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Looking at Writing

Third Grade: Writing Sample 4

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).

"If you want to write, you should pay attention to people — everybody has a story — and listen to people when they talk. " — Kate DiCamillo

Context of writing

Written by a third grade girl in a Writer's Workshop style class where students had free choice of writing topics. These are the first two pages of a longer story that the student had not yet completed.

What is this child able to do as a writer?

  • Generates an interesting idea for a story.
  • Identifies interesting characters, a setting, and a problem.
  • Uses precise language and begins to substitute more interesting words for overused general words such as 'said' ('groaned Olivia').
  • Starts a story that flows sequentially.
  • Uses dialogue in her story.
  • Uses punctuation correctly — periods at the end of sentences and an exclamation point to show excitement.
  • Uses apostrophes in contractions correctly.

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]

Transcript: 

Title: Amy and Olivia's Adventure

Once there were two turtles. One was named Amy and one was Olivia. They were best friends. They had met in the middle of the ocean. There was a big tornado in the Pacific Ocean and they got separated from their parents. So now they're living on their own together. One day Amy decided they should go on an adventure. "Let's go on an adventure," said Amy. "I don't know about that idea," said Olivia. "Please!" said Amy. "OK fine," groaned Olivia. "But don't do anything too scary." Then they were off. They tied a rope to each other so they couldn't separate. Then they started to swim. Then they decided to swim to the top of the ocean and stick their head out of the water. Then they saw a little island up ahead. "Let's go to it," said Olivia. "No! Don't go," said Amy. "It could be dangerous." "I'll let you sunbathe," said Olivia. "Let's go! Don't waste any time," Amy said rushed. So they swam to the island. When they got there Amy laid down and started to sunbathe right away. But Olivia decided to collect some coconuts for lunch instead of sunbathing. "I'm hungry," said Amy. "Do we have any food?" "Yes, we do. I collected coconuts while you were sunbathing." "Let's start eating them," said Amy.

What does this child need to learn next?

This student is using dialogue to make her story more interesting, but it is a bit confusing for the reader to follow. She is ready to learn how to use quotation marks to help clarify who is saying what in her story. The teacher could use a mini-lesson to teach a small group of students who are ready to use this skill how to use quotation marks (27K PDF) with their dialogue. The teacher could use the books that these students are reading as the mentor texts to look for examples of quotation marks. After the students look at examples of dialogue in their own chapter books and come up with their suggestions for why authors use dialogue and what the rules are for using quotation marks, the teacher could clear up any misconceptions and challenge them to add quotation marks to their own stories.

The author is using the same transition word throughout her story to move the action forward (then). The author could learn about other transition words that help sequence a story. A list of transition words could become a part of the author's writing notebook. Here's a list of transition words (1MB PDF) that might work for elementary aged students.

The sample contains examples of pronoun (there for their) and homophone (too for two, to for too). These efforts at "using but confusing" suggest that the author may be ready to study these word study features.

"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln