In third grade, the focus of writing instruction shifts from the creation of mechanically correct sentences to the production of complete paragraphs with a single topic. By the end of third grade, students will have moved on to writing multiple-paragraph compositions with connections between the ideas. A complete and detailed descriptive paragraph is one of the building blocks of future writing development. Students need teachers to model good descriptive writing, and then they will be ready to gradually take responsibility for their descriptive writing.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- To write a descriptive paragraph in the third grade, you will need the following:
- Interesting objects
- Interesting pictures
- Graphic organisers
- Lined chart paper
- Writing paper
Model how to write a descriptive paragraph. Choose an object to write about and display it near your writing area. Think out loud as you compose a topic sentence describing what the object is, such as: "There is a pineapple on the table." In the following sentences, invite students to describe what the object looks like. If they give a simple sentence like, "It has leaves," encourage them to expand and describe what kind of leaves. Ask them to use words for colour, shape, size and texture. Display the paragraph on an easel or wall in the writing area.
Brainstorm descriptive words to describe colour, size, texture and shape. Have the students write words on index cards or post-it notes and then group them under those headings. You may want to dramatically ban words, such as "big" and "good," because they tend to be overused. Kids really respond to an over-the-top explanation for giving up these weaker adjectives.
Give students an object to write about. Leave the students' descriptive language word bank available for students who need ideas. Encourage them to touch and discuss the object and prepare to write about it.
Teach children to use a graphic organiser for a "hamburger paragraph" or other paragraph outline. This should include notations for a topic sentence, details, and a concluding sentence. You may have to teach several options for a concluding sentence, because this tends to be an area of difficulty for many students. Some choices are ending with an opinion, or by describing what the object is used for.
Edit paragraphs to improve descriptive language. Either remove the names from some student paragraphs, or provide some teacher-written paragraphs. Give out copies of the paragraphs or put them up on the overhead projector, and have students identify the descriptive language used and make suggestions about where more descriptive language can be used. Remind them that the purpose of descriptive language is to make your writing clearer and more interesting.
Have students write a paragraph describing an object, but leave out the name of the object. These paragraphs will serve as riddles for other students to solve. Have students read the paragraphs, independently or in groups, and guess what objects they are describing. This activity reinforces the importance of describing objects clearly, so that your reader understands everything.
Tips and warnings
- Bring in unusual objects for students to describe, including things they do not know the name of, to encourage them to rely on description.
- Assist children with their descriptions for the guessing game, to make sure that the riddles are not too difficult for peers to solve.
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