• A Parent’s Guide to 4th Grade Writing


    4th Grade is the first year students begin to differentiate between a variety of writing purposes and compositions. In addition, we are moving toward a different classification system that aligns with our new Common Core State Standards. Some of the terms may be unfamiliar to you, so hopefully this guide will help you and your child when working on writing assignments at home.  Types of writing will be described and then a sample will be provided.  As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact me 736-4626 or lcarlin@cnusd.k12.ca.us

                                                                                                                                   -Mrs. Carlin


    The three Common Core categories are Informational/Explanatory, Opinion, and Narrative.  Within each of these categories, there are a variety of writing structures.


    Informational/Explanatory includes the following types:

    1.  Summary
    • A summary is a single paragraph with 5-12 sentences.
    • A summary begins with an IVF – Identify it, Verb it, Finish your thought – Topic sentence
    • Transition words are used to move the reader through in a sensible order.
    • A summary can end with a conclusion, but it does not need to.

    Example of IVF:

    Identify                                                    Verb                                      Finish Thought                                                            

    The tale of                                               

    Three Little Pigs                                      describes                               a family of pigs who try to escape a wolf.                                                            

    Sample Summary:

           The tale of Three Little Pigs describes a family of pigs who try to escape a wolf.  First, the three pigs move out, on their own, and build houses.  One house is built of straw, one of sticks, and one of bricks.  After they build their houses, the pigs get visited by a wolf who wants to eat them.  The wolf blows down the straw house.  The first pig runs to the stick house to escape.  The wolf blows down the stick house.  Those two pigs run to their brother’s brick house.  The wolf tries to blow down the brick house, but can’t.  Next, he tries to come down the chimney.  At the end, he ends up getting burned in boiling water when he comes down the chimney. He runs away never to be seen again.
     2 - Informational Paragraph
    • These paragraphs give basic information about a topic.
    • Information should be presented in a clear, sensible manner.
    • Transitions and a conclusion should be used as appropriate.
    Sample Informational Paragraph: 
           In fourth grade, there are many rules to follow.  First, students must be sure that they are being active listeners and active learners.  This means that they need to make sure they are focused on the curriculum being taught, and are actively asking questions, clarifying their understanding, and completing tasks in a timely manner.  In addition, students need to be responsible for their own learning and behavior.  For example, if an assignment is given, a student should get started promptly without wasting time talking to friends about unrelated topics.  If the student happens to get in trouble for doing something like that, they need to own up to what they were doing rather than try to blame someone else for their own choices or behavior.  Respect is also a big rule in fourth grade.  Respect has to do with how we treat each other, the teacher, and the property at school.  If someone is talking, we show respect by listening rather than interrupting.  This applies to both the teacher and fellow classmates.  In order to be respectful of materials, we need to ask permission prior to using something that doesn't belong to us.  If we are allowed to borrow something, we need to take good care of it, and return it in a timely manner.  When everyone follows the rules, the classroom can run smoothly and orderly.  This type of environment helps everyone to work to the best of their abilities.

    3. Report of Information    

    • This is a multi-paragraph essay that includes an introduction, conclusion and multiple body paragraphs. 
    • These are often used for science or social studies in the classroom.

    Sample Report of Information:

              Some of the changes that take place on earth are slow, and occur over time, while others are fast changes. Three of the fast changes that can take place on earth are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides.

              Earthquakes take place along fault lines.  Deep within the earth’s surface movement occurs.  This movement follows a fault line to the surface of the earth and causes sudden shaking.  This event is usually over within a couple minutes, but it can continue longer in some cases.  The strength of an earthquake is measured on a Richter scale.  The higher the number, the stronger the movement we feel. Higher numbers usually lead to more damage.

              Another type of fast change is a volcanic eruption.  Volcanoes are kind of like openings down into the core of the earth.  When pressure builds up deep inside the earth, it pushes up the volcano and can create an eruption.  Sometimes volcanoes can be inactive for many years and then erupt suddenly.  Eruptions cause lava to spill out, and run down the surface of the outside of the mountain.  This lava can burn and destroy things in its path. Like earthquakes, the amount of damage caused by an eruption can be small or large.

              A third type of fast change is a landslide.  These take place when areas of land suddenly shift and move down hill.  These often happen along mountains or cliffs.  Over time the land soaks up water or moisture.  At some point, the land gives way and starts to head downhill.  Landslides often occur after a lot of precipitation, when the soil can absorb no more. It is like an avalanche, but with land instead of snow.  Communities downhill from a landslide can be destroyed. The moving land can be very strong.

              Earth is always changing.  The world we live in now will not match the world see twenty years in the future. These fast changes are partially responsible for this effect.

    Opinion Pieces can include the following types of writing: 
    1. Opinion Paragraph 
    • These are single paragraphs that state then support an opinion
    • Transitions and conclusion statement are used as appropriate
    • Information should be presented in a clear/organized manner 
    Sample Opinion Paragraph:
          Many people in the world love dogs, however, I personally prefer cats.  One reason I would rather have a cat as a pet than a dog is because they tend to be calmer and more independent overall.  I do not like to wake up in the morning, so the fact that a cat wakes you up with gentle nudging or meowing is more peaceful to me.  Many dogs tend to wake up in a hyper mood.  In addition, I travel a lot.  Because of this, a pet that doesn't need to be walked, let outside to go to the bathroom or exercised too much works better for me.  If I am out of town for the weekend, I can keep my cat in the apartment with a bowl of water and food, and it will be fine when I return.  A dog would not do as well under those circumstances.  Finally, large dogs scare me.  I had a bad experience and was bit when I was little.  Even though I am grown now, I still get a little edgy around big dogs.  Cats have never frightened me, and even the biggest cat is small compared to some dogs.  For those reasons, I like cats over dogs. 

    2. Response to Literature

    •  A Response to Literature is supposed to show a “deep” level of thought has taken place about a piece that students read. (Think of this as a summary plus more-somewhat of a summary must be included to make the understanding clear, but students must go beyond that to demonstrate their understanding).
    • These are abstract and can be difficult for students to write.    
    • Students need to identify a theme or message they think the piece intended to teach – patience, responsibility, love, perseverance, friendship, etc. 
    • Students can demonstrate their “deep” level of understanding by connecting the story to another book they have read, themselves, or to the world. 
    • Connections should be subtle, NOT “This connects to me because……”
    • Students should use text evidence to support their opinions about the choice of theme.
    • These essays should include an introduction paragraph, multiple body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.


    Sample Response to Literature:

          Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco tells the story of a girl and her friends who work hard to get something they really want. Several examples of friendship are shown as the kids try to earn money to buy Eula Mae Walker a hat to wear for Easter
          The main character, Trisha, is good friends with her neighbors Stewart and Winston.  The boys live with their grandma, Eula Mae.  Trisha feels like Eula Mae is her grandma too because she is included in many of the family’s activities.  Trisha goes to church with the family and gets to eat chicken dinners with them after church.  On the way home from church, Eula Mae always stops to look at hats in a shop.  The kids decide to try to earn money to buy her one. 
            The kids encounter some troubles when they try to raise the money for the hat.  The owner of the hat shop mistakenly blames them for throwing eggs at his shop.  The owner even tells Eula Mae on them, and they get in trouble.  Instead of giving up, like most kids would do, they get even more determined to succeed.  They decide to make some decorated Pysanky eggs as a gift for the store owner.  They have to be brave to face him.  He appreciates their gesture and says they have “chutzpah”.  He ends up serving them tea and cakes, and they eventually become good friends. He sells the eggs in his shop, and lets the children use the money toward the hat.  
           In the end, the shop owner decides to give the children the hat for Eula Mae.  He doesn’t make them pay for it.  Eula Mae is overwhelmed with the love and determination her grandsons and Trisha have demonstrated.  She is also pleased that the shop owner has learned that they were not responsible for the egg throwing, and also for the fact that he has supported the children in their efforts.
          Kindness and friendship are important lessons to learn in life.  Often in stories or movies, you will see characters who once were at odds with each other, become bonded over the course of events.  I believe this occurs in the real world too.  Countries that were once considered enemies can become allies over time.  Families, neighbors, co-workers, and politicians can all overcome initial mistrust or hurt feelings to eventually become close.  
          Chicken Sunday is an excellent example of literature that demonstrates how friendships form and can blossom.  Not only were the children connected with one another, but throughout the story the message that you can always have more friends was explored. 
    3.  Persuasive Essays - These are included in this structure of writing, however, we do not do much with them in 4th grade.  They are multiple paragraph essays that include an argument for or against something and are presented with support.  If you want further information on this, you can contact me personally. 


    • A narrative is different than the other types because it is told like a story.      
    • It should have about 5-6 paragraphs.
    • It should tell the story in chronological order from beginning to end.
    • Adjectives or figurative language should be used to add interest to the story.
    • A narrative can include dialogue, but does not need it.
    • A narrative should have a strong beginning or “hook” to get the reader excited.

    Sample Narrative: (Please note: Brainstorming and the plot line for this story were generated by 4th


              Life had always been exciting for WWE wrestlers JTG and Shag, but nothing compared to what they went through during their trip to Las Vegas in the year 2008.

             JTG and Shag headed to Las Vegas for several reasons.  The main one was to wrestle in a tournament against one of their rivals HHH.  They also wanted to go see a monster truck show that was in town.  The trip started out normally enough.  They arrived on Friday for their big match on Sunday.  They checked into their hotel rooms and met with their agent.  They went to some casinos and ate a lot of food at some of the buffets. They even relaxed by the pool for awhile.

              Saturday, they went to see the layout of the place where their match would take place, and then went back to their hotel room to get ready for the monster truck show.  They were both really excited to see their favorite trucks in action.  They were surprised when they arrived that so many people wanted their autographs, including, of all people, The Jonas Brothers. The Jonas Brothers were apparently big fans, who knew?

              JTG and Shag had front row seats.  At one point, JTG and Shag were getting so into the monster trucks that they kind of forgot where they were.  Instead of staying in their seats, they did what wrestlers normally do, they jumped into the ring – track, in this case. They went right up to one of the trucks and started shouting at it and egging it on, like they would have done with another wrestler.

              They learned right then that wrestling with a monster truck is not like wrestling another person.  They got pinned under the tires and pretty banged up.  They weren’t seriously injured, but had to go to the hospital that night. 

    Later, they had some visitors, The Jonas Brothers. 

              The Jonas Brothers had come to tell JTG and Shag how bad they felt about what had happened.  They volunteered to fill in for them at the wrestling tournament the next day.  JTG and Shag weren’t sure if that was a good idea, but their agent okayed it. He thought it would be a great show. 

              The next day, HHH didn’t know what to expect.  He knew his regular opponents were hurt, but hadn’t heard who the replacements would be.  All three Jonas Brothers came out with wrestling uniforms on.  The crowd yelled and laughed.  HHH figured this would be no problem.  He figured wrong though.  Against any one of the Jonas Brothers, he might have had a chance, but with all three of them jumping around, singing to distract him, and sneaking in some moves, he was totally confused.  They pinned him. The crowd went wild.

              Watching from the hospital room, JTG and Shag were cheering too.  Their trip to Las Vegas hadn’t turned out how they thought, but it was a trip they wouldn’t soon forget.