Process Essay

To my collection of resources for teaching students to write a process essay, I am adding a Process Essay Test. I designed this to test both reading skills and writing skills. It asks students to reverse outline a fairly simple process essay about doing well in college. Then students are given practice applying transition words by rewriting a list of instructions as a process paragraph.

Here are a couple of other resources I use to teach the process essay:

Process Essay Graphic Organizer

This is less of a proper activity and more just sharing a Process Essay Graphic Organizer that I made. These three were made for specific readings that students were to reverse outline, but they can easily be adapted to other readings. Or just used by students to write their own essays. They aren’t anything particularly fancy but they illustrate three different ways to put together a Process Essay.

Details for the Process Essay

One of the units at school requires students to write a process essay, or a how-to essay. I found the concept was hard for the students, so I produced a lot of material to help them.

Earlier I put up one example process essay with an activity designed for Halloween. Another thing I used was incomplete instructions on something they probably don’t know how to do. The idea was to show them how to write detailed and complete instructions by showing them what incomplete instructions look like.

So I gave them a small piece of paper with this written on it:

Read the following instructions on how to register an Internet web site. Are these instructions clear? Can you follow them? Or do you need some more information?

Registering your own Internet address is easy and fun. Then you can put a webpage up with anything you want.

You need to go to a special website that registers addresses. Then you need to decide on an address for your site. There are different web addresses that end in different domains like .com, .net, and .org. So make sure you get the right one for you. And pick an awesome name because you will have that same address forever. Then you just fill in some information on that site.

Congratulations! You have your own website. Now you can put up a blog or video or pictures!

After students read the directions, I asked them what they thought. They told me the directions were great (maybe because I am the teacher and can do no wrong?). So I asked them if they were ready to register a site.
“Oh, yes,” they said unwittingly.
“Great,” said I, “Please go ahead.”

After a few blank stares, I asked them to get out their iPods or whatever and try to register a site. That elicited what I had wanted in the first place, namely:
“But teacher, we don’t know which site to go to.”
“Oh, I didn’t say which site. OK, Two popular sites are and”
“But teacher, what’s the difference?”
“Well, Godaddy costs more but provides fewer services,” I told them, making it up as I went along.
At this point, they were starting to catch on, so I asked them, “What’s the difference between .com, .org and .net? How do you pick an awesome name?”
And finally a student asked what this other information was on the form, and didn’t we have to pay any money?

To wrap up I elicited all the questions they still had on the board. Then I basically reread the paragraph with the missing information included (I could have had a better essay ready, but I didn’t know what exactly they would notice) so they had a good model.

Next time I will add a fun game a colleague mentioned to me, which is asking them to tell you how to put on your coat and following their instructions literally. It’s a chance to play Mr. Bean and it does demonstrate the need to give details and be specific (Put your RIGHT arm in the RIGHT sleeve).

The follow-up for homework was to have them write up a short description of how to do something. The next day in class, they swapped and added what they needed or wanted to know to each other’s directions.

Overall it was a fun and rewarding lesson.

Halloween Process Essay

Woman in a witch costume holding a mask: Halloween Process EssayI love Halloween and I love teaching writing. So when my English language school required teaching the process essay, I figured out how to do a Halloween Process Essay.

What is a Halloween Process Essay?

Trying to explain what makes a good process essay can be difficult. Maybe because the textbook gives a list as an example, students tend to underestimate this essay type. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to teach the process essay better. And I’m also always looking for ways to make it fun and original. I’ve had enough of recipes for Saudi dishes (no offense to the food, but after a few years it gets tedious!)

So last fall, I began looking for ways to tie the process essay into Halloween. That’s when I found these instructions on how to make a mask. I thought they’d be perfect as an example of a process essay. However they did need to be adapted them slightly, because I don’t think everyone wants to go as a guy from Slipknot. I also simplified the language a bit.

How to Make a Mask

So here’s my version of “How to make a mask”: A Halloween Process Essay¬†which you can download and print out as is. I have it in DOC format so feel free to edit it up or down for your class.

I present it by cutting it up into individual paragraphs and having students figure out what order the paragraphs go in. That puts an emphasis on order in process essays. It also helps them notice how writers indicate the order of activities, how they create coherence by referring to objects and steps that came before, and how they introduce or conclude a section of a process.

After students have assembled the essay, we highlight a lot of that language. We also highlight repeated words and talk about why they repeat. Then we look at verb tenses.

Now, the “How to make a mask”: A Halloween Process Essay¬†might still seem to be a bit long but making a mask takes a certain amount of detail. So draw your students attention to the length. Point out that it’s important to be thorough in describing a process, particularly one that you want students to do themselves. I also have a nice activity on the completeness of instructions where students look at how to register a webpage. If you have enough time and space, students can make actually masks. Then you can discuss how clear the instructions were. Plus it’s fun to do arts and crafts in class.

Ultimately, you will want your students to write a process essay of their own!

Other Halloween Process Essay Topics

  • How to Make a Paper Top Hat
  • How to Carve a Pumpkin
  • How to Be Safe Trick or Treating
  • How to Make a Ghost Costume
  • How to Decorate Your House for Halloween

And for more Halloween fun, check out all my Halloween lesson plans and activities.