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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Dear Teacher: Evaluating a Young Child’s Writing Skills


My fourth-grader's writing is very sloppy, and she misspells a lot of words. On top of this, her sentences are only three or four words long. If I ask her to write a sentence, she finds it very difficult to put words together. Is she displaying age-level behavior with her writing skills? – Anxious


Your daughter's writing skills should be judged on the basis of what is expected of students at the end of third grade. Her handwriting at that time would be considered legible if she has correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence.

As far as spelling goes, by the end of third grade, most schools would expect students to at least spell one-syllable words correctly. She also should be able to correctly spell the words that were on last year's spelling tests.

Your daughter also should be able to capitalize the first word in a sentence and use appropriate end punctuation of simple sentences. She should be able to vary the length of her sentences.

Parents often evaluate the skill level of their children by using adult standards. Talk to your child's teacher to find out if your child's writing meets the school's expectations for her grade level. You also will find it helpful to look at the writing of other students in the class. If your daughter's work is not up to grade level, this is the time to discuss how it can be improved.

Parents who are concerned about their young children’s writing skills in preschool through grade 3 can get a good idea of how they are doing by going online to sites like Reading Rockets to see samples of real children’s writing at these levels. There are also comments about what each child needs to learn to do next.