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Your third grader and language arts

Third grade is a turning point for your budding reader, who will spend less time on skills and more time working to understand the meaning of the text.

By GreatSchools Staff

In Your Child's Classroom

Reading for meaning

Third grade is a turning point for your budding reader. He will spend less time learning how to read as he spends more time reading to learn. He'll come to know the essence of reading - deriving meaning from a written text. If he doesn't understand what he reads, then reading becomes an empty exercise. When he learns the vital reading strategies taught in third grade - making connections, questioning, visualizing, determining importance, synthesizing - then he'll have reading skills he can carry through life.

Children who don't understand what they are reading "are just calling out words," says our consulting teacher, Donna Adkins, 2004 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. "This is very important for parents to understand. Taking meaning from the text is the essence of reading."

Your child's reading selections grow to include a variety of materials such as fiction, nonfiction and reference. In fiction, he'll begin to learn about character and plot development, and he'll start to identify with a character's feelings.

Adkins explains: "It's very important that children learn to read nonfiction. Nonfiction requires a different type of comprehension and thinking than fiction. Much of the reading your child will do in the future will be nonfiction, such as textbooks." In nonfiction, your child learns how to focus on what is important in a paragraph, how to summarize and how to find vital information using conventions such as headings, bold print, table of contents and index.

Get help if you child is struggling.

If your child is having difficulty with reading skills, it's important to seek help now before he falls too far behind.

Adkins explains: "Research shows that children who are behind at the end of third grade rarely catch up, so it is important to get help. If you know your child is behind at the start of third grade, then make sure the teacher knows you are concerned, and that he needs intervention now. Schools are required to provide interventions, and it is best for the parents to be involved so the child doesn't slip through the cracks."

Writing for a purpose

In third grade, your child learns about language as she writes it. She learns about paragraphs, parts of speech and different types of sentences, but most important, she learns that her writing has a purpose. Her teacher will be looking at the substance of what she writes as well as the form. Your child learns editing skills to correct her writing and make it stronger. She learns how to write nonfiction, including the beginning skills for writing reports and organizing information.

Reading skills take a back seat

Because the emphasis switches from reading to meaning in third grade, you'll want to be sure your third-grader has already established good skills in recognizing letters and words, and sounding out words he might not know.

There will still be some focus on developing reading skills including:

  • Understanding suffixes, prefixes and word pattern
  • Learning about words that don't follow "the rules"
  • Strategies for understanding long words

Comments from readers

"To the parent whose child is having difficulty comprehending what she is reading. My son also has difficulty. His 3rd grade teacher has the children read it twice and then a 3rd time to the parents. Evidently this must be fairly common. After reading it 3 times he does comprehend. In order to break it up, what I normally do is have him read it once in the afternoon and then twice at night. "
"Hello there. I am having a lot of problems with getting my daughter to read and understanding what she reads. She has a resource teacher that helps her but what can i do to help her at home?"
"Awesome article. It really guides me as a parent about what to expect and how to help my kid interested in reading/writing. Thanks"
"This is a very exciting website. I am a third grade teacher and find that what is said in this site is true. I enjoy reading the info. given because it is well presented. Thanks"