By GreatSchools Staff
Fourth graders use writing in almost all of the subjects they study — they'll use their writing skills to tackle research papers, poems, word problems, essays, book reviews, and other academic tasks.
Students should start to refine specific writing skills, learning how to respond to prompts, use details, and master age-appropriate vocabulary words. Kids also need time to practice the conventions of writing, which include punctuation marks, paragraph structure, and verb tenses. Children rely on these conventions as their writing abilities improve.
Fourth graders will learn about the following styles of writing:
Fourth graders continue to learn the lessons about writing they began in earlier grades, with a special focus on a writing process that includes prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Students should recognize that writing is more than just putting words down on paper. Instead of seeing just an end product, kids should see writing as an act of communication that involves a lengthy process.
Wendy Miller, a former North Carolina Teacher of the Year, stresses the importance of that process. “Writing using a process leads to more thoughtful and accomplished work,” says Miller.
Fourth grade teachers should cover these steps:
Fourth-grade teachers use many techniques to reinforce lessons about writing.
Writers’ workshop is a technique that uses story planning, peer conferencing, revision, and teacher editing to help students become more comfortable with the writing process. Ideally, students learn about the conventions and mechanics of writing, while becoming better writers’ themselves.
The “six-trait writing model” is used to teach writing and is often used in conjunction with workshop. The six-trait model breaks down writing into a manageable group of teachable and measurable skills. It focuses on six traits considered essential to good writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and mechanics (grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation, etc.).
For more on the six-trait model, this website from Minnesota’s Edina Public Schools includes rubrics as well as a description of each trait.
Many fourth graders keep a portfolio of their writing, a collection of written work selected from the year’s assignments. A portfolio can be used to assess a student’s progress in writing. Pieces students select to include show good use of planning, drafting, revising, and editing.
Daily journal writing is common in many fourth-grade classrooms. Writing in a journal allows students to write and not worry about grammar and mechanics. Teachers can use writing prompts to help students get started or ask students to do stream-of-consciousness writing in which they write a continuous flow of their ideas without punctuation or grammar. Journals can be used in subjects as diverse as social studies (notes) and science (a lab write-up).
Mechanics, which includes the use of grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation is taught both in the context of student’s own writing and in individual lessons. Throughout the year, fourth-graders work on learning about sentence, paragraph, and story structure. Your child should learn how to write a five paragraph essay and paragraphs that have topic and concluding sentences. Students learn how to identify and use several different types of sentences — declarative, imperative, exclamatory, and interrogative.
In final drafts, students should spell words correctly. It’s common to have weekly spelling lists that students will be tested on. The lists often consist of frequently used words or words with similar spelling rules or patterns. Teachers also include words commonly misspelled in student work. By fourth grade, your child should have moved from invented spelling to conventional spelling.
When children don't know the correct spelling of a particular word, they should be able to look it up using a dictionary, word wall, electronic spell checker, or online dictionary.
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.
Here are examples of writing prompts and writing questions from the 2005 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. Included are scoring guides and student writing samples. To see if your state releases their test questions, search your state Department of Education online.
Updated May 2010