Why is fourth-grade writing so hard for some kids?

By Elizabeth Babbin, EdD

Question:

Up until fourth grade, writing wasnt a problem. But now, every assignment seems to be a struggle. Why do kids struggle so much with fourth-grade writing?

Answer:

It can be surprising when a child suddenly starts struggling with writing. But it’s pretty common for kids this age. Around fourth grade, schools start to demand a lot more when it comes to writing.

Up until third grade, schools focus on teaching kids how to read. They may work on handwriting and basic writing skills. But students mostly work on understanding what they’re reading.

Then around fourth grade, most schools shift their focus from reading to writing. Teachers may ask kids to show reading comprehension through writing. For many kids, like those still struggling with reading at the end of third grade, this is really hard.

For example, instead of having kids answer a multiple-choice question about the text, teachers may ask students to write several sentences about it.

Fourth graders start writing longer essays with many paragraphs. They write about a wider range of topics. Connecting ideas over a few paragraphs is harder than what kids may have done before.

The content of writing changes, too. Kids have to add more details than before. The teacher might ask kids for evidence to back up statements. This is a big jump for some kids.

Many kids struggle with punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and writing strong paragraphs. More practice and support at school and home can help. But some kids’ writing is so disorganized that you can’t understand what they’re trying to say. This may point to a deeper struggle with language called written expression disorder.

There are ways to help all struggling writers improve skills and get the right support. The first step is for parents and teachers to share what they’ve been seeing. From there, they can talk about the best ways to help.


Learn more about:

    Tell us what interests you

    Share

    About the author

    About the author

    Elizabeth Babbin, EdD is an instructional specialist at Lower Macungie Middle School in Macungie, Pennsylvania.