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Looking at Writing

Third Grade: Writing Sample 5

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 difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. " — Mark Twain

Context of writing

Written by a third grader who is above grade level in reading. Written in a Writer's Workshop style class where students had free choice of writing topics. This was the first page of a multi-page story. This first page took several sessions of writing to complete.

What is this child able to do as a writer?

  • The student writes with a purpose — to create a humorous superhero tale.
  • The story is well thought-out and stays on topic.
  • He plays with language to elaborate ideas ('Wadda 'ya want?').
  • He uses dialogue and descriptions to give a clear sense of characters' personalities
  • He uses dialogue and quotation marks appropriately. Dialogue adds to the interest and plot of story rather than distracting from it.
  • He chooses specific interesting words to enhance the story ('and with a swish of his cape, he was off' and 'before he could say the first word').
  • He uses punctuation to add meaning and detail ('?!?!?!?!; baby blue, light blue, or dar...; and Gay-ra-ld').

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: Bob the Bad Guy and Gerald the Good Guy and his assistant: A Super Hero Tale

One day when Bob was invading a house, he heard a "dad a dad a dad a!" and Gerald (Gay-ra-ld) flew in. "Duh, what was I here for?" Gerald asked. "You know, to save the world and stuff like that," said Bob. "Oh yeah. Duh, you're under arrest. By the way, what does arrest mean?" asked Gerald. "It means to capture somebody and put them in jail," said Bob. "Oh, yeah. Is it legal? Because I don't want to be blamed and have to go to court," said Gerald. "What do you mean is it legal?!?!?!? Of course it's legal! Besides, you're a upper hero, remember?" said Bob. "Oh yeah," said Gerald. "By the way, do you want to see your new prison cell?" he asked. "Sure. As long as it is purple, orange, and has yellow polka dots and blue, solver, and gold stripes," said Bob. "Okay. I'll get to work," said Gerald, and pulled a paintbrush out of nowhere. "Where'd the paintbrush come from?" asked Bob, "Duh, I got it at John Painter's store," said Gerald. "Okay. You better get to work," said Bob. "Okay," said Gerald, and with a swish of his cape, he was off. "Finally! Some peace and quiet from that loudmouth!" said Bob. Then, just as he had planned, de quietly snuck away. Just then, Gerald flew through the window. "Which do you want? Baby blue, light blue, or dar...Bob? Bob? BOB?" Gerald screamed. "What? Wadda ya want? Can't you see I'm trying to sleep?!?!" asked Bob. "Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Did you say we were playing hide and seek?" asked Gerald. "Ear problem," muttered Bob. "What?" asked Gerald. "I said 'ear...no, I said Yeah," said Bob. "Okey dokey. I'll call my assistant," said Gerald. "Your what?" asked Bob. But before he could say the first word, Gerald was at the window. "Fweeoooeeet!" Gerald whistled. Someone tried to fly in through the window, but he ended up hitting his stomach on the windowpane. "Oof!" said Gerald's assistant. "Ouch," said Bob. "Assistant Bane, at your service," he said, and fell flat on his face. "Well, it looks like your little plan ailed! Ha, ha, ha! Bye!" But before Bob could run off to safety, Gerald grabbed Bob by the scruff of his neck and with a terrible jerk, Bob fell backwards and he fell flat on his back on Gerald. "Hi," Gerald said. "Gaahhhh...get off me!!!" shrieked Bob.

What does this child need to learn next?

Make sure the student has a plan for how the story will progress and end. Many third grade stories go on forever, lose their focus and then have abrupt endings. Teach the child how to storyboard his main events BEFORE he begins writing. Storyboards can be created by folding a piece of paper into sixths or eighths and then drawing a scene in each rectangular space. This writer loves to draw so the storyboard could be a comic strip-like plan before he begins to write. Storyboards also help students who tend to start off strong but then get writer's block and abandon their stories without finishing them. Here's a downloadable storyboard template (15K PDF) you can use.

As scenes are broken down, it may help to draw the writer's attention to specific scenes to see how much they contribute to the overall story line. Sometimes exuberant writers begin to tell every action with lots of detail and lose sight of the overall story.

It's clear this student enjoys writing and has a wonderful sense of humor. The author should be encouraged to continue writing, and share his work with classmates. Favorite stories could be "published" into books and added to the classroom library.

"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb