Thinking & Learning

Writing With More Complexity

During these upper elementary years, your child is probably (hopefully!) going to be asked to do a lot more writing in school. This will include some creative writing like stories and poems, expository writing on different topics, and persuasive writing, too.

Here’s a scenario that might feel familiar: Your fourth grader comes home with a piece of writing. It’s got a bunch of coherent sentences on the page. Maybe even a paragraph or two. It seems fine, right? How do you know your child is developing the writing skills they need to thrive in school?

Here are some things to look for as your elementary student develops as a writer:


They’re learning to make an argument in writing. They probably have no problem arguing with you in person, right? What about making a case on paper? They’ll learn how to lay out a point of view and provide evidence to back it up. They’ll also learn how to pull information from different sources, and—importantly—start to understand how to analyze those sources in terms of their validity and biases.

(Now is a great time to talk about how not everything on the internet is true.)


Their writing is getting organized. Their writing should be organized in multiple paragraphs. It’ll flow more logically, not jump around from one thought to another like when they were younger. They’ll be learning how to use introductory and concluding sentences, and to transition between thoughts and paragraphs smoothly, too.


They’re beginning to articulate more complex ideas. When they write on topics, they might start to incorporate multiple points of view and articulate more “gray areas” or nuance. In their writing, you should start to see them grappling with bigger ideas and more complex topics.


They’re exploring different ways of presenting their ideas. For example, students may be asked to create projects as slideshows through software like Google Slides or PowerPoint. You may see your kid working on projects that require them to put photos and text together in new ways or even write scripts and film short videos. (See Technology 101 for more on all of this.)


Their handwriting is improving. Maybe? You’ve probably seen your child’s handwriting develop from their early years of forming letters. But how much does handwriting matter, anyway? The answer is their handwriting doesn’t have to be perfect by any means, but they should be able to write quickly and legibly; if not, it can start to slow them down as they advance in school. Many schools don’t teach handwriting anymore, but there are practice exercises you can do with your child at home (or they might need to try a different type of writing implement!). Of course, these days most of us spend more time typing than writing by hand, but good old fashioned handwriting is still a valuable skill to have.

Get the Guide by email

You’ll get early access to our newest resources, timely tips on how to support your child, and more!

Sign Up