Process Writing: IKEA Instructions

Process writing can be broken down into “Instruction” and “Process Explanation.” In this post, I explain process writing and how it is used. Then, I present an activity that involves writing out those picture-based IKEA instructions.

Instructions enable readers to perform a process. Instructions use the imperative form of verbs (also known as the command form); this form implies “you”: “(You) disconnect the system, and (you) check the electrical source.” This type of writing is found in the products you buy, showing you how to put something together or use it.

Process explanation helps the reader understand how something is carried out. Sometimes, you cannot even do the process that is explained in this type of writing.  For example, the explanation of ‘How a black hole is formed’ is not meant for the reader to follow–it’s not a set of instructions for making your own black hole! This type of writing is common in science when processes are explained.

IKEA instructions are an example of process writing–but there are no words! In order to easily carry their products in many countries, the company includes instructions in picture format.

For this activity, the student must first go to the IKEA site and find a product (a bed, for example). Then, the student gets the instructions for the assembly of the product. Those instructions the student will need are in the individual product details under “Assembly & documents.”

The task is to then put the picture instructions into words. This can be a step-by-step list of instructions that are numbered:

1. Take out all the materials from the box.

2. Open the plastic bag with screws 4578.

3. Connect part 3267 with part 1490 using the screws.

4. ………

5. ……….

Since there aren’t words in the IKEA instructions, it will be a challenge! To add a twist, the student should avoid saying what the product is. When the instructions are complete, they can be presented to a parent, teacher, or class; then, the audience will need to guess what the product is based on the instructions.

Having complete instruction writing, another layer could be added next. The students challenge is to take those instructions and turn them into process explanation. In this case, the first person (I, me, we, us) and the second person (you, your) will not be used. Rather the focus goes from the person doing the action to the action being done. Heres’ an example:

To begin, all material are removed from the box. Then, the plastic bag with screws 4578 is opened. Next, part 3267 is connected with part 1490 using the screws. Once that is completed…


It is important to use transition words and phrases when putting together the process explanation. Here are some examples: first, next, then, later, once that it is completed, finally.

For more ideas and guidance with writing projects, please contact Lux Writing Center. With Lux Writing Center, students receive daily personalized writing instruction online.