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Writing Development

In her book, The Art of Teaching Writing, author Lucy McCormick Calkins stresses the importance of a safe writing environment in the upper elementary grades. Children at this age are developing a new self-awareness.  This can both limit and improve writing.

With the developing skills to handle more sources of information, students are beginning to write not only facts, but also what those facts mean for them personally. Students at this age are able to think through their ideas or positions prior to beginning writing. Therefore, the writing in upper elementary grades becomes more intentional, deliberate, and can cover a wide range of topics. 

Writers in the upper elementary grades should be acquainted with both revising and editing.  Stephanie Gavin, Gifted Specialist at Hixson Middle School in the Webster Groves School District, St. Louis, Missouri explained the difference between these in a recent interview.

Revising is for content – what is being said. Revising is done through a series of drafts.  

Editing is for grammar, mechanics, and spelling.  Editing is done on the final draft only.  

Students should be taught to revise first, and then edit.  This avoids wasting time editing content that might not be included in a final draft. While it is saved until the end, upper elementary student writing should be reasonably correct in grammar, mechanics, and spelling.

Upper elementary writers should have a solid understanding of writing as a process: planning-drafting-revising.  Students should be familiar with the idea of peer-work sessions, both as a writer receiving feedback and as one reviewing another writer’s work.

At this stage, writing can start to help students make sense of their other school subjects and of life in general.  Writing environments need to be places where mutual respect is offered amongst students and between students and their teachers; which creates an interesting challenge for the homeschool setting.

Students at this age can begin to understand the purposes of writing.  They can grasp how an essay should be different than a memoir or an argument, and even how these purposes overlap.

Upper elementary level writers should be familiar with the structure of a five-paragraph essay. This general organization technique can be used in all types of writing. The five-paragraph essay typically includes an introduction with a thesis, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.