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Third Grade Writing Standards

Third Grade Writing Standards

Writing standards for third grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding 3rd grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.

high school students at school cafeteria

What is 3rd Grade Writing?
In third grade, writing becomes a key component of school curriculum. Third grade students write more independently than in any previous grade and spend significant blocks of time engaged in writing on their own, as well as in assigned projects. Students hone their paragraph writing skills and write multi-paragraph compositions. As specified by writing standards, 3rd grade writing activities include learning to organize work using a beginning, middle, and end, focusing on sequence of events. Students are also taught to use descriptive detail and literary devices, such as dialogue, point of view, and figurative language (metaphors and similes). Third-graders continue to expand their knowledge of grammar, spelling, and mechanics, as well as how to evaluate writing and conduct research.

The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as third grade benchmarks in writing proficiency:

Grade 3: Writing Strategies
Third grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 3, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:

  • Prewriting: Students generate ideas for writing by using prewriting techniques, such as drawing and listing key thoughts. Students determine purpose and intended audience and make a plan for writing that includes a main idea.
  • Drafting: In third grade, students write several drafts to produce a final product. Drafts should be appropriate to the topic, audience and purpose, and show development of main idea with supporting details. In drafting, students strive to organize information into a logical sequence through the use of time-order words (e.g., “meanwhile,” “immediately”) and cause/effect transitions (e.g., “therefore,” “as a result”).
  • Revising: Students revise their writing to improve coherence, logical organization, voice (formal or informal), and effectiveness. Students also work to achieve a sense of audience, and use precise word choices, vivid supporting details, sentence variety, and literary devices to create interest.
  • Editing: Students edit and correct the draft for appropriate grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and other features of polished writing.
  • Publishing: Students produce, illustrate, and share a variety of compositions, including using appropriate computer technology to compose and publish work.
Stylish Middle School Students

Use of technology: Third grade students will use available technology to compose text.

Grade 3: Writing Purposes
In Grade 3, students write in different forms for different purposes, and communicate with different audiences. Students write compositions that describe and explain familiar objects, events, and experiences. Specifically, third grade writing standards stipulate that students write in the following forms:

  • Narrative: Students provide a context for the action; include well-chosen details to develop the plot; and offer insight into why the incident is memorable.
  • Descriptive: Students use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.
  • Informational/Expository: Students write summaries, rules, procedures, recipes, notes/messages, labels, and lists.
  • Persuasive: Students write persuasive text (e.g., advertisement, paragraph) that attempts to influence the reader.
  • Personal and formal letters, thank-you notes, and invitations: Students show an awareness of the audience and establish a purpose and context.
  • Creative (e.g., short stories, poetry, skits, lyrics): Students may employ figurative language (e.g., simile, onomatopoeia), rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and appropriate format.

Grade 3: Writing Evaluation
Third grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 3, students also identify the most effective features of a piece of writing using criteria generated by the teacher and class. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to monitor growth as a writer.

Grade 3: Written English Language Conventions
Students in 3rd grade are expected to write with more complex sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. In particular, third grade writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:

Sentence Structure

  • Write longer and more elaborate sentences and organize their writing into larger units of text.
  • Understand and be able to use complete and correct declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences.


  • Identify subjects and verbs that are in agreement and identify and use pronouns, adjectives, compound words, and articles correctly in simple and compound sentences.
  • Identify and use past, present, and future verb tenses properly.
  • Identify and use subjects and verbs correctly in speaking and writing simple sentences.


  • Punctuation, including end punctuation, apostrophes, commas, colons, quotation marks in dialogue, and apostrophes in singular possessives.
  • Punctuate dates, city and state, and titles of books correctly.
  • Use commas in dates, locations, and addresses and for items in a series.


  • Capitalize all proper nouns correctly.  These will include holidays, product names, titles used with someone’s name, initials, geographic locations, historical periods, and special events .


  • Master regularly spelled patterns such as consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) (hop), consonant-vowel-consonant-silent e (CVCe) (hope).
  • Write with more proficient spelling of one-syllable words that have blends, contractions, compounds, spelling patterns (e.g., qu, consonant doubling, changing the ending of a word from -y to -ies when forming the plural), and common homophones (e.g., hair-hare).
  • Spell words ending in -tion and -sion such as station and procession.
  • Arrange words in alphabetic order. Uses a dictionary or other resources as necessary.


  • Students write legibly in cursive writing, allowing for margins and correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence.

Grade 3: Research and Inquiry
Third grade students learn how to gather information systematically and use writing as a tool for research and inquiry in the following ways:

  • Understand the use, structure, and organization of various reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, encyclopedia).
  • Determine information needed for a search by narrowing or broadening a topic and identifying key words.
  • Write questions for investigating and take simple notes from relevant sources, such as classroom guests, books, and media sources.
  • Select appropriate facts and compile notes into outlines, reports, summaries, or other written efforts using available technology.
  • Record basic bibliographic data and recognize intellectual property rights (e.g., cites sources of ideas).

3rd Grade Writing Tests
In some states, standardized writing assessment begins in the third grade. Students will be given questions about grammar and mechanics, as well as a timed writing exercise, in which they must write a response to a writing prompt. In addition, third-graders are evaluated by their writing portfolios and classroom-based writing tests.

Most state writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how individual students are meeting grade-level expectations. Teachers use the assessments to pinpoint where each student needs improvement. State departments of education often include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including sample questions.

Writing Test Preparation
The best writing test preparation in third grade is simply encouraging your child to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. For example, you can talk about the different purposes of writing as you encounter them, such as those of letters, recipes, grocery lists, instructions, and menus. Encourage your students to practice responses to specific cues such as third grade writing prompts. By becoming familiar with third grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them use the strategies of the writing process to revise their own work.

Let’s Write English Online Writing Courses Support 3rd Grade Writing Standards
Let’s Write English is an excellent complement to third grade writing curriculum. Developed by classroom teachers, Let’s Write English targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standards-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.

Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Let’s Read English online courses for third grade.

For more information about general learning objectives for third grade students including math and language arts, please visit LetsReadEnglish.com.

*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Let’s Write English relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.