German primary school. Deutsch in grades 3-4

Last Updated on September 24, 2023

In this part about teaching German in primary school in grades 3-4: what textbooks can I recommend, what was in programm in third and fourth grades, one sample test and a list of grammar rules for primary school.

In the previous part, there were first and second grades.
An introductory part with navigation is here.
Books for 3-4 grade (in German library)
Education system in Baden-Württemberg
Primary school. School supplies in Germany
Asperger’s syndrome without outdated clichés
4th grade. Gymnasium or Realschule?

* The links in this post are affiliated, but this does not affect the opinion of the author. Book prices are the same in all stores in Germany

Textbooks grades 3-4

Typical problems

In German, we are faced with a typical problem, as I understand from conversations with other parents, when the parents and the child himself very approximately know what exactly goes through, what rules and what, in fact, they need to know. There is no textbook, everything is on worksheets, verbally and cheerfully, and then dictation and a bunch of mistakes.

The second problem is the lack of exercises for working out of rules, so it speak drills.

And the third problem is writing essays.

Where to find the rules

You will find a list of rules for grade 3-4 at the end of the post.

There are problems with a good and intelligible presentation in the textbooks. There were two options at school:

  • one teacher dictated the rules into a separate little notebook. What a pity – the notebook was lying all the time at school and the habit of using it was not formed. There were also rules on the flyleaf of the textbook, but not all and reduced and the textbook was also most often at school
  • the second teacher gave the rules on separate worksheets. They were either glued into the notebook (= never read again, since it was impossible to find either a notebook at school), or they were part of the homework and gave up. That is, you could get your hands on them at the end of the six months.

I have not yet found worthy book of rules. There are only half helpful: one rule is more or less well stated, the other is not. A marker for me is a rule for setting punctuation marks in direct speech. There should be five of them: the author’s words before (1), after (2), within direct speech from one sentence (3), within direct speech from two sentences (4), direct speech within the author’s words (5). More than the first three I have not yet seen in the textbooks. You will find the full five rules in another post.

It remains to search in the Internet as needed and write your own rules, or copy and collect teacher’s worksheets in the place where you can find them.

Practicing grammar

Our teacher believes that spelling gets up after grade 5. In general, I agree with her. The number of people making wild mistakes decreases towards the end of school. Someone suddenly begins to grasp the logic, someone’s visual memory turns on. Nevertheless, dictations are carried out in primary school and notes are given for them. Likewise, notes for gross errors in other works are reduced.

There are many exercise books for practicing. For example, Aldi and Lidl sell similar ones several times a year. But most of them are unsuccessful, because:

  • from the exercise books to the exercise books, the same words are used
  • there are too few exercises for one rule. For example I needed to give my child a exercises for the im – ihm rule. It turned out to be impossible to find several exercises on this topic.
  • most of the exercises are at the “insert a letter” level, that is, the children did it quickly, like they “worked it out”, and in active speech (when they will write himself) there will be errors. The child should write a word 3-5 times – then it is remembered, and not when letters were inserted into it.

What can I recommend:

  • books Rechtschreiben* by Peter Wachendorf.
  • books Zebra Arbeitsheft Sprache*, if you have a different set at additional exercise book, which is usually not given at school, even if you have a Zebra set: Zebra Trainingsheft*. An additional exercise books also has exercises for reading and writing, which may be unnecessary for you.
  • exercise books Ich kann rechtschreiben* a little worse, than the first ones on the list, but can also be used.
  • There is also a exercise book in the set Mildenberger – Übungsheft Rechtschreiben*.

Using books of dictations for spelling training is not the best idea, it does not give much.

It is recommended to have a school dictionary at home. At school they are given out, but it is thin and is not always at home. I have such*. Schülerduden* is also a classic.

Preparation for essay

If your child is having essay writing problems, then a many of essay writing exercise books won’t do much for you. For a simple reason: they were written by “philological” people who write essays well and do not always understand how to break the barrier of “mathematical” children. Lots of words, little structure. Thus, these manuals will help children who already write do it better, but they will not help non-writing children begin to write.

The book should lay out the essay into small parts, little screws, show how to select the right screw for a given model, what fuel (that is, what are the typical words for this model) to add to make this car go. Plus, you need a sufficient number of exercises for each element of each type of essay.

I reviewed various collections “150 Exercises for Composing”, “200 Exercises for Composing”, I could not find anything worthy. Something can be used in pieces, but buying rather expensive books for the sake of this is not worth it. You can take some those books in the library.

Not bad Zebra Schreiben* and Mildenberger Übungsheft Texte schreiben*.

What you really need – a book (in fact, a school dictionary of synonyms) helping to avoid repeating words Sag es besser (old variant*, new variant*). This book is used a lot indeed.

Third grade

There is a lot of repetition of topics already studied in the German program:

  • verb, noun, pronoun
  • changes in the verb by person and number,
  • Präteritum and Perfekt
  • spelling associated with long and short vowels (doubling, different types of s, tz, ck),
  • subject, predicate,
  • prefixes and suffixes (Vorsilben, Nachsilben),
  • the degree of comparison of adjectives,
  • punctuation marks when listing and direct speech
  • the future tense, the imperative mood, complex sentences with the conjunctions denn, aber, weil, dass are added.

Periodically, they give words for memorization (Lernwörter) with printed exercises for practicing them. Some of them have spelling rules explainable, some need to be remembered. It is proposed to memorize them by different methods.

I advise you to take a photo of the words to remember when they are received. They worked out the worksheet – gave it up, and the control one a week later, and how are we going to repeat it?

At the end of the year, there are tests in German and in mathematics called VERA 3. I will tell you about this test separately.

Reading: they already read rather complex texts on popular science topics, train expressive reading. They learned by heart several poems. As far as I understand, not classics of literature, but didactic classics.

They made a presentation on the book they had read.

Previously, the type of control written work in the third grade was dictation, now an essay. There are three test essays per year. They were engaged in the development of speech in a block – for three weeks they continuously wrote the beginning of the essays, the middle, the end, the training essay.

At the beginning of the year, they also wrote an essay about the holidays, and after the events – reports.

Third-graders should be able to write an essay – a story from pictures, an essay – a story about an event (from their own experience or one picture that contains a situation), an essay-report. Different types of essays will be in separate topics.

The test essay comes under signature with a great comment after. The composition must be corrected and improved. Errors are taken into account only in those words that have already been passed. Our friend had 9 mistakes, but in the words they didn’t pass, so she got 1.5.

An example of a test in German for grammar

Focus on Präteritum, Wortfeld, Pronouns and Spelling

Spoiler title

All errors are counted, including misspellings, letters missed by inattention, capital / small letters, even if the task is focused on grammar – all at half a point minus. That is, if the task is to write six pronouns, and all the pronouns are inscribed correctly, but four of them are written with a capital letter instead of a small letter, then out of a possible 3 points (half a point for each pronoun) for the task the child receives 1. Or if the task is to rewrite the text, replacing verbs in the present tense with verbs in the past tense, the error when copying is counted as an error.

In my opinion, counting the missing letter r as a mistake in three out of six forms of the verb springen, despite the fact that the endings are spelled correctly, is a bit cannibalistic (that is 1,5 point minus!).

1. Dictation.

Am Teich
An einem Vormittag in den Ferien traf ich Lisa. Wir fuhren mit unseren Fahrrädern aus der Stadt. Wir besuchen den Teich, um viele spannende Tiere zu entdecken. Später sahen wir Vögel und Schnecken. Am Schluss zeigte Lisa mir ein Mauseloch.

2. Underline direct speech and put missing signs (colons, quotation marks, marks of the ends of a sentence – including in the middle of direct speech). For example: Da meinte Nico So ein Mist Ich sehe nichts mehr

3. Write six personal forms in the Präteritum verbs: sein, gehen, schlafen, kommen.

4. Underline nouns, verbs, adjectives in the text with different colors.

Gestern sah ich mir den Wetterbericht an. Darin stand, dass die Sonne scheint. Deshalb ging ich ohne Regenschirm aus dem Haus. Doch dann zogen große dunkle Wolken am Himmel auf. Ein starker Wind fing an zu wehen. Dicke Regentropfen fielen vom Himmel. Ich rannte schnell nach Hause. Nicht einmal auf den Wetterbericht kann man sich verlassen!

5. Write down the text by replacing verbs in the present tense with verbs in the Präteritum.

Ich fahre mit dem Fahrrad an den See. Dort treffe ich meinen Freund. Wir stellen die Räder an einem Baum ab. Schnell ziehen wir unsere Badesachen an und rennen ins Wasser. Es ist sehr kalt. Deshalb gehen wir nach kurzer Zeit wieder raus. Ich steige wieder auf mein Rad und fahre heim. Ahmed bleibt noch am See.

6. Replace underlined words with suitable pronouns. For example:

Die kurzen Hosen ermöglichen es Tim schneller zu laufen.

7. Insert suitable pronouns.

Tims Freunde sitzen am Spielfeldrand. … sehen sich das Fußballspiel an. Plötzlich ein Foul! … war völlig unnötig! Hält der Torwart? … hat gehalten. Die Freunde springen auf. Glücklich tanzen … einen Freunderanz.

8. Each sentence contains one misspelled word. Correct the error and explain why you need to write differently. What strategy did you use? Spelling errors in the justification were not counted. The wrong words were: Formittag, Fahrad, stelte, Meuse.

Fourth grade

The fourth grade starts off hard: this is the time to notes for the next school and make a recommendation. It takes several tests, composition.

The second half of the year is a little more relaxed, although they do not sit idly there either.

Due to the quarantine, we did not have any structured study of topics. There were many, many sheets on one topic, then on another. What can I highlight:

  • a lot of time was devoted to the forms of the verb, the future tense and the imperative mood were added,
  • transition of a verb into a noun
  • das and dass
  • man and Mann
  • paar and Paar
  • punctuation marks in direct speech
  • punctuation marks between parts of a complex sentence
  • personal pronouns in different forms,
  • replacement of a noun with a pronoun
  • phraseological units and proverbs
  • word wrap

The reading was in the form of numerous worksheets for understanding the text and a number of large Leseheft (reading exercise books): thin booklets of 40 pages – Till Eulenspiegel, Sams Wal, Schildbüger, Aesop’s fables are among those that I remember. They had to be read, to answer questions. Among the questions were to write poetry, and to outline the content of the chapter (this is one of the types of essays), to finish writing the end, to tell about what the hero feels. In general, such a good classic literature lessons.

They wrote an essay based on one picture, on a problematic situation (add how it was resolved), a description of the appearance, numerous reports on all events and vacations, a poem. Official letters were learnt in detail.

We made two presentations: on a detective story and on one of the city’s attractions.

German grammar program in primary school

1. Phonetics

Must know

  • what is vowel and consonant (Vokale / Selbstlaut and Konsonanten / Mitlaut)
  • be able to identify long and short vowels (see separate post on this topic)
  • division into syllables (separate post)


identify long and short vowels.
divide words into syllables with several consonants, and words where there is only one vowel and many consonants.

2. Alphabet

Must know

  • know the alphabet
  • be able to alphabetize words


the arrangement of words in alphabetical order from the second-third-fourth letter of the words (when the beginning is the same, but the difference begins further).

3. Noun (Nomen)


  • be able to find and write with a capital letter
  • know singular and plural (Einzahl – Mehrzahl)
  • noun suffixes -ung, -heit, -keit (to be able to form, to understand that they are all feminine)
  • compound nouns (be able to form, use the connecting s, if necessary, use the correct article)
  • in grade 4, identify verbs that have become nouns, distinguish quantitative pronouns (paar) from nouns (Paar)

In grade 3 there should be no mistakes in finding typical nouns in the text – this goes into the category of gross errors.

4. Articles (Begleiter)


  • know the definite and indefinite articles (be able to define, write correctly in different cases)

5. Verbs (Verben)

Tun-Wörter – this supporting term was still used in the first half of the 3rd grade for a reminder, but in the second half of the year they already write Verben

Must know

  • infinitive (Grundform)
  • present tense and personal forms of verbs (endings, special forms)
  • forms of the verbs sein, haben
  • verbs with prefixes, be able to find separated prefixes in a sentence
  • Präteritum and personal forms, forms of irregular verbs
  • Perfekt
  • in 4th grade future tense and imperative mood


  • forgotten (the child does not finish writing to the end) personal ending with a confluence of consonants at the end of the verb (mainly in the 3rd person – for example klappt)
  • there are great difficulties with irregular verbs even among reading children, these verbs need to be trained separately (for example, I know the Präteritum forms better than my child, that is, German native speech does not in any way affect the knowledge of these forms)
  • it is difficult to remember the past tenses of the verb, how they differ
  • there is no clear idea of ​​when a perfect is needed with ist, and when with hat
  • the forms of the verbs sein, haben and modal verbs are not perceived as verbs and are not recognized in the text.

6. Adjectives (Adjektive, Wie-Wörter)


  • be able to find
  • know degrees of comparison
  • suffixes -lich, -ig
  • prefix un-


irregular forms of comparison – need to be trained separately.

7. Pronouns (Pronomen, Fürwörter)

Must know

  • personal pronouns (be able to find, replace repeating words in the text with pronouns, write the correct forms)

8. Sentences

Must know

  • types of sentences (Fragesatz, Aussagesatz, Ausrufesatz, Aufforderungsatz)
  • subject
  • predicate (simple and compound, but so far only verbs)


Finding the subject and predicate is usually not the easiest task for children. It is especially difficult not to forget the separated parts of the verb or to identify the compound forms.

9. Vocabulary and word composition


  • know prefix (Vorsilbe), suffix (Nachsilbe) and endings (Endungen)
  • be able to find root word (Wortstamm), cognate words (Wortfamilie)
  • Wortfeld – words related to the same topic and not necessarily synonyms. The concept is not very clear. In the “word field” of the word “speak” there will be words: say, mumble, stutter, shout, whisper, speak out, notice


extra letters are captured when determining the root. Also, the child may not identify the same root words if alternation has occurred there.

10. Punctuation

Must know

  • comma when listing
  • punctuation marks in direct speech (see separate topic)
  • in grade 4 – a comma between parts of a complex sentence

An introductory post with navigation is here.

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