Angela Allen

Teaching Strategies for Young Writers

Here are some ideas to help third-graders in sentence fluency, writing and working with prompts. The ideas are matched to the state requirements for third-grade language arts proficiency. Other grades can use some version of these ideas. I teach through Wordstock, Right Brain Initiative and Writers in the Schools, sponsored by Literary Arts in Portland, Ore.

What they’ll learn: Sentence fluency; new words and how to fit them into sentences and deduce meanings; writing a small story with a point and understanding the point (thesis); descriptive writing; synonyms and antonyms; imagery; nouns and verbs and how they work together freshly.

Draw Hands:  Everyone traces his or her hand and puts it in an envelope, takes it home. They can decorate it in any way that describes themselves. Students return the hands to the teacher. Don’t show to anyone! Everyone gets someone else’s hand.

Here’s where the writing comes in: Students describe what the person is like by clues the drawing gives, in complete sentences. Students descriptions’  may be funny but not mean!

Students will read what they wrote and person whose hand they have will identify himself/herself. This is a very fun and engaging exercise; use of imagination and deduction from subtle clues.

Noun and verb exercise: Take nouns and verbs written on the board and have students make 10 sentences that make sense. Students and teachers choose the nouns and verbs together.

Sentence exercise about yourself: I am, I was, I will be. Have students write about themselves in different tenses.

This will include: I like, I liked, I will like, etc. If teacher has time, add self-portraits (can use a photograph), copy on construction paper, and hang up.

New words: Use five new words. Teacher will write 10 sentences on the board with new words in them. Talk about the meanings of the words.   Students write five sentences that use five of the new words. (Students may use more new words, of course, but the sentences must make sense!)

Story with a point: Students write a five- to 10-sentence story with an important point in it (many prompts for this to get kids started). Work for 15 minutes.  They read it to a partner and then switch stories. Each writes the point on their partner’s paper. What is your partner trying to say?

Postcards and descriptive writing: Use postcard that a teacher hands out to write a very short story about the picture. Complete sentences. Describe things. How do things look, smell, taste?  Use a beginning, middle, end to convey ideas/story.  Paste the descriptions to the postcard and hang up, or write on them and send them.

Synonyms and antonyms: Have students think of something they love to eat. Write down words to describe it. Think of something they don’t like to eat: Write down words to describe it.

Students see if you have antonyms. If not, make as many as you can (at least three) from your descriptions. Use the dictionary or thesaurus if you want.

Colors and imagery: Have students choose two colors and make two lists. How does each color make you feel?  What do they taste like? Smell like? What emotions do you have when you think of them? What stuff do you have that is their color? What people do you know who remind you of this color? Then choose a third color. How? Teacher goes around the room and lets students choose a color from her/his hand (students can’t see the color; a color word will be written on a slip of paper). Then students add that color to their list and think of things to go with it, as they did with the other two colors.

Teacher will create another nouns list on the board. Students write a poem, or sentences using the nouns and color words, from one of the lists.

Later, you can talk about things that have three colors (flags, apples, etc.). Have students choose one of those things to write about.