Looking at Writing

Third Grade: Writing Sample 3

During third grade, children are really flexing their “idea” muscles and learning to express those ideas in more sophisticated ways. Sentences are getting longer and more complex. Kids are learning to use a dictionary to correct their own spelling. Grammar improves; for example, you'll see appropriate punctuation, contractions, and correct subject-verb agreement. Third graders can write an essay with a simple thesis statement, examples and supporting details, and a thoughtful concluding sentence. They are building skills in the writing process — research, planning, organizing, revising, and editing (with help from teachers and peers).

"The first draft is a skeleton .… just bare bones. The rest of the story comes later with revising. " — Judy Blume

Context of writing

Written by a third grade boy in a Writer's Workshop style class where students had free choice of writing topics.

What is this child able to do as a writer?

  • Generates an interesting idea for a story.
  • Uses descriptive language ('relaxing at my dad's house').
  • Writes a story that flows sequentially from beginning to end.
  • Uses punctuation correctly — periods at the end of sentences and an exclamation point to show excitement.
  • Uses an apostrophe to show ownership ('my dad's house').

Move your cursor over each red bubble image marker for observations about this child’s writing.

[Click the sample to view the full size image. See transcript]


Title: The Shark Who Ate My Head Off

One day I was relaxing at my dad's house and I starting to get bored. So I went into the pool. I was swimming for a 1/2 hour and then something bit my foot. It was a shark! I tried to escape but the shark pulled me back in and ate my head off. THE END!

What does this child need to learn next?

Although this story has a beginning, middle and end, it ends rather abruptly. This writer is a reluctant writer who just wanted his story to end. The writer should be encouraged to add more details to the middle of his story and make a longer, more drawn out ending. A popular reading comprehension strategy is to have students write alternate endings to books they have read.

Since he has already made it unrealistic with a shark in his dad's swimming pool, the teacher could challenge him to make several endings, each one more amazing and creative than the last. The class could then get involved by voting on which ending they like most. Here's an example of an assignment in which students are asked to write an alternate ending to Lemony Snicket (262K PDF).

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." — Garrison Keillor