The Grammar School
Third Grade Curriculum
Integrating basic skills and developing effective communication to become more independent problem solvers are important parts of the third grade experience. Third graders continue to develop communication skills that contribute to a learning environment based on respectful interactions that value the individual and encourage constructive collaboration.
By exploring and analyzing the basic literary elements of character, setting, and plot that exemplify all good stories, third graders develop critical reading and writing skills. Class literature selections include Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White), Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder), Stone Fox (John Reynolds Gardiner), The Canada Geese Quilt (Natalie Kinsey-Warnock), The Castle in the Attic (Elizabeth Winthrop), and The Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White). Students have many opportunities to deepen their connection with various genres of literature. They choose their own material for the daily period of silent reading. The teacher reads aloud to the children at least once a day. Biographies and folktales are also formal literature units over the course of the year. Another component of the third grade language arts program is the Junior Great Books Curriculum, a selection of multicultural folktales and activities that emphasize critical thinking.
Classroom discussions are an important part of examining the elements of a story or a writing project. Students cultivate the ability to present their ideas with clarity and relevant supporting details. Third graders complete a range of written assignments during the school year. Effective use of literary tools such as similes, metaphors, descriptive details, and word selection is emphasized. Third graders develop skills in sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling during the editing process as well as during workbook exercises and group activities. They regularly experience many kinds of poetry as both readers and composers. Reading and writing are integral parts of science and social studies.
A major goal of the third grade math curriculum is to help students develop the ability to use multiple approaches or strategies to solve problems. This helps them gain fluency and flexibility with a range of mathematical processes. Key concepts include place value, fractions, decimals, basic operations, problem solving, data analysis, and geometry. With the Common Core Curriculum Standards as a guide, we use the Everyday Mathematics program supplemented by enrichment materials. Skills are reinforced through individual and group practice of math concepts. Group problem solving and discussion of strategies are daily components of each third grade math class.
Broad goals of the third grade science units are to increase the children’s awareness when studying both natural and manmade objects, and to strengthen their skills in generating “how” and “why” questions as well as their approaches to seeking answers. Each unit of the third grade science curriculum involves hands-on experiences in combination with expository reading and writing, sketching, and reflection. Field trips and guest speakers are also valuable contributions to the learning process. Students are given opportunities to apply scientific investigation to specific areas of interest during each topic area.
The year starts with a study of spiders and natural habitats found on TGS grounds. Encouraging third graders’ curiosity and concern about their natural world engenders a greater sense of the complexities and richness of the outdoors. In early winter, science activities center on the exploration of simple machines. Taking apart and reassembling mechanical gadgets help students develop the skills that are fundamental to scientific investigation. Using LEGO and K’NEX kits, students create functioning simple machine models and use these constructions to complete direct inquiry and problem-solving investigations. Open-ended projects include creating and constructing both simple and compound machine “folk toys” (e.g. marble mazes, gravity vehicles, gear boxes). During the spring term, students complete a series of local aquatic habitat studies.
In third grade, students explore other cultures to develop an appreciation of people from different countries and eras. By studying how climate, geography, and available natural resources affect any culture, students learn the many ways people experience successful interdependence. In the fall, we complete a New England history unit focusing on families and farms of the 19th century. During the latter part of the winter term and early spring, we join the fourth graders for a unit on the civilization of Ancient China. Field trips and visits from experts, as well as art, drama, and writing projects, are important tools for third graders to build and express their understanding of another culture. Similarly, historical fiction, biographical selections, folktales, artifacts, map activities, and critical-thinking exercises enhance students’ understanding of another culture in greater depth.
This year our school-wide Global Education Theme focuses on the culture of South Africa. Family, food, celebrations, customs, climate, and schooling are some of the areas that we will explore. Examining similarities and differences between our cultures fosters greater understanding and appreciation of people from different areas of the world. This unit will create an opportunity for a community service project that will benefit a specific outreach organization of South Africa.
Homework is a valuable connection between parents and school. Assignments reflect and support the range of activities and academic objectives in the classroom, and the teacher’s home notes may be useful to encourage family discussions about school experiences. Time management and organization of materials and workspace are important goals for third graders to develop both at school and at home. Approximately 30 minutes of nightly homework is assigned during the school week, which includes nightly review of targeted math facts. In addition, there is a 30-minute nightly reading commitment that may include a book or story read independently or with an adult.
Daily events of a third grader’s school experience provide ongoing opportunities to develop the ability to cope effectively with personal feelings and to share responsibilities in a group setting. The third grade social curriculum is inherent in the language arts, math, social studies and science curricula. For example, children collaborate with others toward common goals and discuss the successes and challenges of each participant’s contributions. In literature activities, third graders regularly identify and interpret the emotions and behaviors of book characters. “There is more than one solution to a single problem” is a key concept when students rework initial attempts and when they share ideas with classmates during our design and build science projects. Throughout the year, the children participate in organized community service projects such as food collections, fundraising for an international cause, and monthly visits with seniors at Thompson House.
In grade three, art continues to be an integrated part of the classroom learning experience. The major goals of classroom art activities are for third graders to explore different media and techniques, to sharpen their observation skills, and to deepen their appreciation of different art forms. Visual-thinking strategies emphasize reflection on the multiple meanings in art, particularly as they relate to our specific units of study. For example, the sketches of naturalist Jim Arnosky provide a model of observing and representing the outdoors for students to consider when making entries in their own science sketch journals. Similarly, Winslow Homer’s paintings provide another point of view into New England life in the late 19th century.
Third graders study Van Gogh, Millet, Bourgeois, and Picasso, among others, in a curriculum that is closely woven with classroom study. Concepts of symmetry, balance, one-point perspective, and more complex color theory form the basis for dynamic projects such as glue and oil pastel layering, acrylic and soft pastel painting, ink-blown monster drawings, and Rube Goldberg machine constructions. An alternating study of China and Egypt that pairs third and fourth graders offers the opportunity for in-depth exploration into the history and practice of traditional art forms from both countries, including sculpture, brushwork, and lettering. Third grade classroom study of ponds and wetlands provides a chance to closely observe form and describe it visually through drawing and watercolor painting. Collaborative work is another highlight of the third grade year.
Third graders focus on beginning soprano recorder, reading and writing musical notation, melodic and rhythmic dictation, question and answer patterns, ear training, and Orff ensemble groups.
K-3 meet together weekly for Chorus, which incorporates choral singing, dance and theater skills. This group performs together at the K-4 Winter Concert and the K-6 Spring Concert. Their program also includes one session per week of soprano recorder.
The third grade studies French using the Alex et Zoé series, featuring recordings of native French speakers and employing a workbook with written exercises. The book is structured in units that incorporate songs, games, phonetic activities, and reading and writing, all built around a body of vocabulary. Topics are greetings, possessions, colors, the alphabet, activities, food, days of the week, and months.
The third graders meet in the library one period a week to choose books, practice listening skills, and do various activities designed to familiarize them with the library. Third graders also compare different types of literature and browse the online library and reference section. Students are introduced to finding books shelved alphabetically, by literature type, and according to the Dewey decimal system. As part of the Red Clover Award program, they learn to evaluate literary material by text, illustration, and information. Activities include listening to literature read aloud, games, report research, and discussion. They practice research skills using indexes, encyclopedias, and the Internet.
Students in third grade utilize word-processing programs during creative and expository writing time. Each third grader develops confidence using the cut, paste, copy, and save commands when composing and revising drafts of a document. The children practice keyboarding skills with laptops and programs designed to teach touch-typing. As part of their language arts, science, and social studies work, third graders complete teacher-designed web quests and utilize Internet sources for research purposes.
Physical Skills Development (PSD)
PSD classes for third graders include many different physical activities designed to sharpen gross motor skills, develop rhythm, tone muscles, and strengthen the cardiovascular system. The goal of the PSD program is for each child to experience personal growth and development. There is emphasis on social skills, cooperation, choosing fair rules, and playing for fun. In PSD third and fourth graders play team sports such as soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, and field hockey to develop endurance, speed, agility, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Cross-country skiing is the major PSD winter activity, and students master basic techniques while experiencing the joy of touring wooded trails on the school grounds.