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Child Development Tracker

Home » 8 to 9 »


Supporting Activities

Reading and Language

Use this valuable time to play with language - through word, number, guessing games and song. Car Talk

Use these read-aloud tips to continue expanding your child's vocabulary and world view. Listen to Language!

Word Girl

Kids will enrich their vocabularies as they help Word Girl use the power of words to save the world. Word Magic

Books for Your Child

Reading to children every day is a great way for them to learn new skills. Try these books for third graders.

The language skills of eight-year-olds continue to show the impact of their developing literacy skills. Children's fundamental reading skills are established, and one function of reading becomes its use for learning about various topics. Children also increase their knowledge of the language system itself (i.e., "metalinguistic awareness") and the rules that govern it. At the same time, children's writing skills continue to develop. (For more information, see the Literacy information provided for this age.) A child's language and literacy skills lay the groundwork for academic achievement, and will be the route through which academic learning will progress.

Receptive Vocabulary (words recognized when heard or seen)

  • Continues to rapidly develop vocabulary, with an estimate of about 3,000 new words learned during the year. As the child's literacy skills continue to develop, experiences with new words will expand as well.

  • The typical child has the capacity to learn about 20 new words a day on average, largely from reading independently each day.

  • Continues to develop and expand vocabulary through reading. Comprehension skills in both listening and reading should be emphasized. It is essential that children be able to answer questions about, and infer information from what has been heard or read.

  • Improves understanding of the concept that a "word" means something. Includes function words (e.g., "the") in his conceptualization of what a word is, and is better at stating formal definitions for words. Increases understanding of multiple meanings for words (e.g., "jam" can be used to refer to a sweet spreadable made from fruit and a congested highway). Makes different types of word associations (e.g., at an earlier age, hearing the word "boy," a child responds with "run" while now the same word "boy" might produce the responses of "girl"or "man," showing a change in how the word is represented or categorized). Uses broader category labels (e.g., "clothing," "sports").

Language Comprehension (when several words are spoken at once)

  • Can use words as forms of play or as verbal humor, and is beginning to understand irony (i.e., the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning). In spontaneous word play, children may use words that rhyme or include made-up or nonsense words. Riddles are examples of word games that are built on some type of ambiguity (e.g., "Where does a polar bear keep his money? A snow bank!"). Jokes and puns similarly rely on manipulating words and their meanings. A child's ability to grasp the meaning of these uses of language depends on her ability to think about language itself (i.e., "metalinguistic development") and reflects her increasing facility with the language system.

  • Can use words as forms of play or as verbal humor, and is beginning to understand irony (i.e., the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning). In spontaneous word play, children may use words that rhyme or include made-u

  • Has well-developed concepts of time and number. Can name, in order, days of the week and months of the year.

Speech Sound Perception

  • Segmenting words into their component sounds and letters can be used to decode new unknown words while reading.

  • Speaks appropriately by controlling and adjusting speaking rate, voice pitch (i.e., high and low sounds) and volume appropriately.

Expressive/Productive Vocabulary (words used when speaking or writing)

  • Improves in understanding embedded phrases (e.g., the phrase "that my brother read" in the sentence, "The book that my brother read was very exciting."). Demonstrates increasing skill for using indirect requests (e.g., says, "That T-shirt matches my shoes perfectly!" in the hopes that the listener might give the speaker the T-shirt).


  • Can produce all sounds and sound blends in the English language using speech that is understandable, even to unfamiliar listeners. Is even able to pronounce consonant clusters like, "str-" in "straw" or "dr-" in "dragon."

Grammatical Development

  • Uses complex and compound sentence structures easily. Through formal education, can identify parts of a sentence such as "subject" and "verb."

  • Few errors in grammatical use such as tense, pronouns or plurals. Has developed knowledge of irregular verbs such as "left," "hung" or "build." Has learned irregular plurals and rules for the derivations of nouns (e.g., paint to painter, police to policeman) and adverbs (e.g., smooth to smoothly). Understands adverbs like "definitely" and "possibly."

Sharing Personal Experiences

  • Most of the narratives communicated use the classic narrative style that builds to a high point. The plot is clearly defined and the child tells what happened and then evaluates the outcome. These narratives become more developed and sophisticated and may include comments about how the speaker felt about what had occurred. Referential communication skills (i.e., when the object of the conversation is not present for the listener) are improved. Also, the use of words like "this" or "that" are limited or omitted, and pronouns like "she" or "they" are clearly defined for the listener. Language skills and competence impact the child's interactions not only with adults, but importantly with peers.

Conversational Skills

  • Begins and ends conversations appropriately using social conventions, including introducing a new topic. Is able to clarify an idea that is expressed or a word that is used. Can offer an opinion on a situation or topic.

  • Takes turns when speaking.

  • Maintains the topic of conversation and uses appropriate eye contact when communicating. Asks questions and responds to those from others. Uses specific, including subject-related, vocabulary in conversation. Can summarize and convey a story accurately and explain what has been learned.

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