Your children are about to begin a writing unit on informational (or explanatory) writing, writing that is designed to examine a topic and convey information and ideas clearly. Informational writing is apt to be categories and subcategories: topics and subtopics that are signaled with headings and subheadings and with accompanying portals for information, including glossaries, text boxes, sidebars, diagrams, charts, graphs, and other visuals. Your third graders have had some experience with informational writing (and reading) already and most will be ready for you to help them begin to become more sophisticated in this work.
The fundamental thing to remember about informational writing is that it aims to teach readers about a topic. It’s the kind of writing that your kids have encountered in much of their nonfiction reading, such as the DK Readers, the Gail Gibbons and Seymour Simon books, the articles in National Geographic, and social studies and science texts, which is why we will be integrating social studies and writing this month. Your child has started to become familiar with continents and countries around the world. They will eventually choose a specific country they are interested in researching more closely. (They will not be expected to do any of this research at home, unless they want to.) Our previous work on non-fiction texts as readers will really support us in our writing this month.
After the research process is over and they feel that they are experts in on a topic, they will create an information article about that topic. We will continue to use the writing process to help us move through our non-fiction pieces. They will begin by brainstorming ideas they are interested in writing about. Over time they will refine these ideas into topics and subtopics, learning that rehearsal, planning and drafting are critical in determining what works best for their particular topic. During our planning phase, they will learn how to organize and plan chapters and that within each chapter they will need to go through the entire writing process. We will also be discussing the importance of topic, transition and conclusion sentences. During the revision stage, they will learn how to incorporate diagrams, photos, graphs, etc that support what they have written. While editing, they will be reminded to continue to use the strategies we have used in the past, emphasizing the importance of clarity because a reader will be learning from what we wrote.
To support the work will be doing at school at home, discuss non-fiction text features in texts at home that support your understanding as the reader. Look at interesting titles and subheadings. Discuss why the author decided to go with those particular headings. Ask for alternative titles or subheading names. It is important to encourage your children to look at a text not only as a reader, but also as a writer.
Happy New Year,