By GreatSchools Staff
Is your child reading at grade level? Are there any gaps in his phonics or comprehension? Since learning to read is a long and complex process, some students hit college only to discover their skills aren't where they should be.
How do you know if your child's on track? Our grade-by-grade guidelines give you all the details you need to assess his aptitude.
In third grade, students are expected to make a huge change in their fluency and understanding. Suddenly, reading is seen as a tool for learning rather than the object of the learning itself. At this stage, children should be able to read a variety of books including contemporary fiction, historical fiction, legends, fables, myths, and biographies.
Third-graders are expected to read with fluency, comprehension, and expression. As they read a variety of books, they expand their vocabulary and interpret the ideas in the texts.
Third-graders are introduced to the ways language is used by learning about similes, metaphors, personification, and imagery. They should be able to select books at their reading level that interest them. Reading specialist Jennifer Thompson recommends using the "five-finger test" to choose appropriate books: "Have your child open the book to any page. If he can find five words that he does not know, the book is too difficult."
Third-graders improve on their beginning research skills by reading books on different subjects and answering questions about a topic. Third-graders should be able to use the index, glossary, title page, introduction, preface, and appendix of a book to find information. Using encyclopedias, informational books, and the Internet may be part of a research project.
"Reading informational text is critical for second- and third-graders," says Thompson. "Most of the federally mandated tests contain a great deal of nonfiction reading. Children need to learn to read nonfiction for understanding and need to be taught how to use all of the conventions of nonfiction to assist with understanding. These include the table of contents, index, glossary, captions, illustrations, bold print, diagrams, charts, and graphs."
Third-graders are expected to able to read unknown words automatically, though some children may not be capable of this. The strategies used to decode and read unknown words include using roots, suffixes, prefixes, homophones (for example, aloud and allowed), and word families (such as ack and ight). Third-graders should be able to use context to figure out the meaning of unknown words as well as look them up in a dictionary.
Third-graders learn strategies to derive meaning from what is read — including illustrations, text, and prior knowledge to make predictions and grasp the story. They should be able to recognize the sequence of events in a story, as well as their cause and effect. They retell familiar stories, summarizing the main ideas and plot and identifying the characters and settings. They are expected to answer questions about the text, such as who, what, when, where, why, and how. Third-graders begin to distinguish fact from opinion and explore themes that recur across literary works.
Third-graders may take part in shared reading, an interactive reading experience guided by the teacher. During the reading, the teacher demonstrates strategies students can use to read and derive meaning. The teacher may pause in the reading to teach vocabulary, introduce a reading skill, or encourage children to predict what comes next. The book is typically read multiple times over several days.
Third-grade classrooms sometimes start literature circles, student-led book discussion groups. Students choose their own reading material and meet in small groups with others who are reading the same book. Each member of the group is assigned a role and helps guide the group in a discussion of the book. Literature circles allow students to share their thoughts, concerns, and their understanding of a novel.
"The literature circle experience helps the most timid or passive learner become an engaged and active learner," says Thompson. "Literature circles help build confidence as children assume responsibility for their reading."
Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, by Mem Fox (Harvest Books, 2001).
The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease (Penguin, 5th edition, 2001).
Read to Me 2000: Raising Kids Who Love to Read, by Bernice E. Cullinan (Cartwheel, 2000).