Helping your 3rd-5th grader with writing

Middle to upper elementary children express a really wide range of writing abilities.

Some children still struggle to hold a pencil or write words.

Some have strong verbal skills yet remain weak in writing. They can spin a great story and tell it orally, yet they’re not yet able to write independently.

Others are beginning to emerge as writers, still depending on you a great deal (as much or more than ever, it may seem). These children need to dictate ideas and sentences during both brainstorming and writing, though they’re also able to contribute more and more to the actual writing itself.

Finally, there are those who are progressing well through the stages of writing and now work fairly independently.

Encourage the Writing Process

Continue to encourage the writing process so it becomes natural. This starts by helping your child view writing as a multistage process:

  • We plan.
  • We write.
  • We make changes.
  • We write our final draft.

Ultimately, our kids begin to understand that the paper is the product and writing is the process.

How Much and How Often?

For children in grades 3-5, the focus remains on improving sentence structure and writing a solid paragraph.

  • On average, they should spend about 30-40 minutes per day on writing, depending on both age and attention span.
  • In my experience, 8-10 quality writing projects per year is plenty of writing (meaning the piece will be taken through each step of the writing process). That’s roughly one complete writing project a month. Meanwhile, lesser assignments such as book narrations, journaling, and so forth can fill in gaps.
  • A good target is 1- to 3-paragraph stories or short reports. Take care not to rush your child into longer assignments too soon. A concise, concrete, short piece beats a long, rambling, disjointed, dull, repetitive, tedious essay any day—no matter what age the child!

Remain an Involved Parent

These are bridge years, when most students go from largely parent-supported writing pieces to more independent writing. The biggest key to success with this is lots of practice. Fostering independence doesn’t mean you give an assignment and disappear! Even if it seems counterintuitive, continue working closely with your middle and older elementary children. Your 3-5th graders need you to:

  • Model and teach.
  • Oversee their work.
  • Participate with them as needed.
  • Praise their efforts.
  • Give helpful feedback.

Make Writing Fun

Start writing now! If you wait till junior high to begin teaching writing, by then it’s time to get down to brass tacks, and your children may have missed the delight of writing during their elementary years, when they learn that writing is something to enjoy and anticipate.

So most of all, for any elementary child in grades K-5, the writing experience should be fun! Motivation, excitement, and a positive learning environment all help children build confidence in their writing skills as they acquire the ability to write.

Helping your K-2nd grader with writing
Helping your 5th-8th grader with writing
Helping your high schooler with writing

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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In Spring 2011, WriteShop will introduce WriteShop Junior Book D, the first in a series of writing curricula for middle and upper elementary ages. Children have so much fun playing writing games, learning to use exciting writing tools, and writing appealing stories such as adventures and mysteries that they hardly realize they’re learning!

We’ll continue posting details and info here at the blog, but if you’d like to be among the first to get the scoop about the book’s release—or even preorder, join our mailing list by visiting www.writeshop.com and looking for the newsletter sign-up box.

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