What are third, fourth, and fifth graders required to do in regard to this standard? The main standard for all three grades asks them to "write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly." Expectations, however, vary from grade to grade.
- Third Grade - When writing informative pieces, third graders are asked to write an introduction; "develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details;" group information logically and use linking words; write a conclusion; and include supporting illustrations.
- Fourth Grade - In fourth grade, students are expected to write an introduction; "develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations," etc; organize information in paragraphs and sections; use linking words and phrases; "include formatting (e.g. headings), illustrations, and multimedia;" employ precise/domain-specific vocabulary; and write a conclusion.
- Fifth Grade - Expectations for fifth grade are similar to fourth but also include "a general observation and focus" (which means thesis to me) and use of linking clauses.
When researching, even young children need to think about the reliability of the sources they choose. I like using the "C.A.R.S. Checklist for Evaluating Internet Sources," which originated at www.virtualsalt.com. It asks kids to look at credibility (C), accuracy (A), reasonableness (R), and support (S). Using this checklist helps kids find the most reliable information.
How should students organize this information? It seems that note cards have gone the way of the dodo bird. I, however, still see value in them. Since fourth graders tend to lose note cards, I began using note sheets like this:
I find it ironic that the Common Core insists upon citing and quoting when answering questions but makes no mention of it in the informational writing section. No matter, I ask my students to do it anyway. A simplified works cited protocol gets fourth graders started with the process. This gets them used to locating author, title, publisher, etc. in print and digital sources.
The examples above came from my "Animal Research Packet" ($5 at my Teachers pay Teachers store). I have also found that research writing is a great way to differentiate for high ability students. This free product provides some ideas for younger students:
Looking for resources and ideas for informative writing in your classroom? Here are a few additional sources:
"My Hometown" from K12Reader
"Rules of the Game" from K12 Reader
I'd love to hear your ideas and/or opinions about informative writing for middle grade students. Feel free to comment below.