How to Wash an Elephant

story by Julie Bowyer , illustrated by Vivienne To

Learning Intention:

I am learning to analyse and experiment with the features of procedural texts so that I include key features in the texts I compose.

Success Criteria:

  • I can analyse procedural texts and identify some of their features.
  • I can experiment with writing instructions.
  • I can adopt the correct style for instructions.
  • I can create illustrations to accompany instructions.
  • I can use the instructions and illustrations to create a procedural text.

Essential knowledge:


Ensure students are familiar with the term ‘procedure’. Display the following procedure in the jumbled order:

To make a jam sandwich you will need:

  • A plate
  • A knife
  • Butter
  • Jam
  • Bread

To make a jam sandwich you should complete the following steps:

  1. Eat the sandwich.
  2. Spread jam on two pieces of bread.
  3. Place the two pieces of bread together to make a sandwich.
  4. Spread butter on two pieces of bread.
  5. Put the sandwich on a plate.

Discuss the following questions with students:

  • How easy will it be to follow this procedure? (Students should conclude that it is challenging to follow currently)
  • Why might it be challenging to follow this procedure? (The steps are not in the correct order)
  • What changes need to be made to make this procedure easier to follow? (Rejig the order so it follows the steps in sequence)
  • What conclusion can be drawn about procedures? (They include steps in sequenced order, they often include a list of items you require to complete the steps)




Read How to Draw Elephants, found on pages 18 and 19 of this issue of Countdown. Discuss the style of text, ensuring students note that it is a procedural text. Identify further elements of procedural texts, using How to Wash and Elephant to guide responses. Ensure students note the following about procedural texts:

  • Active verbs are used, such as ‘draw’, ‘add’, ‘use’
  • They can include illustrations


Understanding text:


Read How to Wash an Elephant or listen to the audio file of the story. Discuss the following:

  • What does Zach need to write about? (How to wash an elephant)
  • How does he try to approach his project? (By asking his parents for help)

Discuss the steps in the story that lead Zach to discover how to wash an elephant and note these on the board or record them digitally for students to refer to later. For example:

  • Georgia, Zach’s sister, spills shampoo
  • Their washing machine jumps across the floor and water sprays from the hose that connects it to the water supply
  • The water mixes with the foam to create a foamy mess on the kitchen floor
  • Georgia slips in the foam and flails on the floor
  • Zach and Georgia’s mother lets go of the ladder, where Zach’s father is balanced, and runs towards the laundry before slipping on her daughter’s legs
  • The cat climbs onto the father’s head and Zach’s father sways on the ladder

Draw students to the list of items that Zach noted required to wash an elephant:

  • a ladder
  • a large bottle of shampoo
  • high-pressured water
  • a bristly brush
  • several enthusiastic helpers


Creating text:


Inform students that they will be composing their own procedural text, based on the process Zach identifies of how to wash an elephant. Tell students that while the events in the story are fictional, they’ll be composing the procedure in the style of a factual text. Gradually release responsibility, by composing the first two steps collaboratively.

Discuss the first step in the process Zach identified (Georgia spilling shampoo). Discuss how this might be adapted to sound more like a procedure. Remind students to include active verbs. A sample idea is:

Shake a bottle of shampoo and spill it all over the floor.

Refer back to How to Draw Elephants and note that illustrations have been included along with the numbered steps. Discuss the types of illustration that might be included to accompany the first step, for example:

An illustration of someone shaking a bottle of shampoo with it spraying out onto the floor.

Make a quick sketch of this on the board and note the instruction underneath.

Repeat this process with the second step, composing an instruction and discussing an illustration that might accompany it before sketching it on the board. For example:

Instruction: Spray water from a high-pressure hose onto the foam.

Illustration: A hose, pouring out an abundance of water onto the floor.

Place students with a partner and instruct them to continue this process with the remaining steps in the procedure, composing instructions and creating illustrations to accompany them. Students can use coloured pencils and paper to compose their illustrations or digital programs such as Microsoft Paint.

Allow time for students to complete their sketches before displaying them around the classroom so students can conduct a gallery walk.


Assessment for/as learning:


While students conduct the gallery work, instruct them to select one of the work samples to peer assess. Ensure all work samples are peer assessed by someone.

Co-construct a sample criterion to guide students when assessing. For example:

  • Features the steps in sequential order
  • Uses active verbs
  • Includes illustrations to accompany the instructions

Allow time for students to reflect on the work of their peers before instructing them to provide oral feedback to each other.