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How to Write a Workbook


Workbooks are often used as supplemental tools in classrooms and workplace training sessions to reinforce the steps and vocabulary required to master new skill sets. In addition, home study workbooks (including online texts) have increased in popularity with individuals of all ages who want to learn at their own pace and be able to gauge their progress through incremental quizzes.

Study existing workbooks for ideas on length and layout. The length of your workbook will be dictated by the complexity of the material and how many steps it takes to explain it. The use of text, graphics, photos, diagrams or a combination of these depends on your target audience, their IQ range and the frame of reference they have to the material.

Create a list of the topics you want to cover in your workbook. This can either be done in a Word document on your computer or individually written on index cards. For example, if the subject of your workbook is how to write a children's play, the topics will include where to get ideas, how to develop interesting characters and how to write dialogue.

Organize your topics by their order of difficulty, starting with the easiest task first. The objective is for learners to cumulatively apply their knowledge to increasingly difficult challenges. If you're using index cards, lay them out as a storyboard and/or number them so you can create a table of contents.

Decide how many steps to include in each module and whether they need to be preceded with an explanation and/or a vocabulary list of what they're about to learn. If the material warrants it, you may want to include recommended books, movies and experiential exercises that will enhance student understanding of the lesson.

Determine how the learners' grasp of the material in each module will be measured. For example, you may want to have a multiple-choice or fill-in-the blanks quiz at the end of each section followed by a page with the right answers so they can score their results. Another option is to include one to three hypothetical situations for the learners to analyze, record their impressions as journal entries, or create an original project of their own.

Start by writing an introduction to the workbook that describes what the learners can expect to accomplish by the time they finish the text.

Write each step clearly. Assess its readability by utilizing the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores that come with most word processing software programs (see Tips).

Test the steps in each module on someone who doesn't have familiarity with the material. This will help you identify whether you've left out anything crucial in the sequence or have assumed knowledge on the part of the user that may not exist. Revise accordingly.

Address problems that may occur during the performance of selected steps and explain how these can be remedied by the learner. These tips can either be included within the individual modules or addressed in a separate chapter at the end of the workbook.

Include blank sheets in each chapter so that learners can take notes, draw sketches, or jot down ideas on how to use the content.

Include a glossary of terms and an index at the end of the workbook.

Tip
  • In Microsoft Office Word 2007, the readability score function is accessed by clicking on "Word Options," followed by "Proofing," and then selecting "Show Readability Statistics" under the grammar tab. If you're using a different version of Word, you'll need to click on the question mark and type in "readability score" to see how to activate this tool.
Warning
  • Don't overwhelm your target audience with too much information at once. Bring them along slowly so that they can master each new concept thoroughly before moving on to the next one.
Items you will need
Word software program
Digital camera (optional)
Index cards (optional)
About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.