Grade 3 Spelling

Discover Grade 3 spelling standards

In third grade, children should be growing in confidence with their spelling due to the skills acquired in first grade and second grade spelling. They’re expected to continue building their knowledge of the spelling curriculum and spelling techniques to help them learn new academic vocabulary and unfamiliar words. The following strategies will help your child to spell grade level words:

  • Using spelling patterns
  • Learning word families
  • Knowing about position-based spellings
  • Identifying syllable patterns
  • Using a range of ending rules
  • Knowing about meaningful word parts (prefixes, suffixes, root words)

A great way to improve your child’s spelling skills is by encouraging them to read every day. As they do this, their reading comprehension skills improve, and they will pick up new vocabulary words to aid their academic progression. Reading also helps your child to identify recurring spelling patterns that they can use when they’re writing.

Your third grader should also continue to develop their use of dictionaries to check and correct spellings.

Spelling Patterns

Children should apply the spelling patterns they have learned in first grade and second grade to Grade 3 words. Here’s a short spelling list with common patterns your child should now recognize:

Short and Long "a" Spellings:

  • ai, ae, ay, ei, eigh, a

Short and Long "e" Spellings:

  • e, e-e, ie, ee, ea, ei, ey, y

Short and Long "i" spellings:

  • i, i-e, ie, igh, y

Short and Long o spellings:

  • o, o-e, oe, oa, ow

Short u and Long (yoo) spellings:

  • u, u-e, ue, eu, ew

They will also learn new spelling patterns.

Spelling "ou" words:

  • /ow/: shout
  • /oo/: soup
  • /uh/: cousin

Silent Consonants

  • kn - know, knot, knight
  • wh - wheel, white, whale
  • ph - phone, photo, alphabet
  • wr - wrap, write, wrong
  • gn - gnaw, gnarl, gnat

Practice Tip

Set up a wordsearch for your child to identify words that all share a common spelling pattern, just like this one from Night Zookeeper:

Word search game on, displayed on laptop screen.

Word Families

A word family shares the same root word. A root word is a base word from which other words can be made by adding prefixes and suffixes.


  • Root word: happy
  • Word family: unhappy, happiness, unhappiness, happily, unhappily, happier

Position-based Spellings

Grade 3 students will learn and practice the rule i after e except before c.

Examples: believe, piece, achieve

There are exceptions to the rule, with ei after the letter c, which are important for children to learn.

Examples: ceiling, receive, receipt

Syllable Patterns

Breaking words into syllables is a technique children can use to help them with their spelling. There are seven different types of syllables that third graders learn. The slash marks show where one syllable ends and another begins within a word.

Closed Syllables

A closed syllable usually has a short vowel sound followed by a consonant. This word has two closed syllables:

  • Magnet: mag/net

Open Syllables

An open syllable ends with a vowel which usually gives a long sound.

This word has an open syllable followed by a closed syllable:

  • Student: stu/dent

VCE Syllable (vowel-consonant-e)

This syllable has the pattern vowel-consonant-e.

This word has a closed syllable followed by a VCE syllable:

  • Reptile: rep/tile

Vowel Team Syllable

A vowel team is when two vowels make one vowel sound.

This word has a closed syllable followed by a consonant-l-e syllable, followed by a vowel team syllable:

  • Bumblebee: bum/ble/bee

R-Controlled Syllable

In this type of syllable, a vowel is followed by the letter r which changes the sound the vowel makes.

This word has an r-controlled syllable followed by a VCE syllable:

  • Perfume: per/fume

Diphthong Syllable

A diphthong is when two vowels create a sliding vowel sound that changes: it begins as one vowel sound and changes towards another.

This word has a single diphthong syllable:

  • Boy

Consonant-l-e Syllable

This syllable has the pattern consonant-l-e and is found at the end of words as the final syllable.

This word has a closed syllable followed by a consonant-l-e syllable:

  • Bubble: bu/bble

Practice Tip

In order to clearly explain syllables to your child, you can start by breaking up words that contain two syllables. You could do this on small strips of paper, placing the beginnings of words in a pile and endings in a second pile. Then ask your child to put the beginnings and endings of words together to create a word. Below is a game on Night Zookeeper where we challenge children to complete a similar third grade spelling activity.

Syllable matching game on, displayed on laptop screen.

Ending Rules

Double the Consonant

When a word has a short vowel sound followed by a single consonant, the consonant should be doubled before adding a suffix.

Double consonant

run → runner

shop → shopped

Drop the Final e

When a word ends with a VCE syllable, the final e should be removed before adding a suffix.

Drop the final e

take → taking

stare → staring

Change y to i

When a word ends with consonant-y, the y should be changed to i before adding a suffix.

Change y to i

beauty → beautiful

happy → happiness

Meaningful Word Parts

These are the units of meaning within a word: root word, prefix, suffix. Children should use their knowledge of these word parts when spelling words.

Examples of prefixes that can be added to the beginning of words:

dis- in- un- fore- semi- mid- anti- inter-

Examples of suffixes that can be added to the end of words:

-ly -ful -ion -less -er -est

Practice Tip

Challenge your child to unscramble words that end with a specific suffix. Through this activity, children will learn that by knowing how to recognise a suffix pattern can be very beneficial when attempting to break down longer complex spellings. The image below is an example taken from the Night Zookeeper's Word Code challenge type.

Spelling game on, displayed on laptop screen.

Grade 3 Spelling Words

Access our list of Grade 3 spelling words below:

How Night Zookeeper can help

Night Zookeeper logo, displayed on tablet screen.

Night Zookeeper covers the key spelling curriculum principles and rules your third grader needs to learn to move on to fourth grade and beyond. Whether used as a supplemental resource or as your full homeschool language arts curriculum, Night Zookeeper will make reading and writing fantastically fun for your child!

Our award-winning language arts program includes thousands of third grade spelling resources, including word games, lesson series on spelling and reading comprehension, printable spelling worksheets, and much more! Our spelling games for kids are particularly popular with our users, as they’re a great way to consolidate their knowledge of different topics, including sight words, phonics, prefixes, and suffixes.

Sign up today to access third grade spelling activities and get a FREE 7-day trial!

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