”

    • Kim

      Agreed, Janet! That would have been so cool.


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