How to Teach Third Graders How to Write an Essay
According to the California Department of Education, third-grade students should be able to write well-developed essays that clearly illustrate a main idea. Students this age should be familiar with both narration and description and use standard English conventions. Third-graders need to apply the writing process to essay assignments, so teachers should use those steps in instruction: pre-writing, rough draft, revision and editing/proofreading. Assignments should allow students to be creative within these conventions.
Pre-write. Start with a brainstorming activity focused on the assignment. For instance, if the paper needs to be a description, tell students to make a list of places that are meaningful to them along with a few words that illustrate the importance. Give an example. One line of a brainstorming sheet might look like this: "mountains: peaceful, relaxing, quiet."
Develop a thesis statement. The thesis statement is a single sentence that explains what the paper is about. Ask students to summarize their point in one sentence. Again, use an example, such as this: "One of my favorite places is a spot by the river in the mountains because it is peaceful and relaxing."
Write a rough draft. Develop the ideas that support the thesis with specific details. Third-graders should focus on one body paragraph at a time, creating a vivid picture and connecting the ideas clearly to the point: "The sounds of the area make it a good place to relax."
Add an introduction and conclusion. Essays should include introduction and conclusion paragraphs that are separate from the body paragraphs. Explain that the purpose of the introduction is to give the thesis but also get the reader's attention through something like a quote or statistic. The conclusion should summarize the ideas and emphasize the point. Practice introductions and conclusions by putting several thesis statements on the board and having students come up with samples of good beginnings and endings. The peaceful mountains essay might begin with an introduction focusing on the stresses of everyday life, for instance.
Share. Peer evaluations help students become better writers by using feedback from others. Give some guidelines regarding evaluations; students should look for a clear thesis, make certain the details support the main idea and see if the language and mechanics create reading difficulties.
Revise. Use the suggestions from peer review to restructure sentences and add or delete details.
Edit and proofread. Look for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. Remind students of grammar issues you have studied and how to find them in their writing. Reading aloud is a good strategy, and students who finish papers on a computer should run a spell check.