Language Arts

Your Fourth-Grader and Writing
In fourth grade your child uses the writing process to write different types of writing for a variety of purposes and audiences.
In Your Child's Classroom Writing for a purpose In fourth grade, writing is incorporated across the subject areas. Fourth-graders write daily for different purposes and audiences — research papers, summary statements, poetry, legends, word problems, essays, responses to literature and more.
Your child will work to master such specific skills as responding to a prompt, adding details and elaboration, and using age-appropriate vocabulary when she writes. She will practice writing conventions, including punctuation marks, paragraphing and verb tenses. She will use these skills as she begins to write dialogues, explanations and comparisons at the beginner's level.
Different types of writing fourth-graders learn:
  • Descriptive writing that creates a clear and vivid picture of a person, place or thing
  • Expository nonfiction writing that explains an event, concept or idea using facts and examples
  • Narrative writing about an event in a personal way
  • Persuasive writing that encourages an audience to share the writer's beliefs, opinions or point of view
The writing process Your fourth-grader continues to expand upon what he learned in earlier grades about the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. He recognizes that writing is more than putting words on paper and understands that writing is not just an end product but a complex process of communication that involves many steps.
Wendy Miller, our teacher consultant and North Carolina's 2006 Teacher of the Year, explains: "Fourth-graders begin to understand the benefits of the writing process, such as organizing their ideas and using their time wisely. Writing using a process also leads to more thoughtful and accomplished work. By viewing writing as a multistage process, fourth-graders understand that the paper is the product and writing is the process."
  • Prewriting This is the first stage of the writing process in which the writer gathers information. Prewriting activities may include filling out a graphic organizer, such as a cluster map of his thoughts or a Venn diagram comparing two ideas, a drawing, free writing or brainstorming. During this stage, the writer should be thinking of whom he is writing for or the target audience. The writer should be sure the writing and the audience is a good "fit."
  • Drafting The writer then develops his topic on paper or the computer. At this stage the focus is on the content of the writing and not the mechanics. The writer begins to organize his thoughts and develop the structure of the paper. He begins to think about the "hook" that will engage the reader and develops a conclusion that ties everything together.
  • Revising Next the writer makes changes to the draft to improve the writing and make it clear. This may include additions or deletions, changes in the sentence structure or organization. At this stage it is helpful to have input from a peer or the teacher.
  • Editing In the editing stage the writer pays attention to mechanics such as spelling, punctuation, grammar and handwriting. It is helpful to have a peer or teacher edit the work.
  • Publishing The final draft is then shared with the desired audience, such as classmates or parents. Miller explains: "Publishing is an important part of the writing process because it helps the writer interact with the reader through a finished document. Students understand that this is 'my writing at its best.' This helps the student transform her thinking from a writer to an author. It is important for students to share their work with others and reflect on their reactions in order to improve future writing."
Writers' Workshop Writers' Workshop is a common teaching technique in which your child may learn about the writing process. Through mini-lessons, individual conferences and teacher modeling, students learn the conventions and mechanics of writing, and different types of writing, such as a compare and contrast essay.
Six Trait Writing Model The Six Trait Writing Model is used to teach writing and is often used in conjunction with Writers' Workshop. It breaks down writing performance into a manageable group of teachable and assessable skills. This model focuses on the following six traits seen in outstanding written works: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, fluency and mechanics (the use of grammar, sentence structure, capitalization and punctuation).
To learn more about the Six Trait Writing Model check out this Web site from the Edina school district in Minnesota, that includes rubrics and a description of each writing trait:
Writing portfolio Your fourth-grader may keep a writing portfolio, which is a collection of her writing that she has selected throughout the year. The portfolio is used to assess progress in writing. Pieces that she selects to include should show good use of planning, drafting, revising and editing.
Journal Writing Daily journal writing is a common practice in many fourth-grade classrooms. Writing in a journal allows the students to write, and not worry about grammar and mechanics. The teacher may use writing prompts to help students get started or have students do stream-of-consciousness writing in which they write a continuous flow of their ideas without punctuation or grammar. Journal writing may also be used across subject areas, such as writing about an experiment in a science journal.
Writing mechanics Writing mechanics — the use of grammar, sentence structure, capitalization and punctuation may be taught both in the context of the students' writing as well as in individual lessons. Throughout the year, fourth-graders work on developing sentence, paragraph and story structure. Your child learns how to write a five-paragraph essay, and paragraphs with topic and concluding sentences. She learns that there are different types of sentences such as declarative, imperative, exclamatory and interrogative, and learns when to use them in her writing.
Spelling words In fourth grade your child is expected to spell words correctly in final drafts. It is common to have weekly spelling lists that the class will be tested on. These lists may be from a prescribed spelling program or chosen by the teacher. The words may be the most frequently written words such as yesterday and would, or words that have similar spelling rules or patterns. Words misspelled in students' writing, words related to content areas and words in literature the class is reading may also be included on the weekly spelling lists. By fourth grade your child should have transitioned from invented spelling — representing sounds with letters — to conventional spelling.
If your child does not know the correct spelling of a word used in his writing, he is expected to look it up in a dictionary, word wall, electronic spell checker, or online dictionary.
Testing Many states have standardized writing tests in fourth grade. The tests typically consist of questions about writing mechanics such as capitalization, punctuation and grammar, and a timed exercise in which students write an essay responding to a writing prompt. Students may also be asked to write summary statements about passages.
. Included are scoring guides and student writing samples. To see if your state releases their test questions, search your state Department of Education online.
By the end of fourth grade you can expect your child to:
  • Write a summary that contains the main idea and supporting details
  • Write clearly and effectively including using transitional sentences and a theme throughout his writing
  • Write a structured paragraph with an introductory topic sentence, three supporting details and a closing sentence that wraps up the main idea of the paragraph.
  • Write a five-paragraph paper
  • Use pronouns to refer to proper nouns
  • Use apostrophes in contractions
  • Spell words with suffixes such as words with the endings -ed, -ing and -tion
  • Spell words with prefixes such as ex-, in- and un-
  • Spell homonyms within the context of sentences such as, bank (embankment) and bank (place where money is kept)
  • Spell homophones within the context of sentences such as, sea and see; one and won; or blew and blue
  • Spell vocabulary words that are commonly used in class such as microscope
  • Write legibly in cursive
  • Use a computer as a writing tool