Growth Profile of a Third Grader

Excerpts from Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 by Chip Wood

Growth Patterns


  • Better coordinated
  • Like to push their physical limits; tires easily
  • Complain about aches, pains, injuries and hurt feelings
  • May twist hair, bite nails, or purse lips to relieve tension


  • More individualistic
  • Often feel worried or anxious
  • Impatient
  • Often complain about fairness issues
  • Critical of self and others (including adults)
  • Can be sullen, moody, aloof, and negative; often say “I hate it,” It’s boring,” etc.


  • Love descriptive language, word play and new vocabulary
  • Sometimes revert to baby talk
  • Enjoy exaggeration, “dirty” jokes, and graffiti


  • Industrious and intellectually curious, but less imaginative than at eight
  • Beginning to see the “bigger world,” including issues of fairness and justice
  • Able to manage more than one concept at a time, such as “long ago and far away”
  • Have trouble understanding abstractions, such as large number, long periods of time, or cast areas of space

In the Classroom

Vision and Fine Motor Ability

  • With better coordination and control, show more interest in details
  • Can fully master cursive handwriting, although they may need help relaxing their overly tight pencil grip
  • Benefit from practice with a variety of fine motor tools and tasks (weaving, knitting, carving, drawing, etc.)
  • Able to copy from the board, recopy assignments, and produce beautiful final drafts

Gross Motor Ability

  • Like to push their physical limits, whether challenging themselves, racing each other, or trying to beat the clock.
  • Still learning physical control; have trouble staying within boundaries
  • Boys love to roughhouse, tumbling and wrestling like puppies
  • Complain of and sometimes exaggerate physical hurts
  • Restless; can’t sit still for long

Cognitive Growth

  • Need homework related specifically to the next day’s work; often ask the teacher, “Why do we have to do this?”
  • Looking hard (often anxiously) for explanations of facts, how things work, why things happen as they do; a good age for scientific exploration
  • Reading to learn, instead of learning to read: If reading ability has kept pace with grade level expectations, they can read for information in books and newspapers and on websites
  • Take pride in attention to detail and finished work, but may jump quickly between interests

Social-Emotional Behavior

  • Like to work with partner of their choice – usually of the same gender; may begin to form cliques
  • Can work in groups but may spend more time arguing about facts, rules, and directions than doing the actual activity
  • Very competitive; need their teacher’s sense of lightness and fun to help them relax in class and on the playground
  • Like to negotiate – this is the age of “Let’s make a deal”
  • Generally worried and anxious; need adult patience and clarity when giving directions or setting expectations
  • Very self-critical; sarcastic humor from adults can be very hurtful
  • Tend to give up on tasks; encouragement to try again builds up their fragile sense of competence
  • Exasperation on their teacher’s part leads to more complaints, whining, or moodiness; laughing with them is the best medicine