Teaching Informational Writing in 3rd Grade

Writing is not my favorite subject. And unfortunately, informational writing is a major ELA standard in 3rd grade. Now, at the end of the year, my entire class is worn out from testing and so ready for summer. But guess what... I still have to teach informational writing to these kids! Mix in some student behavior that is less than stellar and UGH! I just didn't know what to do!

But then I took the drastic measure of canceling my reading centers. That's right... I canceled them. No more centers!

So, what have these third graders been doing for an hour every day during our reading block? Learning how to research and write! Wow, that sounds boring. But check out some of their finished work and you tell me, does this look boring?

These are the students' self-published "Time For Kids" magazines. After using TFK in our guided reading groups for awhile, I decided to use them as a way to get the kids writing - informational writing, that is.

First, we brainstormed ideas for topics and created a "topic menu". They came up with things like the San Francisco earthquake, the Titanic, Pompeii, the New York Yankees, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Apollo Space Mission. They were all VERY excited to contribute to the menu.

Then we closely analyzed TFK to figure out what makes it so interesting.

The kids noticed that the paragraphs were short with text features to go with them. They saw that there were a lot of super interesting facts and that each section had its own heading. They pointed out the colorful illustrations and interactive features like links to videos. We decided it would be a good idea to use index cards for each paragraph or sub-topic.

Next, we talked about how to conduct research including how to paraphrase, how to cite your source (which we've been working on for awhile), and how to take notes. I also made a list of acceptable websites that they could use for their research.

Finally, they were ready to go and boy, did they dive right in!

Most of them chose to partner up for their first topic. They spent several days researching with some of them asking to visit the media center to find even more information.

During reading groups, I looked over what they had done so far and offered guidance as needed. Some things they had trouble with at first were writing good headings for each paragraph and forgetting topic sentences.

After our first round of TFK publishing, the kids decided they wanted to do more, so they all chose a new topic! Some decided to work on their own because they were excited to research something specific. It was great seeing them so absorbed in their writing. Most of them spent a full week doing research and another week writing, illustrating, and editing.

Their hard work really paid off! Take a look at some of these finished pieces of informational writing...

Even some of my very reluctant writers (mostly boys) produced some amazing work. Now that the school year is coming to an end, I wish we had more time for projects like these. But hey, I'm still ready for summer to start!


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