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How to Write Stories & Paragraphs on a 3rd Grade Level

by Christopher Cascio

The key to teaching third graders how to write stories and paragraphs is to get them to engage them in the writing process. You'll have to simplify each step, and should probably have them limit their stories to single, developed paragraphs. That said, you should still focus on helping them structure their thoughts into a clear sequence of events that include thoughtful narration, details and a sense of closure, according to Common Core standards.

Narrative Elements

Before having students dive right into brainstorming, take a few minutes to discuss the elements of a story and how they work together. Discuss which story elements they already know, and write their answers on the board. If necessary, ask leading questions to guide them toward the major narrative elements: characters, setting, conflict and theme. Explain that all stories revolve around characters, and how characters overcome obstacles to get what they desperately want. Go on to explain that each story has a beginning, middle and an end: First, something troublesome happens to the main character. The main character then struggles to overcome the obstacle and then either gets what he or she wants, or fails while trying.

Brainstorming and Discussion

Have your students write lists of their ideas, and encourage them not to over-think. As they come up with ideas that they might want to explore in a story, instruct them to make new lists of everything they imagine that is related to their most promising ideas. For example, suggest that they list potential characters, settings and conflicts. Once they've finished writing, have each student talk about his or her ideas so the class can hear about it, and then discuss as a group why it is interesting.

Narrative Outlining

Once the kids have their ideas in place, guide them through the process of outlining. Don't bother stressing the importance of parallel structure in the headings, but instead focus on how an outline is a blueprint for the story. Help them organize their ideas into distinct beginnings, middles and ends that show how their characters work to overcome obstacles in a logical order. Remind them that their stories will be paragraphs, and that all paragraphs -- like stories -- must have an introduction, a body in which the introduction gets developed and a conclusion in which the main idea gets resolved.

First Drafts

When your students begin writing their first drafts, encourage them to stick to their outlines while allowing their imaginations to fill in the gaps that they didn't focus on earlier. For example, third graders might not have imagined the weather of the day on which their stories open. Also, while they should always strive to write simple, grammatically correct sentences, explain that they can write sentences that feel appropriate for the story. For example, allow them to try using longer, expressive sentences if they feel the impulse to do so. Their first drafts should be experimental. They can always tighten up the language when revising and proofreading, which you should stress an important phase of the writing process.

About the Author

Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."

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