This year, consider the writing bar officially raised. Your child’s stories will amaze you, showing character development and dialogue. Your child’s opinion pieces and informational writing will be more organized and thorough. With this blossoming of writing prowess, your child will be using more sophisticated language, improved grammar, and overall heightened mastery of the form from beginning to end.
Building 3rd grade study skills
Under the Common Core Standards, third graders are expected to use books, websites, and other digital sources (think electronic newspaper records at the library) to do research projects and to build knowledge about different topics — both on their own and as part of group work with their peers. But there’s a new, research-based twist this year: taking notes. Third graders need to start writing down what they learn from each source they use, keeping track of the source name and page so they are able to find it again, and then practice sorting any evidence they find into relevant categories that, at this stage, the teacher will likely determine.
3rd grade opinion pieces
Of course your child has an opinion — and here’s how she learns to share it in writing! Opinion pieces will likely start with your child reading a couple of books and responding to what she’s learned. Your child should start her opinion piece by clearly introducing her topic, stating her opinion, and then giving multiple reasons to support her opinion. She should practice using linking words (e.g. because, therefore, since, for example) to connect her reasons to her opinion, and then end her writing with a conclusion.
3rd grade informative writing
The purpose of informative writing is to convey facts and ideas clearly. After introducing his topic, your child should group related information into a few clear, well thought-out points. He should develop these points using facts, definitions, and details and using linking words (e.g. also, another, and, more, but) to connect his ideas within each point. Your child can also include illustrations when they may help make or clarify a point. Finally, he should end his work with a concluding sentence or two.
Can your third grader write an informational essay?
3rd grade narrative writing
Narrative is just a fancy word for story — and this year your child’s stories will be much more interesting and complex. Using a narrator, characters, dialogue, and descriptive details, your third grader’s writing should show a story unfolding — including how the characters feel and respond to what happens. The sequence of events should be clear thanks to careful use of descriptive words, sentence order, verb tense, and temporal words (e.g. after, following, later). Be sure not to let your child’s story simply stop by writing “The End”. Instead, the story should read like it’s coming to a close.
Check out this related worksheet:
• How to write a story
What’s a “range of writing”?
Third grade is the first year that a new writing standard — called simply “a range of writing” — is introduced in the Common Core Standards. It’s part of the effort to get students writing more — and more often. Your child’s assignments will vary, but you can expect a series of short sit-and-write assignments, as well as longer projects that span weeks or months, giving students the chance to reflect and revise their work over time.
bttr, better, best!
Expect to see your child spending more time writing this year, whether he’s in the planning, writing, revising, or editing phase. While planning, your child may read or reread books on the topic, discuss his ideas aloud, brainstorm ideas, gather and organize information visually, jot down notes about the points he’ll make, and start to think about the structure of the piece. Once a first draft is in, the teacher or other students will go over it with your child. They’ll ask questions and suggest details or facts that could be added, clarified, or improved. Do your child’s word choices convey what he means? Is there an introduction and a conclusion? Are the story’s events in order? Using all these questions and suggestions as guidance, your child will do a revision, adding to, reordering, and refining the content. After one or more revisions, the teacher might help your child with the final edit — focusing on spelling and grammar, capitalizing proper nouns, ensuring nouns and verbs are in agreement, and checking that periods, commas, and quotation marks are used correctly. Following these steps — planning, writing a first draft, revising their work, and editing the final piece — teaches third graders that gathering information, organizing their thoughts, strengthening and clarifying their ideas, and improving grammar and presentation are all key to quality writing.
See what third grade writing looks like
A red-letter year for grammar!
Is your memory of grammar rules a little rusty? You may want to review the parts of speech so you can keep up with your third grader. Under the Common Core Standards, this year your child will learn the functions of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs — and what role they play in a sentence. By year’s end, your child should be using regular and irregular plural nouns (e.g. president/presidents and child/children), abstract nouns (e.g. childhood), and regular and irregular verbs in simple past, present, and future tense (e.g. stopped/stop/will stop and knew/know/will know) — all while ensuring subject-verb agreement (e.g. I know/he knows) and pronoun-antecedent agreement (e.g. The students put on their jackets.) Your child should also use comparative adjectives and adverbs (e.g. big/bigger/biggest and quickly/quicker/quickest) and choose between them based on whether they’re modifying nouns (adjectives) or verbs (adverbs). In writing compound and complex sentences, your child will use conjunctions that show connection (e.g. and, or, but) and dependence (e.g. if, when, because).
Check out this related worksheet:
• Big, bigger, biggest
• Verb machine!
• 3rd grade spelling list #15: irregular plural nouns
Perfecting spelling and punctuation
Armed with phonetic awareness and more refined storytelling skills, third graders should use what they know about spelling patterns to spell new words as accurately as possible. And when they don’t know? Time to check the dictionary!
But this year’s not just about spelling. Third graders should use increasingly precise words. This means honing word-sense skills like understanding root words (e.g. knowing that add is the root of addition and additional), choosing among synonyms for the right word (e.g. knew, believed, suspected, heard, wondered), and using words to signal timing (e.g. after, then, later). With all this focus on word nuance, your child may need a thesaurus handy. When making their final edits, third graders should capitalize words in titles, use commas and quotation marks for quotes and their characters’ dialogues, and add apostrophes to form possessives. They’ll also take the next step in writing letters: mastering the fine art of addressing envelopes (e.g. 1461 Chestnut St., Apt. 303, Gloucester, MA).
Check out these related worksheets:
• 3rd grade weekly spelling lists
• Prefix practice
• Addressing letters
• Writing practice: alternatives to “said”
And it’s live!
Under the Common Core Standards, when the research is done — and the planning, writing, revisions, and edits are complete — the final step for some of your third grader’s writing is to publish the work. The format is open — printing or electronic publishing on a blog, website, or even an app — but the standards clearly state that your third grader should have some keyboarding skills by the end of the year. It’s a new level of independence and tech savvy-ness. And while adults should be there to help out, your child should become comfortable taking the lead.
What about the big H?
Despite what you may have heard, the Common Core Standards didn’t do away with handwriting — but neither did they spell out specific benchmarks. Nevertheless, your child still needs to know how to write legibly — and that means penmanship matters. Traditionally, third grade is when students learn cursive, so it’s a great idea to ask the teacher whether or not they’ll be learning cursive in class. If not — and if it’s a skill you want your child to have — then you may want to work on this craft with your child at home. One thing the standards spell out quite clearly for third graders? Learning some keyboarding skills so they can help produce and publish their work. Though the teacher can and should still lead this process, this year your child should be able to do some typing, too.
Updated November 2013 to align with the Common Core Standards
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These 3rd-grade writing prompts (or third grade essay topics) are written for students in grade three. They are free to use under a Creative Commons License.
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- Imagine you and your parents have stopped off at the service station for petrol. You go in for some sweets and when you come out, they have driven off. Write about what happens next.
- If you could eat anything you liked, what would you have for breakfast and what would you have for dinner tomorrow? Remember, you can have anything!
- What would be the best thing about being sent 100 years into the future?
- How would you feel if another child (your age) moved into your home?
- What do you most like about yourself?
- If you could invent a new subject to study at school, what would it be?
- Think about the best holiday you ever had. Really think, close your eyes if you need to. Now tell me what was the reason it was so good?
- Write about someone having to face up to their biggest fear.
- If you could have your double as a friend, describe what pranks you could play on people.
- You can be any age for one day only. What age would you like to be and what would you do?
- If you and your best friend had the whole of your school to yourself for the day, what would you do?
- If your house was on fire and you could save only one possession, what would you choose and why?
- If your mum was describing you to her friend, what would she say?
- Describe a day in the life of your pet. If you don't have a pet, invent one and do not forget to give it a name!
- If a child were president, what changes would he/she make for the nation's children? Give me some new laws!
- Tell me about a time when you have been very, very embarrassed.
- Imagine a boy called Simon Sneaky grinning from his hiding place as he watched his teacher getting on a bicycle. This should be really funny, he thought. Write about what happens next.
- Pretend your Grandpa has told you not to use his special shampoo, but you did. Write about what terrible things might happen to your hair!
- Re-write the story of Snow White, but make her very wicked rather than good.
- Think of something you do not like doing now, but might like when you are grown up.
- Describe someone you know who is very different from you.
- Tell me about something near where you live which is no longer there. Do you miss it?
- Ask your parents to tell you about something that happened to you as a baby. The write the story as though you can remember it using 'I'. For example â€“ 'I remember sitting in my cot one day when a big dog came in.'
- Describe your favourite place to eat out and what you like to order.
- Imagine a relation you'd never met before was coming to stay at your house for a whole year. This person is the same age as you but has never even been to your country. Now write an imaginary letter telling them what to expect. You might want to include details about your home, the area you live in, etc. Try to re-assure them that they will like living with your family.
- Tell me five things about your home town (or nearest town) that would have been very different one hundred years ago.
- Pretend your local newspaper has asked you to write about your favourite hobby. Write an article that would really make other people want to do what you do.
- Describe something really strange and weird that might take place in your neighbourhood whilst everyone is asleep.
- Imagine there is one dinosaur still alive, it has been hiding out of sight all these years and now asks you for help. Describe what happens next.
- Imagine if you started growing half a metre every day! Describe what might happen.
- If the sky fell down, what would you see underneath?
- Imagine you have had to wear a huge, furry coat all day in the baking hot sun. Now, using all your senses, describe what it would be like to take that coat off and walk into the sea.
- Describe a fun thing you do as a family.
- Tell me about a time when you were really scared, but everything turned out fine in the end.
- If one of your friends did something you thought was really wrong, what would you do?
- If babies could think and talk just like adults, what might they say?
- If you could rummage around in the US president's garbage, write about what interesting things you might find!
- What animal would you most like to be and why?
- Describe something you find really easy to learn and then something you find really difficult. Why are some things just so much easier than others?
- Have you ever been awake when everyone else in your house is asleep? Write about what it was like.
- Do you have any phobias? For example, some people really hate spiders.
- If they ever made a film about you, which actor would you like to play the part of you and why?
- Describe a time when you have been lost.
- Imagine an adult goes to sleep and wakes up in the body of a five year old. Write about what happens to him at school.
- Imagine you are on a rocket that has just blasted off the launch pad. Tell me what you can see out of the window.
- Imagine Fred is a naughty basset hound who cannot stop stealing sweets. Write about what happens to him.
- Write about what would be your least favourite imaginable job.
- Imagine a really spooky man, in a tall hat, who never speaks. As he goes into his big mansion you see he has dropped his grocery receipt. Describe what items are on it.
- You rescue a really strict genie from a bottle, who grants you one wish, as long as it is something he approves of. What would you ask for?
- If you could temporarily turn into a grown to help you do something, when might you do it?