Assessment Alley: Third Grade Literacy Profile


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


Spelling includes how well students use word patterns, structural analysis, and word origins to correctly spell unfamiliar words.  This is referred to as orthography, which has three layers: alphabet, pattern, and meaning. Spelling also develops in stages: emergent, letter-name, within-word, syllables and affixes, and derivational relations. Most third grade students transition from the within-word to syllables and affixes stage.

At third grade, these skills include:

         spelling most blends, silent e, vowel teams, r-controlled, past tense, and plural endings correctly

         spelling grade-appropriate high-frequency words correctly

         spelling common homophones correctly



Words Their Way Inventory

Students progress through five developmental stages of spelling (emergent, letter-name, within-word, syllables and affixes, and derivational relations).  Accurately assessing students' current developmental levels is an important first step toward building better spellers. By meeting students where they are developmentally, teachers can provide spelling instruction that will truly make students better spellers (instead of merely memorizing weekly lists to be forgotten the following week).


I use Words Their Way inventories for this assessment.  All students are given a basic list of words in the form of a spelling test.  Then, I use the recording sheet to assess students' spelling.  I circle portions of the words spelled incorrectly across rows of the sheet. Then, the errors in columns for each developmental stage are totaled.  Finally, the number of feature parts (word parts) and the number of words spelled correctly are added together to create an overall score.  This score can be used to compare progress over time.


The teacher determines a student's spelling stage by finding the first column with three or more errors; this is the student's starting stage for spelling instruction.


View descriptions of the five spelling stages, an individual scored inventory, or a classroom composite sheet.


Random Writing Sample

Students must be able to use conventional spelling in all writing, not just during spelling instruction.  To ensure students are attending to spelling across the curriculum, teachers can assess random writing samples.  Each week, a teacher selects one or two different pieces of writing. First, all words are checked for accuracy.   Next, the teacher calculates the percentage of correctly spelled words (errors divided by total words).  Third graders should spell approximately 90% of these words correctly. Finally, teachers may choose to examine spelling errors more closely for those students who are not approaching 90% accuracy.


A Spelling Application Grid is helpful to more closely assess independent spelling mistakes.  Teachers select five mistakes from random writing samples to analyze.  Selected words should be within the child's spelling ability rather than words that are obviously beyond his development.  By charting mistakes, teachers can more clearly see common patterns of errors in order to apply targeted intervention.  These forms also show growth over time.


View a sample Spelling Application Grid.


Some people think that spelling is "caught," not taught, or that children learn to spell by reading, but research tells us that is not the case... Assessment does matter, and instruction that is based on careful assessment and observation of where children are developmentally is particularly effective (Biggam 236). The following interventions can help students who struggled with spelling.

Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping

When students appear "stuck" in the late letter-name stage and struggle with phonemic awareness, Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping (by Kathryn Grace) may make a difference. Teachers use a grid to help children learn phonemes one at a time.  This helps students learn that different letters and/or letter combinations (graphemes) represent sounds (phonemes).  Students are taught to slowly pronounce phonemes.  This skill can transfer to spelling.


Read more about Mapping in Grace's book, Phonics and Spelling Through Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping.


Adult Underwriting

For students who still struggle with conventional spelling, Adult Underwriting can make a big difference.  After a student writes, the teacher sits with the student and corrects spelling.  The teacher models letter formation, concept of the word, and conventional spelling.  The goal isn't to point out how many words the student misspelled, but instead to point out the correct features the student is currently using (vowel teams or diphthongs for example).  Finally, the student rereads her piece using the correct spelling.


Visit Spelling City for more spelling ideas!

Last updated: April 16, 2009