Teaching Spelling in 3rd Grade

Just when students thought spelling was the funkiest thing the English language had to offer, along came third grade spelling words to rev up their funk motor all over again. The third grade presents some of the craziest spelling patterns students will ever see. Luckily, kids love the funk, so turn on some James Brown and have fun with these new third grade spelling words!

Book 'Em

Book, shook, took, put, and foot, all share a weird sound. That weird sound is called a diphthong, and words with diphthongs are some of the funnest in the language. How does the human mouth figure out how to turn two O's or a U into such a strange sound? It combines two sounds into one, and what comes out is something entirely different from a word like "shoot." Students get to explore the world of diphthongs in the third grade, and that's a real treat. Don't shy away from telling your students and children about how funny and miraculous diphthongs are.

A Why for Every Wherefore

Y is by far the most fascinating letter in English. Students know it as the one right before "and" in the alphabet song, but it's so much more than that. It's a consonant that behaves like a vowel, and when words ending in Y are pluralized, the Y almost always turns into "ies."

Also, Y can sound totally different depending on the word it's in. "Why" is different from "every"and "rhythm" is different from "spray." Y seems to sound however it wants whenever it wants. Don't cry, though. Life's too short. Y is like the outlaw letter, so it has a lot of intrigue surrounding it, like Billy the Kid. Get your kids excited about this rogue of a letter, and they'll be fine.

Double Down on Double Consonants

Double consonants are fun to write and fun to read. Usually, double consonants appear after a short vowel sound, like in bubble and balloon. Unfortunately, it's one of those spelling tricks that are easy to miss on a test, so if your third-grader is ramping up for a spelling test, make sure they slow down when they come to double consonants. Some students find it easier to spell a word like pretty in their heads like "P-R-E-double T-Y." Whichever way your third-grader feels more comfortable with, roll with it. The more comfortable they are with double consonants, the better.

Long and Short of It

Long and short vowel sounds are extremely difficult to keep straight sometimes. The worst thing about it is that long and short vowel chicanery will pervade spelling tests for as long as English is spoken.

Here's one rule of thumb that might help: to make a long sound, vowels often need help from other vowels. The O in not is short, and the O in note is long. Note has an E at the end of it that affects the sound of the O. Similarly, the O in got is short, and the O in goat is long. Goat needs its A to make its O long.

Compound Interest

One of the greatest strengths of English is its ability to create compound words. If a father is grand, English-speakers call him a grandfather. If you want to talk about work you do at home, you say homework. Corn that's popped is called popcorn. English doesn't let its speakers combine whatever they want, but in the third grade, students will start learning some of the times when they can.


Homophones are some of the most fun and confusing things in any language, but especially English. There, their, and they're are important to discern between because they, like all other homophones, will not show up in a software spellcheck. The only way to catch them is to know them. Hour and our, nose and knows, and tail and tale, are all important words to know apart.

Flashcards: Key Tool to Teach Spelling Words

Most teachers will start with around 20 words and add more every week. A good place to start is with the Dolch sight words for 3rd grade.

The spelling tests will get longer as the year progresses, and students won't know which words will repeat from one week to the next. That means that students will have to study all of the old words in addition to their weekly new ones. The best way to keep old words in their heads is with flashcards.

As they approach their 12th week of the year, the flashcards from their first week will start to look a little ragged, but that's OK. A used flashcard is a good one. If they're using them, they're remembering the words. There's also a degree of pride and self-esteem that comes with amassing a huge stack of flashcards. It becomes a testament to their progress and should not go unnoticed by grown-ups they're hoping to impress.

Teaching Spelling in 3rd GradeTeaching Spelling in 3rd Grade

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