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Third Grade | Language Skills

How are my child’s speaking and conversation abilities?

Third grade is the bridge to becoming an “upper” elementary age student. Conversing with your 3rd-grade child is distinctly different than when they were in the fantasy-land of kindergarten. You listen to all their observations about life, their classmates and school, and in turn share your thoughts. This transition might leave you feeling that your “baby” is now indeed a maturing, intelligent older child.

Your 3rd grader is able to:

  • Listen attentively and make eye contact with a teacher, friend or speaker.
  • Speak clearly and answer questions in complete sentences.
  • Describe their thoughts or ideas in great detail
  • Enjoy learning what words mean as their vocabulary is exploding with new terms.
  • Follow instructions independently.
  • Start to enjoy debates and lengthier discussions.

How Can I Help My 3rd Grader Improve Their Speaking Abilities?

Read Everyday

Reading aloud to your child and reading books on their own is the best way to increase their vocabulary. Books provide words they won’t encounter in everyday conversations, often the language of books is more complete and formal than just talking. A great story also provides context and illustrations for learning a new word.

Read to Others

Reading a book to a younger sibling or neighbor lets your child practice their fluency skills and reading aloud in a relaxed way. They’ll also get to feel good that someone else is benefiting from their reading!

Be a Role Model with Verbal Skills

Become aware of how YOU speak. Do you only give one word answers? Do you explain how you feel in ways that are clear? Make your thinking “visible” by modeling how you make decisions.

“I knew it was going to be really hot today because it felt so warm early in the morning. By the time the sun is directly above us, it’ll be scorching. This is why I parked under a tree. I didn’t want the inside of our car to get that hot, so I parked in the shade and I’ll leave the windows cracked to let cooler air flow in.”

Use Rich Language

Become aware of the words you select when talking with your child. Often parents simplify how they speak hoping it will help their child more easily understand what they mean. Instead, aim to use “rich vocabulary,” interesting words and phrases and bold descriptive words. Give your child every advantage by being intentionally specific with the words you choose. Your effort will expand their world of knowledge! 

Instead of: “Did you see that big dog?”

Try: “Did you see that gigantic gray dog sprinting across the street?”

A child’s vocabulary is mostly made up from the exact words their parents use at home. “New research suggests we may be wildly underestimating their brainpower. Children whose parents used complex language were found to have significantly higher IQs (a formidable 40 points) than children whose parents did not — suggesting that young brains become wired early for complex thought.” “Surprising Secrets to School Success, 2018

Take Turns When Talking

Ask your child questions about what they’re interested in, their friends, their favorite characters from TV shows, their favorite books; make eye contact and listen closely as they speak. Take turns when talking with them. As parents, we sometimes can get in a habit of giving instructions rather than engaging in conversations with our kids. Having meaningful discussions at home helps children develop their vocabulary by allowing them to incorporate the new words into their conversations.  

Instead of “How was school?”, try these questions to get your child talking

  • Tell me something that made you giggle today.
  • If you could sit next to anyone in class, who would you sit next to? Why?
  • What did you play at recess?
  • What do you wish you could do all day long at school?
  • If you could make the cafeteria food, what would you serve?


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Frequently Asked Questions about 3rd Grade Language Development

If you are concerned your child has a speech problem, set up an appointment with your pediatrician. Make a list of your concerns or examples of issues you’ve observed in your child. Describe the issues you observe so the pediatrician can get a full picture of your child’s difficulties. They will help evaluate your child and recommend further screening and tests your child might benefit from.

Next, set up an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher and describe your concerns. Teachers are usually in charge of over 20 children, so subtle language differences among children may not stand out clearly. By voicing your concerns,  the teacher can tune in to your child and make note of speech issues observed during class time, while offering more support to your child.

As a parent, it is your right to request a speech evaluation through your public school at any time.

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