A Leap Ahead in Writing: 3rd Grade
In 3rd grade you’ll likely see a significant leap cognitively in your child, and as a result more will be expected of him at school. Your child will not only learn how to write in cursive, with letters joined together, he’ll stretch beyond the paragraph writing of the 2nd grade and begin to compose short essays.
Teaching to the Test
States are required to test students annually in language arts, beginning in the 3rd grade. These tests assess standards for reading, listening, and writing. Tests generally consist of two types of questions: multiple-choice and open-ended. In reading, students read several passages representing a variety of genres, then answer questions that demonstrate their understanding of the passages. For listening, students hear a passage read out loud, then answer comprehension questions.
Along with formalized testing, another hallmark of 3rd grade is learning to write in cursive, or longhand. For many 8 year olds, cursive separates them from the little kids — and they love it. In the majority of classrooms across the country, cursive is taught in 3rd grade (although some 2nd grade teachers introduce it toward the end of the school year).
Over the years, some letters have been modified to make them easier to write and recognize. Today’s cursive Q and X may look quite different to someone who learned to write them a generation ago. Now that cursive has made a comeback, teachers begin the school year by devoting one week to each letter and spending a few minutes each day in review.
Upping the Vocabulary Ante
In 3rd grade, students are ready for solid work in written composition. Their thinking is more abstract and their stories less simplistic. Using transitions and writing in paragraph form remain challenging, but your child will have plenty of opportunities to practice these difficult skills. Now your child will work to enrich his stories through word choice, with a continued emphasis on using adjectives to enliven his compositions. In addition, your child will be introduced to reference books, such as the thesaurus (a book of synonyms and antonyms), to help him select more interesting words.
Writing as Process
Writing as a craft is a fairly new classroom concept. “Learning to write well isn’t considered a one-shot deal,” says Cynthia Graves, a 3rd grade teacher at Forest Avenue School in Verona, New Jersey. “It’s a process that evolves over time.” While the focus may vary from school to school, you can expect that your child’s work will progress through the following phases:
- Prewriting, or brainstorming, includes activities such as creating a story web with ideas related to a main topic.
- The first draft, or “sloppy copy,” is a student’s initial attempt at converting his thoughts into sentences and paragraphs.
- Feedback involves sharing the first draft with classmates and/or the teacher to strengthen the work. The reviewer reads the piece, then tells the writer what’s good, bad, or confusing about the story.
- The student incorporates the feedback during rewriting.
- Correcting grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes takes place during the proofreading phase.
- The final copy is either handwritten or typed on the computer.
- Publishing is the last step, and each teacher handles it differently. It may mean turning the story into a book with illustrations, adding it to a class book, reading the work out loud to the class, or submitting it to a children’s publication.
As in 2nd grade, in 3rd grade your child will be expected to write in a variety of genres. A narrative assignment might ask your child to write about a personal experience, such as her favorite day. A typical nonfiction assignment in 3rd grade would require her to write a simple report using facts gleaned from different sources of information (for example, an encyclopedia, a Web site, or a book on the subject). An informative writing assignment might ask her to explain how to make or do something (for example, my daughter wrote instructions for doing a handstand). Persuasive writing could be a letter to the editor, and finally, penning a poem might cover creative writing.