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Year 3 and 4 Spelling & Vocabulary: Download Free Word Lists

Tier 2 and 3 spelling and vocabulary words are critical for academic development in Years 3 and 4, so what are they, and where can I find them?

Looking for a word list or a simple worksheet to ensure your child’s spelling is at the right level? You’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find free downloadable word lists for Year 3 and 4 English. Moreover, read this article’s simple guide on the NSW and Victoria Junior School Curriculum to find out exactly what you can be doing to improve your child’s Year 3 and 4 spelling!


Year 3 and 4 Spelling Requirements (NSW and Victoria)

The NSW Junior School Curriculum identifies eight focus areas for Stage 2 (Year 3 and 4) English, while Victoria identifies three, but if you take a closer look, you’ll find almost all of them are directly related to vocabulary. In Year 3 and 4, it is expected that your child can read, spell, pronounce, understand and (most importantly) use a large range of complex words fluently. While a lot of language is learned implicitly through everyday conversation at home or school, the focus in Year 3 and 4 spelling is on words that have multiple uses, as well as words that your child may never have even come across before. The Department of Education calls these Tier 2 and Tier 3 words.


Tier 2 and 3 Words (What Are They?)

While Tier 1 words make up your basic vocabulary (e.g. run, sad, play), Tier 2 and 3 words are where things get complicated. Like Tier 1, Tier 2 words still appear in everyday conversation, but they often have multiple meanings or uses, some of which your child may be less familiar with (for example, the word “date” can refer to the day of the month, or the sweet tropical fruit). Finally, there are your Tier 3 words. These words are much less common and often context-specific, the kind of words you might come across in a novel, essay, textbook or scientific article (think economics, satire or isotope).


Year 3 and 4 Spelling Word List Vocabulary


Improving Your Child’s Vocabulary and Spelling (The Best Way)

When trying to enhance your child’s understanding of Tier 2 and 3 words, word lists can be a good place to start, and lucky for you, a bunch of top quality ones happen to be just one click away! Below you’ll find a collection of downloadable Tier 2 and 3 Word Lists. Each list not only includes ten important words and their definitions, but also examples of sentences including these words, so your child can see first hand when and how they are used (neat, right?). There are separate word lists for Year 3 and Year 4 spelling respectively.

To begin, it is recommended that you set aside thirty minutes to an hour to sit with your child and go through the words together. Then, give your child some time to study the word list independently over the next week before quizzing them! The quiz can be as simple as reading the words aloud to your child, giving them a moment between each word to write it on the worksheets provided (or a lined sheet of paper will work just fine!). At the end of the quiz, return the word list to your child so they can mark their work and correct any errors (it is important you let them do this themselves; self-correction is a fantastic tool for improving spelling!). Finally, double check their work. Their final score should be out of fifteen, one mark for every correct word!

Download your Year 3 Word Lists

Boost your child's Stage 2 Spelling and Vocabulary Skills.

Download your Year 4 Word Lists

Boost your child's Stage 2 Spelling and Vocabulary Skills.

To make the quiz more challenging, consider asking your child to include each word in a sentence, or to explain to you what each word means. This can make the task more fun and interactive for the both of you. The provided worksheet also includes a space in which your child can write the definition of the word, but we encourage you to converse with them as well.

If you both happen to get stuck on a particular word (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us!), here’s a handy little trick: Simply type “Define [insert word here]” into google. The first result will be an Oxford Dictionary definition of the word. This will not only include its meaning, correct usage and a dropdown list of synonyms, but if you click the speaker icon, you can listen to how the word is pronounced as well! Just be wary of homonyms, sometimes the definition you are looking for isn’t the first definition that comes up.


But Wait… Are Word Lists Enough?

While word lists remain a fantastic resource for improving your child’s mastery of Year 3 and 4 spelling and vocabulary, they aren’t necessarily designed to engage your child’s comprehension or critical thinking skills.

Warning! Rote learning the spelling and definition of a word doesn’t guarantee you know when or how to use it.

Accordingly, Year 3 and 4 students are expected to engage with words on a more complex level than can be achieved with simple word lists. Core components of both the NSW and Victorian Stage 2 Curriculum require students to not only understand and respond to literature, but compose writing of their own. So while knowing a lot of Tier 2 and 3 words is great, knowing where, how and why to use these words is just as crucial. This distinction is exactly what NAPLAN is designed to test, and will remain the focus of your child’s English studies up until Year 12.

So how can you make sure your child’s critical literacy is up to speed?


Year 3 Literacy (The Big 3)

The Year 3 and 4 English Curriculum places great emphasis on examining the different ways words can be used. It even outlines very specific questions children at this stage of learning should be asking when they come across new words. Lucky for you, we’ve combed through the curriculum ourselves and come up with a handy little three-step framework you and your child can use to begin analysing Tier 2 and 3 words.

1. Objective VS Subjective

When you see an adjective (or describing word), a great first question to ask yourself is if it is being used objectively or subjectively. If something is objective, it means it is scientifically true or factual. An objective truth is not based on feelings or opinion.

Example: The earth is a round planet.

Here, the word “round” is being used objectively. The earth is spherical, and that is true, no matter what anyone tries to say about it. It is a factual observation, uninfluenced by feelings or personal opinion.

Objective words can give your child’s writing credibility, and are helpful when composing persuasive and informative pieces. They are often found in facts and statistics!

However, if something is subjective, it means it is based on opinion. A subjective word is the direct product of someone’s individual thoughts and feelings, so different people will use different subjective words, based on their unique perspectives.

Example: The earth is a beautiful planet.

Here, the word “beautiful” is being used subjectively. While earth is factually round, different people have different feelings about whether the earth looks beautiful, and none of them are necessarily “wrong”. Someone who loves the colour blue might think the earth is the MOST beautiful planet in the solar system, but someone who’s favourite colour is red might prefer the look of mars.

Subjective words can highlight how the speaker uniquely thinks, feels or sees certain things. They give personal insight and emotional depth to a piece, and are helpful when composing persuasive and creative pieces.

Knowing how to use objective and subjective words is a powerful literacy tool, one which will serve your child from their Year 3 and 5 NAPLAN test well into Year 12. Does the hiker in their story see the evening campfire as bright and warm, or blinding and scorching? Careful! There’s a difference.

2. Literal VS Figurative

Another useful question you can ask when analysing a word is if it is being used literally or figuratively. If a word is literal, it is being used in its most basic sense, without exaggeration or metaphor. Basically, if something is literal, it means EXACTLY what it says.

Example: The tree was on fire.

Here, the word “fire” is being used literally; we are supposed to believe that the tree is actually burning. The writing speaks for itself.

However, if a word is used figuratively, it means the writer hasn’t used it with the original definition in mind, but they are actually trying to say something a bit more abstract.

Example: Bimansa just hit three baseballs in a row, and didn’t miss once! She’s on fire!

Here, the word “fire” is being used figuratively; we aren’t supposed to believe Bimansa is actually on fire. Rather, in this case, being “on fire” is a metaphor that means Bimansa is performing really well in baseball. In this case, we ignore the original definition of the word, and instead focus on the more abstract (or figurative) meaning!

Knowing the difference between figurative and literal language is crucial for not only writing, but reading comprehension as well. From Year 3 to the HSC, your child’s performance in English will revolve around understanding figurative language in the texts they read, as well as using it in their own writing.

While Year 3 and 4 spelling lists are great, they can’t teach you everything (no amount of revising the word e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t in the dictionary will change the fact that when Amanda said she wanted to address the “elephant in the room”, she wasn’t hoping to chat with a massive tusked beast in the middle of her kitchen).

3. Low Modality VS High Modality

The final vocabulary question the Stage 2 curriculum suggests asking is whether a word is low modality or high modality. Essentially, modality refers to the degree of certainty or intensity with which something is said. A low modal statement is uncertain, weak, and/or apathetic, while a high modal statement is certain, strong, and/or impassioned.

Let’s have a go at writing the same statement in low modality, and then again in high modality:

Example: Maybe you should get ice-cream.

Here, low modal words like “maybe” and “should” make this statement appear less certain. Now, let’s up the modality:

Example: You must get ice-cream.

Here, the high modal word “must” gives the statement greater certainty and authority. It transforms it from a suggestion into a command. While the bold words above are all examples of what we call “auxiliary verbs”, even nouns and adjectives make use of modality. Consider the difference in power between the words “damp” and “drenched”, “unkind” and “ruthless”, or “option” and “requirement”. While we don’t always notice, each of us uses modality every single day.

Understanding how low and high modal words contribute to the overall intensity, authority and tone of a sentence is crucial. In NAPLAN (and indeed into the HSC), your child will be assessed on their persuasive writing, a form that demands a mastery of high modal language. Just make sure your child knows exactly when and how modality should be used. “Mother, you MUST pass the butter!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it…

I Get the Concepts, So What Now?

Overall, one thing is clear: Stage 2 English is a big step up. The NSW and Victorian English Curriculum demand Year 3 and 4 students to move above and beyond the traditional “word list”, and to begin asking bigger questions of the words they encounter. What makes a statement a suggestion or a command? How do you tell the difference between an opinion and a fact? Can words have deeper meanings that are separate from their normal definitions?

While it can be overwhelming when educators throw around big words like “figurative” and “modality”, students are encouraged to start simple and work their way up.

To start with, make sure your child is reading widely, and most importantly, reading things that they enjoy (our lovely Matrix teachers and most bookstore employees are very happy to offer novel recommendations!). Encourage your child to use a pencil to underline any words they don’t understand, as well as to look up definitions for themselves when they don’t know the meaning of a word. These words can then be discussed at the end of each chapter, or your child can even include them in their own personalised word lists!

Speaking of, a word list once a week can go a long way. But remember! Recent findings in psychology and neuroscience suggest that, when it comes to long-term academic improvement, rewarding effort and perseverance is more important than rewarding good grades, so make sure your child knows you are proud of the work they are putting into improving their literacy, no matter their weekly results!

Finally, it is worth noting that a student who enjoys the act of reading, feels validated in their learning and can talk about their favourite characters and stories with their parents (this includes TV!) is much better off than a student who completes hundreds of word lists. While it can be tempting to focus on Year 3 and 4 spelling tests as the primary metric for your child’s academic development, keep in mind that much of high school English will involve the analysis of visual and cinematic texts (this includes TV, movies, comics and more!), not just books.

So yes, not only is it okay for you to sit down with your child and watch a movie they like, but this can actually improve their literacy (bonus points if you can turn subtitles on to get them more engaged with their vocabulary!). And of course, when you see a high modal word, or hear a phrase that uses a word figuratively, talk to your child about it. Before long, they’ll be joining in!

Written by Jacques Nieuwoudt


© Matrix Education and, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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