new vocabulary and language. They are also using resources to get the information they need (e.g., table of contents, index, dictionary, and available technology).
Increasingly in the third grade, children are learning to read and learn from nonfiction texts. They are summarizing major points and discussing details. They can distinguish cause and effect. They can identify the main idea and supporting details of a text. With information and reasoning, they are examining the bases of hypotheses and opinions.
As roots, prefixes, and suffixes are taught in class, they are learning how to take words apart to infer their meanings. Not only are they now able to identify specific words or wordings that are causing them difficulties, they are increasingly able to use comprehension strategies and surrounding information in the text to infer or enrich their understanding of a new word or concept.
Third graders should be producing a variety of written work, such as critical essays, reports, and their own “published” books. Their writing is now beginning to take on sophisticated language patterns, such as elaborate descriptions, figurative language, and dialogue. When producing reports, they are able to combine and write information from multiple sources, but they often need help in paraphrasing and, certainly, in giving credit for sources. During class sharing periods, they are presenting and discussing one another ’s writing with helpful suggestions and responses. With assistance, they are reviewing, editing, revising, and clarifying their own writing, including attention to spelling, mechanics, and presentation. Previously studied words and spelling patterns appear correctly in their finished products.
Sets of accomplishments that the successful learner should exhibit by the end of second and third grades are shown in the following tables. Because of their importance, we present them in full as published in Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (National Academy Press, 1998). Again, these lists are neither exhaustive nor incontestable, but they do capture many highlights of the course of literacy acquisition. Although the timing of these accomplishments will vary among children, they are the sorts of things that should be in place before entering the next grade.