3rd Grade FSA ELA for Parents

by | Apr 2, 2019 | Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

Third grade is the first year students take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) tests. Students are often nervous about taking the test because they aren’t sure what to expect. Their anxiety can be decreased just by knowing what the test will be like and feeling ready to do their best.

By the end of this post, parents will have a good understanding of what the FSA ELA test is like and how they can help their student prepare for the test.

3rd Grade FSA ELA

The FSA ELA test covers both reading and language (spelling, mechanics, and grammar) skills. Students will be given multiple reading passages of both fiction and nonfiction, plus they may have an infographic or table. The reading passages have a total word count between 100 – 700 words, and the Lexile levels are between 520L – 820L. (This post has just under 700 words from the title to the end of the third-grade standards section.)

The exam is a paper and pencil test – the state legislature stopped computer-based testing in the elementary grades.

In third grade, students usually see two fiction and two nonfiction passages. The passages are paired, so they have something in common. For example, the nonfiction passages might be themed on inventions or animal habitats. The reading passages usually have a comparable trait, such as theme or plot.

Students will be asked multiple-choice questions about the passages. These questions vary in difficulty. Some of the questions have one answer, while others have multiple correct answers. Other questions have two parts. For example, the first part might be to select the theme of the story, and the second part might ask which piece of evidence from the story supports their choice in part one. Still, others might ask students to make selections on a table.

There are no written responses in the reading test. These were also removed, and now all answers are “bubbled.”

In addition, students will have a short passage to read that has grammatical errors. The sentences that are used as test questions are underlined. The multiple-choice questions are found after the reading passage. These questions have four answer choices, with the last one always stating “correct as is.” These questions focus on grade-level Language standards, which will be discussed later in this post.

3rd Grade Standards

Reading, Reading, Reading

The big focus in third grade is reading. The standards include basic skills, including identifying the main idea and details, point of view, and text features. Third grade has a standard that expects them to be familiar with fables, folk tales, and myths.

Third graders are also expected to compare and contrast details in two texts. For example, they should be able to read two articles about different animals, then compare the information about each animal. They should also be able to read two short stories and then discuss how the characters, settings, themes, or plots were similar or different.


Students are also expected to use context clues in the reading to figure out the meaning of words. They should be familiar with idioms, figurative language, proverbs, and adages. Students should also begin to understand common affixes (prefixes, suffixes, and root words.)


Third-grade grammar focuses on nouns and verbs, as well as sentence structure. Students should be able to write a sentence in which the subject-verb matches, and they use the proper pronoun to refer back to the subject. They should also be able to build a compound and complex sentences using conjunctions.

  • Abstract nouns
  • Regular and irregular plural nouns
  • Regular and irregular verbs
  • Simple verb tense (I walked, I walk, I will walk)
  • Subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement (Making sure the pronoun stays consistent throughout the sentence. Ex. John and Ahmed said they would like cheeseburgers.
  • Comparative and superlative adjectives (bigger/biggest, better/best, more/most, etc.)
  • Coordinating and subordinating conjunctions (joining words such as and, but, or, because, since, etc.)

 Mechanics & Conventions

The third-grade standards really work on a few key skills:

  • Capitalize words in a title
  • Commas in an address (city, state)
  • Commas and quotations marks in dialogue
  • Possessive nouns (My family’s house, her cats’ beds)

How Parents Can Help Their Students

Read Together Often

The best way to support your student is to read together. The more a student reads, the better he or she will comprehend texts and will increase his or her vocabulary.

It is important to hook reluctant readers with something they enjoy. Once they find something they want to read, it is much easier to get them to read!

Parents should ask questions about the reading to check their student’s comprehension. A few examples are:

  • What was the order of the events in the story?
  • How did the character feel when __________?
  • What is the meaning of the word _______________ in this sentence?
  • How do you know __________________? What sentence in the story made you think that?
  • How does this paragraph help the reader understand the story? (It explains the setting, character, etc.)
  • What does the author believe about _________? (nonfiction text)
  • What is the main idea?
  • How do the text features help you understand the information? (nonfiction – titles, photographs, tables, etc.)

Vocabulary is an area of weakness for many students. Again, students who read frequently have the largest vocabularies. Skill-and-drill is not nearly as helpful as just reading frequently.

I would also incorporate fables and folk tales into your reading time so that their story format is familiar to your reader. I also recommend reading books like Amelia Bedelia and books with idioms, metaphors, similes, and figurative language. Parents should also read nonfiction selections with students. Many nonfiction books are written on a higher Lexile level, so I recommend asking a librarian to help you find books on a third-grade level.

Play Games

For reading, vocabulary, and other skills, I also recommend playing games. I recently saw a social media post by the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children. It stated that scientists have determined that it takes about 900 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play, in which case it only takes 10-20 times.

In my own experience, gameplay had a huge role in my ability to read and do math. My mom kept many games at the house, and we played Uncle Wiggly, Scrabble Jr., and Yahtzee. Games made learning seem like fun! However, it can be difficult to find games that focus on higher-level skills.

Looking for Teaching Resources?

To help students, I created card games and skill practice that coordinates with common games. Students are much more willing to play games than to complete worksheets – and it helps them remember the information faster. These games are great for parents who want to support their students’ learning in a family-friendly way!

If parents would like more information about the FSA Ela test, the FSA portal is an excellent resource. It also includes a sample test, which helps parents to understand the design of the reading passages and test questions. (Teachers often use the sample tests in class. Please do not give your students the test without checking with his or her teacher.)


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3rd Grade FSA ELA for Parents