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. The writing management tool we use here in fourth
grade is The Collins Writing Program presents a model for writing-across-thecurriculum
and writing to learn. Founder Dr. John Collins draws from extensive
research and twenty years experience working with teachers and students to
create a practical program that requires students to engage in curriculum content
as they improve writing, thinking, listening, and speaking skills. In this method
students use a specific type of formatted paper for each of the five types of
writing. The five types are , Type One – to capture ideas, Type Two – to respond
to prompts correctly, Type Three – self editing for FCA’s (focus correction areas),
Type Four – peer editing for FCA’s, and Type Five – publishing.
In Your Child's Classroom: Writing for a purpose
In fourth grade, writing is incorporated across the subject areas. Fourthgraders
write daily for different purposes and audiences — research papers, summary
statements, poetry, legends, word problems, essays, responses to literature and more.
Some of this writing will take place at home for specific assignments; such as Book
Projects and Immigration Journals.
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.
Some of the 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
● 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. 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
● 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. Students will self edit for the FCA’s (focus correction areas). The teacher will
pick the FCA’s – some for the whole class to work on and others more individualized.
You may see a writer’s paper with just the FCA’s corrected and all the other
convention mistakes ignored. This helps students focus their attention on a specific
skill and not become overwhelmed with all the mechanics involved in writing.
● Publishing The final draft is then shared with the desired audience, such as
classmates or parents. 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). The MCAS composition test is scored on this model.
Six Traits of Writing
Writing portfolio Your fourth-grader will 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. This portfolio will follow them into middle school. One
important reason students have portfolios is so they can return to previous writing and
learn revision skills. This is an important component of the Collins© writing method that
is used throughout our school.
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 when allowed,
or an online dictionary.
Testing Many states, including Massachusetts, 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. Go to the Massachusetts Department of Education at http://
www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/ for more information on this test.
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
Parts of this document have been taken from Miriam Myers, www.GreatSchools.net