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3rd grade English Language Arts skills: Find out what you need to know for your student

In third grade, children practice reading with fluency and using strategies to make sense of unknown words.
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Want to help your third-grader master the basics of reading and writing? Here are some of the skills your child will be learning in the classroom.

Reading & writing

Determining meaning of unknown words

Use a variety of strategies for determining the meaning of unknown words.


  • Use what a sentence says to figure out the meaning of an unknown word or phrase in that sentence (use context clues to determine the meaning of a word).
  • Use an understanding of prefixes and suffixes to figure out what words mean (e.g. heat/preheat, care/careless).
  • Use resource materials (like glossaries and dictionaries) to determine the meaning of words and phrases.

Figurative language and relationships

Understand figurative language and word relationships.


  • Know the difference between literal and non-literal meanings of words and phrases (e.g. “take steps”; “something’s fishy”)
  • Explain the differences in shades of meaning among related words (knew, believed, suspected)
  • Use what is known about root words to understand new words with the same root (company, companion)

Read third grade text fluently

Read third grade text fluently and with expression, without pausing to figure out words and phrases.


Who is telling this part of the story? What can we learn about the main character from his actions? How is this illustration similar to the illustrations in other books in this series? Why did the main character react that way? What, in the text, makes you think so?

What is the main idea of this article? How do you know? What does this diagram show us? Why is a photo included in this part of the article?

Paying attention to details

Pay close attention to the details in a text, getting information from the words, illustrations, and graphics.

Retelling stories

Retell stories, fables, folktales, and myths from many cultures, use details from the text to explain their central message.

Comparing and contrasting texts

Compare and contrast two texts about the same topic or written by the same author.

Making connections

Describe the connections between specific sentences and paragraphs and the overall text (e.g. comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in series).

Engaging with a variety of texts

Actively engage with a variety of rich and challenging texts to build a foundation of knowledge in literature, science, social studies, and other subjects.


  • "Charlotte’s Web" by E. B. White
  • "Tops & Bottoms" by Janet Stevens
  • "A Medieval Feast" by Aliki
  • "The Story of Ruby Bridges" by Robert Coles
  • "Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11" by Brian Floca

Basic rules of English

Use basic rules of English grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


  • Explain the function of nouns (people, places, things, or ideas), verbs (words that describe an action or state of being) and adjectives (descriptive words) in sentences.
  • Use commas and quotation marks in dialogue.
  • Spell common words correctly, use spelling rules and patterns when writing words.
  • Use dictionaries to check and correct spelling.

Writing structured stories

Write a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, using dialogue and description.

Tip: Write and stage a play.

Drama and performance can hook both lovers and non-lovers of reading and writing into enjoying language. Here’s one idea to try with your third-grader: Write and stage a play! Gather a group of your child’s friends and have them choose a favorite book. Help them pick a scene they love from the book and write a simple script—just by writing down what the characters said (or might have said). Help them pick a character to act out, find some props and dress-up clothes for costumes, and you’re set to go!

Tip: Encourage writing about holidays.

Writing can be an important addition to your holiday observances. Invite your child to write and illustrate stories about her favorite holiday traditions. Encourage her to add lots of details by using all her senses in descriptions: How the potato pancakes smell at Hanukkah, how the candles glisten at Kwanzaa, what the Christmas carols sound like, how the wrapping paper feels as she rips open her presents. Make the story into a book—either on the computer or handwritten and stapled together—and save as a new family tradition to read and reread each year.

Informational pieces

Write an informational piece that introduces a topic, groups related information clearly, uses facts and details, and ends with a concluding statement or section.

Opinion pieces

Write an opinion piece that introduces a topic or text, states an opinion, clearly organizes and explains the reasons for the opinion.

Using technology

Produce and share writing using technology (including keyboarding skills) with guidance and support from adults.

Listening & speaking

Presenting information orally

Speak in complete sentences with appropriate detail, at an understandable pace, when presenting information orally.

Participating in conversations

Participate in conversations about topics and texts being studied, listening carefully to the ideas of others, and asking and answering questions in order to gather more information or deepen understanding of the topic.

Main ideas & supporting details

Determine the main ideas and supporting details from media presentations or books read aloud.

Research & inquiry

Short research projects

Independently conduct short research projects to gather information from print and digital sources and build knowledge about a topic.

Take notes and sort information

Take brief notes and sort information into categories.

For tips to help your third-grader in English Language Arts class, check out our third grade English Language Arts tips page.

TODAY's Parenting Guide resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, and align with the Common Core State Standards.