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Lesson Plan

Writing Technical Instructions

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Writing Technical Instructions

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Marcea K. Seible

Marcea K. Seible

Waterloo, Iowa

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Overview

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

 

OVERVIEW

Learning to write technical instructions is challenging. Writers must consider audience, purpose, context, length, and complexity—plus the specific content of the instructions, such as the steps in using a stapler.

In this lesson, students walk through the process of creating technical instructions by first analyzing existing instructions. They then select an item and an audience for which they will write technical instructions. After writing their own instructions, students conduct usability tests of each other’s instructions, providing user feedback. Finally, students use this user feedback to revise their instructions before publishing them.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

Analyzing Technical Instructions: Students can use the questions on this handout as a guide when they analyze sample technical instructions.

Technical Instructions Planning Sheet: This handout explains the process for working with a partner to plan the technical instructions they will write.

Conducting a Usability Test: This handout includes instructions for testing the technical instructions students have written.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

Teaching students how to write technical instructions helps them see that "to write, to engage in any communication, is to participate in a community; to write well is to understand the conditions of one's own participation-the concepts, values, traditions, and style which permit identification with that community and determine the success or failure of communication" (Miller 22). Similarly, in discussing finding meaningful writing activities for the English classroom, Weber writes: "The technical writing approach is one of many avenues to this goal. It engages my students in the total communications process: creating, planning, writing, editing, presenting, listening, sharing, and evaluating." Understanding discourse communities requires students to analyze the audience for a written work, and learning to write instructions is one such way students can learn about both audience analysis and technical writing. This lesson works toward building students' understanding of the importance their writing has on real audiences.

Further Reading

Longo, Bernadette. "An Approach for Applying Cultural Study Theory to Technical Writing Research." Technical Communication Quarterly 7.1 (1998): 53-73.

 

Miller, Carolyn. 2004.  "A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing" 15-23. Teaching Technical Communication. Critical Issues for the Classroom. Ed. James M. Dubinsky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.

 

Weber, Dean. "Technical Writing: Applications in the Classroom." English Journal 81.2 (February 1992): 64-70.

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