How to Use wikiHow in the Classroom

Four Methods:Pre-researchAccessing SourcesSynthesizing InformationTransferring Learning

Teachers: If you're looking for a "real" writing assignment for middle and high school students, wikiHow is a terrific tool. Your students will

  • Cover all stages of the research process: pre-research, accessing sources, synthesizing information, and transference of learning
  • Be highly motivated to write about their chosen topic
  • Give their proof-reading skills a significant workout
  • Learn to critically evaluate source materials
  • Become aware of the necessity for clarity when communicating in writing
  • Be proud that they have published a document on the web for all to enjoy

Method 1

  1. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 1
    Explain the concept of the wiki to students before you begin. Have students enter the site, then let them spend about 15 to 20 minutes browsing some of the articles. You may want to make a class list of some of the more interesting or esoteric titles the students find in their searches so they understand that there is a lot of latitude for subject matter.
  2. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 2
    Ask students to choose two wikiHow articles to critique. Give students two "wikiHow Evaluation Worksheets" to fill out, one for each article they've chosen. The wikiHow site offers a very helpful primer which can be reached at's-Guide; the criteria for evaluation of an exemplary wikiHow article are all there; simply use these to set up your evaluation sheets. (They're also helpful for creating a final evaluation rubric for your students' postings.)
  3. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 3
    Once the class has established what makes a good wikiHow article, it's time for students to start brainstorming possible topics for their own article. Encourage students to write about something they are really interested in; this is a big factor in successful completion of the assignment.
  4. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 4
    Once possible topics have been approved, students need to test their topics for originality. They should conduct a search on wikiHow to make sure that there is not already an article on wikiHow that is written on that particular topic. If they find an article on their topic, they can come up with a different topic or they can be encouraged to improve the existing article based on the critiquing skills developed in previous steps.
    • It's very important that the originality of the topic is verified before the student writes the article because it can be very disappointing to see their article get merged or deleted as a result.
  5. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 5
    To begin, each student should create an account on the wikiHow web site; the instructions are very easy to follow. Simply click on the "create an account" option. Tell underage students to create a username code that protects student identity -- for instance, use their first name and a class code -- and record this and their password for future reference and access to their articles.
  6. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 6
    When students have established an approved topic, they will type in the title for their wikiHow article. It's important to know that the title cannot be edited later, so have students proofread this carefully for typos and spelling errors.

Method 2
Accessing Sources

  1. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 7
    Once the topics have been established, students will begin their research. Because some of the topics may be a bit unusual, students may have some challenges finding relevant or reliable sources, but this can be used to advantage. Stipulate how many sources you expect students to have, and give them a "Resource Log" sheet for each of those sources. The log sheet will contain bibliographical information for the sources, a checklist for the reliability of the source (try the Ontario School Library Association's web site or other library associations for ideas)and room to record jot notes on the subject. Even if the source is virtually useless, at least you're raising student consciousness regarding criteria for reliable sources.

Method 3
Synthesizing Information

  1. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 8
    Now that students have all their info, suggest ways for them to organize their information. Providing them with graphic organizers may be helpful here. This is a good time for students to start separating information which might best be communicated under the wikiHow "Steps" category from information which belongs in the "Tips" and "Warnings" sections.
  2. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 9
    Once information has been categorized, students can begin their first draft for their wikiHow. I don't have students compose directly on the wikiHow page at first. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) this is a valuable opportunity to promote writing and editing skills, and 2) once the wikiHow article is posted, anyone can edit it before you have a chance to evaluate it.
  3. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 10
    Since wikiHow already has pre-set headings, it makes sense that students use these headings to guide their writing. Students should write their instructions in block paragraph format; the reason for this will become evident in the next section. This draft form of the article must be carefully proofread before students are ready to post on the wikiHow site.

Method 4
Transferring Learning

  1. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 11
    When students are ready to post their information, they should take the "wikiHow tour" provided on the site. This will give students information regarding formatting techniques and how to add images if they wish to do so. You may want to print out copies of the "Advanced Formatting Techniques" section so the students have it handy as they cut and paste their information.
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    When students are ready to post their article, they simply cut and paste the instructions into the appropriate section. This is the time to incorporate the "Advanced Formatting Techniques", such as bold or italicized text, etc.
  3. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 13
    wikiHow offers a section to record sources, and this provides an opportunity to have students practice their bibliographic skills. Since wikiHow doesn't offer an underline option, it's best to use APA bibliographic style, rather than MLA.
  4. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 14
    When students are finished the copy and paste, they should choose the "Save page" option at the bottom of the template before choosing the "Preview" option. (Once you leave the template page, you can't return via the "back" button on your toolbar.)
  5. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 15
    Print the page immediately. You'll need a copy of the untouched assignment for evaluation purposes. The student can always fix minor mistakes in the immediate future and hand in the revised copy.
  6. Image titled Use wikiHow in the Classroom Step 16
    Give students an opportunity to reflect on the assignment and its process. It will help you make improvements in the future, and it raises student consciousness regarding the research and writing processes.


  • This assignment works best when students have a vested interest in the topic.
  • Always provide students with a rubric which outlines the learning skills and expectations for the assignment in order to ensure you receive quality work.
  • Ensure that students choose a how-to task that isn't too complicated, or contains too many steps.
  • wikiHow boasts that it monitors content; students must be warned against posting any information which may be deemed unsuitable
  • Resources don't always have to be print or electronic; encourage students to gather information from a variety of sources, as long as they can be cited.
  • If posting photos, it's wise to make sure they are imported as j-peg files; try to keep the size relatively small.
  • The complexity required for formatting would make this assignment difficult for students below grade 7 or 8.
  • If you want students to sign the article, they will need to do this before they save it. To preserve their anonymity, you could work out a code for them to use (for example, their initials and a class code).
  • Try to make sure students have a significant chunk of time available when they make the actual posting. It may take them a while to figure out the various formatting techniques.


  • Always choose the "Save page" option before clicking on "Preview" or "Show changes"; you will not be able to go back to your previous page and all your changes will be lost.
  • As with any new concept, don't attempt this assignment with your class without trying it out first; your explorations will save a lot of time when your students need your help.
  • Posting on wikiHow can be problematic if your school's software is not up-to-date. Windows XP is reliable.
  • Photos or illustrations can add a lot to the wikiHow article, but make sure students are aware of copyright restrictions. wikiHow offers information regarding this if you need clarification.

Things You'll Need

  • Enough computers to allow students to complete the assignment
  • Access to print and electronic source materials
  • Relevant worksheets for the various stages of the research process

Article Info

Categories: Creating Lesson Plans