3rd Grade ELA BEST Standards
What can third grade teachers expect from the new Florida BEST Standards for language arts? How do they compare to the LAFS standards? What are third grade students now expected to learn?
In this post, I will quickly analyze the changes and how they will affect your classroom. By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of how the standards will change with the adoption of the new third grade ELA BEST standards.
How are the BEST Standards organized?
BEST standards are divided into 11 subcategories, while the LAFS had 7:
- Reading Prose & Poetry – Previously Reading: Literature
- Reading Informational Text
- Reading Genres – I really don’t understand this category. It includes standards that were previously included with either Literature or Informational Text.
- Vocabulary – These standards were in Reading and Language subcategories in LAFS.
- Foundational Skills
- Oral Communication – Previously Speaking & Listening
- Researching – These were in LAFS Writing.
- Technology – These were in Writing and Speaking and Listening.
- Conventions – Language
- ELA Expectations – I believe these are meant to be similar to the LAFS Reading standards, which were overarching from K!2. However, they don’t work the same way. More on this later.
The BEST standards also include suggested books for each grade level. I will discuss these book lists in detail later in this post.
Some of the changes made to the standards should be an improvement, while others make it more difficult for teachers to easily find what they are to teach. In this post, I will explain most of the changes, and point out some potential issues.
Third grade has a lot of changes in the reading standards, but those are change of omission rather than the addition of new concepts.
Prose & Poetry
For literature, the BEST standards only include a few concepts from LAFS:
LAFS.3.RL.1.2 – “Recount stories, including fables folktales, and myths. Determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details” has changed to ELA.3.R.3.2 – “Summarize a text to enhance comprehension, including the plot and theme for a literary text” and ELA.3.R.1.2 – “Explain a theme and how it develops, using details.” I realize these are not exactly the same, but they are close enough that last year’s lessons could be used or tweaked to fit the new standard.
Students continue to be expected to determine the meaning of words in a text using various strategies.
LAFS.3.RL.1.3 – “Describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events” has changed to ELA.3.R.1.1 – “Explain how one or more characters develop throughout the plot” and ELA.3.R.1.3 – “Explain different characters’ perspectives in a literary text.” Again, these are not the same, but I think teachers could reasonably reuse lessons with slight changes. Understanding perspectives could easily lead into why a character did something because of their point of view.
There is a specific poetry standard in each grade level, which I think is an improvement over LAFS. In third, it is “identify types of poem: free verse, rhymed verse, haiku, and limerick.”
Along those same lines, a figurative language standards was added under Reading Genres, ELA.3.R.3.1 – “Identify and explain metaphors, personification, and hyperbole in texts.”
Many Literature skills were removed from LAFS to BEST. The omitted skills slowly increased students’ reading skills, so leaving them out may cause problems when students need to read, understand, and analyze texts in higher grades. Teachers may want to continue instruction of some of the former standards as well as covering what is in BEST.
More of the LAFS informational text standards have remained in BEST than the those for literature.
LAFS.3.RI.1.2 – “Determine the main idea. Recount key details and explain how they support the main idea” has not changed a lot. The new correlating standards are ELA.3.R.2.2 – “Identify the central idea and explain how relevant details support that idea” and ELA.3.R.3.2 – “Summarize a text to enhance comprehension, using the central idea and relevant details for an informational text.”
LAFS.3.RI.3.9 – “Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic” has changed to ELA.3.R.3.3 – “Compare and contrast how two authors present information on the same topic or theme.” Like a few other standards, last year’s lessons could probably be used to teach the new standard.
The text features standard has changed for the better in my opinion. In addition to using text features, the BEST standards split the text structure expectations in half – now half are taught in third and the other half in fourth. If you have ever taught text structure, they take a long time to teach well. Splitting them into two grade levels should help. The new standard is ELA.3.R.2.1 – “Explain how text features contribute to meaning and identify the text structures of chronology, comparison, and cause/effect in texts.”
The big changes, aside from the removed skills, are:
ELA.3.R.2.4 – “Identify an author’s claim and explain how an author uses evidence to support the claim.” This used to be “distinguish my point of view from that of the author.” This skill was taught in fourth grade under LAFS (had students in 5th and 6th grade that still had difficulty separating their opinion from the author’s, so I have concerns about this being removed.)
ELA.3.R.2.3 – “Explain the development of an author’s purpose in an informational text.” I believe many teachers were already covering this skills, so it may not be completely new for teachers.
Again, the vocabulary expectations have largely remained the same in informational texts.
The other good news is that the Writing standards are largely the same. The only major change in writing is the opinion standard says they should use details from one or more sources. (Research has been separated into its own category – see below.)
I have seen a lot of buzz about cursive being added to the new Florida Standards, but it was in the LAFS Language standards and continues to be in BEST under writing. No change.
There are now separate Technology standards, which I think is a good thing. In third grade, there are only two BEST standards in this category. One is basically the same as LAFS.3.W.2.6 – “Use digital writing tools individually or collaboratively to plan, draft, and revise writing.” The other is “use two or more multimedia element(s) to enhance oral or written tasks.”
The Researching standard in BEST has changed. In LAFS Writing, it said: “Students will conduct short research projects that build their knowledge about a topic. Recall information from experiences or gather information from print or digital sources. Take brief notes from sources and sort into provided categories.” That standard now says, “Students will conduct research to answer a question, organizing information about the topic from multiple sources.”I have concerns that this may be more than some third graders are ready for, so teachers may need to slowly build students’ skills to the level of the standard.
Speaking and Listening skills have been nearly eliminated in grades 2 – 6. Oral Communications focuses on presenting information. However, teachers can easily continue to work on other speaking and listening skills by integrating them into lessons.
In third grade, this subsection has pretty much stayed the same. In general, third graders are supposed to have mastered the ability to sound out words, so the focus remains that they should master phonics.
Let me begin with saying I don’t think the expectations themselves are a problem. My concern is the lack of connection between the ELA Expectations and the rest of the standards.
In CCSS and LAFS Reading, the overarching reading standards are the foundations for the rest of the reading standards. For example, Standard 1 deals with making inferences. In every grade level, reading standard 1 deals with inferences – the expectations increase a step in difficulty as the student moves through school.
In ELA BEST, there is no connection that I can find. In fact, there seems to be a disconnect between the two. In the ELA Expectations, it asks students to make inferences. I did not see inference mentioned in any other standards – it is just randomly in this general section without having specific inference goals at each grade level.
Teachers need to be aware of this change, as before the general reading standards really weren’t new skills, rather the overarching skills. The specific subskill was explained in Literature and Informational Text. Teachers need to make sure they are covering the standards in this subsection.
Let me begin with this: I don’t think I can name one language arts teacher that believes students are learning grammar effectively. My brother teaches high school, and he told me they just expect students to not know any grammar or write well. Now, I know I taught grammar in elementary, and so did my teammates. The reality is that kids aren’t learning it. So, this is one area that could be improved.
Unfortunately, I cannot figure out the reasoning behind Conventions in the BEST standards at all. There is no obvious progression as to what is taught in each grade. In fact, the new standards in third grade were formerly standards in grades 2 – 7. There is very little carryover from LAFS to BEST. (For this reason, I am not detailing all the changes here.)
I looked at Kindergarten and first grade to get a sense of what students should know before entering second. The LAFS Language focused heavily on basic skills (end punctuation, capitalization, and parts of speech.) The new standards mention them, but they appear to be a mix of basic and advanced skills. This continues in third.
Conventions standards are all over in every elementary grade. Unfortunately, I think teachers are going to have to use standards in this subsection loosely and instead base instruction on students’ skills and needs (which is what should be happening anyway.)
The state had the idea of including book lists at each grade level for fiction and nonfiction, as well as poems and civics books. Although this idea had potential, the execution has some problems.
I spoke with my teacher friends, and it seems like the lists are suggested and not mandatory. That’s a good thing, because many of the suggested books are out of print.
In third grade, the books are mostly on grade level, so teachers may find some ideas for their class. I think many of the suggested fiction books are already frequently used in third grade, like Charlotte’s Web and Sarah, Plain and Tall.
A few of the literature books are above grade level. However, there are no below grade level books.
In reading, writing, and phonics, third grade teachers can largely continue teaching what they have in the past and meet the standards without a problem. Lessons may need to be adjusted, but that should not be difficult for many of the standards. Teachers may want to continue to include higher-level thinking skills and some of the removed literature skills.
Teachers should easily be able to include the Oral Communication, Technology, and Research standards in lessons. Research standards may be difficult for some students. Scaffolding may be needed, and multiple research projects planned throughout the year.
Primary teachers will have to focus on their students’ ability levels to teach Conventions, as the grade level standards may or may not match their skills. Teachers should assess individual needs and pulling students for small group instruction.
The book lists may give you some ideas, but you may have a hard time finding books because many are out-of-print. However, the suggested fiction books include some tried-and-true standards for third grade.
My standards posters and checklists are being updated (and improved!) If you previously purchased my Florida Standards resources, you get the updates for free – just check your My Purchases area in TPT.