Writing Types Your Child Is Expected to Know

What Kids Learn in Elementary and Middle School

Teenage girl writing in journal
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Starting in elementary school, children begin to recognize that stories and texts follow specific writing types, which serve particular purposes. The four writing types that students will explore include narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive.

Use of adjectives and adverbs for descriptive writing begins between ages 7 and 9. At that time, they will also begin grouping sentences together into paragraphs. Children learn how to use different types of writing between ages 9 and 11. By middle school, they are writing reports and multi-paragraph essays.

Four Types of Writing Kids Learn About

When your child comes to you for help with a writing assignment, the first thing you probably do is ask what the topic is. But it's also important to find out how the instructor expects the writing to be framed and what techniques or styles are expected to be used in the work.

There are four basic types of writing that students will learn as classes become more writing-intensive:

Narrative

Narrative writing tells a story. Though it’s most commonly used in personal essays (e.g., "What I Did to Celebrate the Holidays"), this type of writing can also be used for fictional stories, plays, or even a plot summary of a story your child has read or intends to write.

This is likely the most frequently used of the four most common types of writing, and students will spend a significant amount of time learning how to write narratives. Narrative writing is often, but not always, in the first person and is organized sequentially, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Descriptive

Descriptive writing is used to create a vivid picture of an idea, place, or person. It is much like painting with words. It focuses on one subject and uses specific detail to describe it.

For example, if your child is asked to write about his favorite ride at an amusement park, he might note the name of a rollercoaster and what it looks like, as well how the rush of wind in his hair felt as he zipped through the air, what the sound of the ride car clicking up the tracks was like, and so on. In upper grades, a student's descriptive writing should be more subtle and nuanced, using figurative and metaphorical language (e.g., It was the cherry on top of a wonderful day.)

Descriptive writing is used in descriptions of fictional and non-fictional characters, poetry parts of book reports, and in various kinds of observational writing.

Expository

Expository writing is to-the-point and factual. This category of writing includes definitions, instructions, directions, and other basic comparisons and clarifications. Expository writing is devoid of descriptive detail and opinion.

This is a crucial skill. Students will need expository writing not only in school, but also in many potential careers that aren't primarily writing-oriented such as teaching, video production, and design. Students must be able to organize their thoughts, follow a plan, and, in higher grades, conduct research to support their theses. It requires thinking on multiple levels.

Persuasive

Persuasive writing is a more sophisticated type of writing your child will be introduced to around fourth grade. It can be thought of like a debate played out in written words.

The idea is to express an opinion or to take a stance about something, and then to support that opinion in a way that convinces the reader to see it the same way.

Persuasive writing contains an explanation of the other point of view and uses facts, statistics, or both to disprove that view and support the writer's position. Some examples of persuasive writing include essays, debate position papers, editorial pieces such as letters to the editor, and book or concert reviews.

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