Assessment Alley: Third Grade Literacy Profile

Phonological Awareness and Oral Language Development

Literacy Profile
What Third Graders Should Know
Phonological Awareness and Oral Language Development
Concepts of Print, Letter Identification, and Text Features
Decoding Skills and Word Analysis
Reading Strategies, Processes, and Dispositions
Reading Accuracy and Fluency at Increasing Text Levels
Comprehension and Reading Response
Writing Strategies, Processes, and Dispositions
Writing Effectiveness
Writing Conventions and Handwriting
Related Resources
Meet the Author


Phonological awareness and oral language includes how students learn language, learn about language, and learn through language.  Moreover, skills in this component relate to thinking about and discussing sounds, pragmatics (social language), syntax (how words are put together into phrases), and vocabulary.  Students’ phonological development positively influences success in reading and spelling.

At third grade, these skills include:

         using subject-verb agreement correctly

         understanding figurative language, jargon, homonyms, synonyms/antonyms, and affixes

         organizing oral presentations while considering the audience

         expanding vocabulary



The Yopp-Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation

This tool measures a student’s ability to segment words.  Students who score poorly on the Yopp-Singer will most likely struggle with decoding and spelling.  This assessment is most appropriate for students who are struggling to hear all sounds within words.  Results from this assessment will provide the teacher with specific letters and sounds that are problematic.  Moreover, these results can be used to develop individual interventions.  By third grade, most students have mastered phoneme segmentation; therefore, this assessment should be used only for students who are below grade level.


The Yopp-Singer is administered individually and presented as a game.  The teacher holds the recording sheet to take notes about the student’s responses.  After doing a few examples together, students are read 22 words and asked to segment them into the individual sounds they hear.  For example, the teacher would say “old” and expect the student to say “oooo-llll-d.”


Near perfect scores show strong phonemic awareness.  Scores near fifty percent show students are in the emergent phonemic awareness state.  Students who correctly segment only a few items need immediate phonemic awareness intervention. 


This assessment takes approximately ten minutes.  For more detailed instructions, materials, and examples, please click here.


Oral Presentation Checklist

Oral presentations allow students to demonstrate (and teachers to assess) a variety of oral language skills. Oral presentations require students to show an awareness of their audience when considering tone, volume, pace, and word choice.  These presentations also require students to organize their ideas, understand topical vocabulary, and use standard grammar.  As a result, oral presentations are appropriate for most students in the classroom.


Checklists are relatively easy to construct and should include concrete descriptions of expected grade-level skills.  For optimal learning, checklists can be developed with students to increase motivation and ownership.  After the presentation, the student and the teacher can evaluate the presentation using the checklist.  Some teachers videotape presentations for this purpose, but it is not mandatory. 


Checklists can be compared over time to ensure students’ oral language skills are progressing as expected.  Checklists can also be used as conferencing tools to promote self-reflection and goal setting.  Targeted interventions may be needed for students who continually score poorly on these checklists.


Checklists take only a few minutes to score and are often completed during the student’s presentation.  For an interactive checklist tool, please click here.



Learning language requires time to talk, time to write, time to read, and time to ponder... Immersion and demonstration are the two conditions that most influence children’s natural language development (Biggam 27).  For some students, however, immersion and demonstration aren’t enough.  These students need more intense interventions.

Introducing Challenging Vocabulary

Students who score poorly on the Yopp-Singer test struggle to decode words. When unfamiliar, hard-to-decode words are added to texts, their comprehension suffers even more.  For this reason, explicit vocabulary instruction is critical.  Fortunately, all students, not just those who struggle to decode, can benefit from this intervention. Cunningham and Allington recommend teaching three new words a day through read alouds (Biggam 21).  In order to master these words, students will need several encounters with them.  For struggling readers, how these words and introduced and reinforced influences whether or not they will be remembered.  Beck promotes introducing new words by teaching students to say the word phonetically several times until they can pronounce it comfortably.  Then, students must understand the word through examples of how to use the word in the real world.  Try to make the examples meaningful to the students’ lives.  Finally, personal dictionaries where students add new words themselves can promote permanence (Biggam 33).


Word Sorts are also excellent tools for promoting vocabulary development.  Click here to view an example.


Improving Language Development

Students who master concepts, but score poorly on oral presentation checklists, often struggle with presentations because of syntax errors.  By third grade, students are ready to study standard grammar through investigations (Biggam 32).  Investigations thrive on students’ natural curiosity and can be completed as a class, in small groups, or individually.  Using assessments (often checklists or observations), the teacher identifies which grammar concept(s) to address.  Then, the teacher develops a word/example collection (assisted by students).  Finally, students analyze and question the collected words/examples to generate rules.


For example, if a student does not understand subject-verb agreement with the common linking verbs is/are, a teacher could collect sample sentences with those words from the student’s book.  Together, they would sort the examples into two piles, “is” and “are.”  Then, they would analyze the sentences for similarities.  With assistance, the student would generate the rule that “is” is used for singular subjects whereas “are” is used for plural subjects.


For other interactive language tools, I use Grammar Manipulatives Kids Love!.


Last updated: April 16, 2009