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Teach, Learn, Write & Assess -- Third Grade Descriptive Writing Lesson & Rubric

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 9/11/2012

Do you need a readymade rubric and lesson to teach descriptive writing at the third grade level? All you need is included in this lesson: steps for the lesson, student assessment questions and a rubric.

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    Rubrics to Help Students and Teachers

    A rubric for descriptive paragraphs for the third grade will help students to know what is expected of them when they are assigned to write a descriptive paragraph or essay. In addition, the rubric will help you to assess the writing when it is complete quickly.

    Make the Perfect Rubric A rubric can be made for any assignment. Most rubrics include three components: criteria, a performance scale, and description of the criteria at the different levels. The criteria are the areas that you want to assess. The performance scale can be numbers or words, such as 4,3,2,1 or expert, proficient, novice.

    The Descriptive Writing Rubric that can be downloaded from the link has the following criteria:

    Content: Details and focus on topic

    Organization: Introduction, body and conclusion

    Style: Vocabulary and sentence structure

    Writing Conventions: Mechanics, grammar, spelling and usage

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    Steps for Descriptive Writing Lesson

    The following are steps for a descriptive writing lesson.

    Step 1: Tell students that they will be completing a descriptive writing piece. Depending on the level of the students, it could be a standalone paragraph or a multi-paragraph piece.

    Step 2: Explain that descriptive writing includes the five senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing. Students should write so descriptively that a person could imagine the topic vividly in his or her mind. This is called imagery.

    Students need to remember the following when writing description:

    • What does it look like?
    • What does it smell like?
    • What does it sound like?
    • What does it feel like?
    • What does it taste like?

    Step 3: Explain the rubric and student assessment questions.

    Explanation of Descriptive Rubric

    Students will need to understand the criteria by which they will be assessed. If the vocabulary on the rubric is too difficult for students to understand, you will need to review the terms. When you hand out rubrics, you will need to discuss it with the students.

    Content: The content is information and details in the writing that should be focused on a single topic. The topic is what they are writing about and the students need to stay focused on that topic.

    Organization: How students arrange their content is organization. Each piece should include an Introduction, body and conclusion.

    If students are writing a paragraph, it should include a topic sentence, detail sentences and a concluding sentence. If students are writing an essay or multi-paragraph piece, there should be an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.

    Style: It includes the vocabulary used in the writing and sentence structure. For third graders, they should be using vocabulary with ease that is at their level and adding in a few more difficult words. The sentence structure should be varied with sentences. Students may also be able to write and use complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.

    Writing Conventions: This includes mechanics, grammar, spelling and usage. At the third grade level, spelling and usage are key components.

    Student Self Assessment Questions to Use with Rubric

    After students understand how the rubric works and the criteria on it, you can use the following questions to help students to assess their writing in conjunction with the rubric. These questions will be used after they have written their first draft.

    Questions for CONTENT

    1. Did I write enough?
    2. Did I answer the prompt completely or write a complete piece?
    3. Did I include enough details that are interesting?
    4. Do I have 4-6 sentences in each paragraph?
    5. If the descriptive piece is a standalone paragraph, did I include at least 6 sentences?
    6. Do all of my sentences and/or paragraphs say focused on the topic?

    Questions for ORGANIZATION

    1. Does each paragraph have a topic sentence, detail sentences and a concluding paragraph?
    2. If the descriptive writing is an essay, did it include an introduction, body and conclusion?

    Questions for STYLE

    1. Did I use third grade level vocabulary in my writing?
    2. Did I include any higher level vocabulary words in my piece?
    3. Do I have sentences that have a variety of word counts?
    4. Did I use both simple and compound sentences? Did I include any complex or compound-complex sentences?

    Questions for WRITING CONVENTIONS

    1. Did I spell all my words correctly?
    2. Were all of my words used correctly? (its/it's, there/their/they're, your/you're, are/our, etc.)
    3. Did I capitalize correctly?
    4. Did I use periods, commas, question marks and exclamation points correctly?
    5. Did I write complete sentences?

    Step 4: Assign students to write a paragraph or essay. Students will need to choose one of the following writing prompts:

    • Describe a time when you were very cold.
    • Describe a time when you were very hot.
    • Describe a time when you were soaked or in water.
    • Describe a time when you were muddy or covered in dirt.
    • Describe a time when a dinner was very good and your tummy was completely full.

    Step 5: After students have completed their first draft, they need to revise and edit their writing using the Self Assessment Questions.

    Step 6: Students need to exchange their papers with a peer and use the rubric to assess it.

    Step 7: After students have looked at what a peer wrote on the rubric, they need to make changes to the draft and write a final copy.

    Step 8: Last, students should turn in final draft.

    This lesson that includes the descriptive writing rubric will help students to write solid descriptive papers. They will also learn how to become better editors.

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    Resources/references:

    Process: Creating Rubrics, http://www.carla.umn.edu/assessment/vac/evaluation/p_7.html

    Descriptive Writing, http://www.booknutsreadingclub.com/descriptivewriting.html

    Photo credit: Kellie Hayden