Third Grade Curriculum
Third-graders at St. John’s are completing their primary years and are now laying the foundation for learning in the intermediate years. Students are beginning to move from very concrete to more abstract understanding of the world around them. Information is more easily categorized and stored in memory. During third grade true growth in academics occurs. Friendships are a source of social acceptance and emotional security. Students at this age know they are part of a very special community of learners and express their eagerness to learn in many ways. Third grade teachers capitalize on this time with students to help them reach their full potential. The third grade teachers work diligently to integrate the schools Success Traits into the curriculum. Teachers use appropriate opportunities to reinforce these traits in hopes of helping foster a student’s character growth as well.
Traits for Success
The third-grade teachers integrate the schools’ Success Traits into the curriculum. Teachers use appropriate opportunities for formal and informal methods to reinforce these traits with the intent of helping foster our student’s character growth. In third grade, there is a major emphasis on organization, attentiveness, responsibility, and a positive attitude in all areas of our curriculum. During Steps to Respect, our anti-bullying curriculum, all traits are discussed and provide children with ideas about how to incorporate these traits into their everyday lives.
The goal of the third grade reading program is to create lifelong, independent readers that are equipped with the appropriate skills to understand and enjoy reading. In our daily reading classes, the third-grade teachers stress decoding, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.
Third grade reading begins with fiction and nonfiction selections from the Scholastic Reading Program. Reading units are frequently integrated with social studies and science projects. Such units give students the opportunity to apply information learned in a variety of experiences. Trade book novels are used to enhance and integrate various areas of the curriculum. Historical fiction: Stone Fox and Meet Addy to extend discussions in American History. Non-fiction books about planets are used for a major research project in science. Other trade books novels read are George Washington, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Eagle Song, The Great Kapok Tree, The Shaman’s Apprentice, Chocolate Touch, and Cockroach Cooties.
Teachers choose daily Read-Aloud books based on student interest, exposure to specific genres, relationship to class units, and reinforcement of Success Traits and everyday values. Some examples of books that have been read are:
- Cricket in Times Square
- Peter and the Starcatche
- Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets,
- How to Eat Fried Worms,
- Tales of A 4th Grade Nothing, Double Fudge. Super Fudge
- The Wayside School series
- The Indian in the Cupboard
- Which Witch
There are daily writing classes in third grade. Teachers focus on sentence and paragraph construction, story elements (character, setting, story problem, story solution), and the writing process (brainstorming, research, rough draft, edit, final draft). Students keep a personal journal for reflective writing and other class assignments. Students study elements of an essay. There are several essay assignments during the school year. Students work with the Technology teacher to learn how to use the computer as an effective research and writing tool. Writing projects in the third grade are often tied into other areas of the curriculum and include:
- Flat People Report: Third graders send a flat person to family or friends in another state to visit tourist sites. Using research data, they write a first person narrative essay on their flat person’s experience traveling to the state.
- Mini Beast Report: Third graders design and create a mini beast creature using principles studied in science. They will write a report on the characteristics of their Mini-Beast paying close attention to its habitat, behaviors, and adaptations. Students will present these reports to the class.
- Poetry Unit: Students write various types of poems: haiku, limerick, cinquain, free verse, etc.
- Solar System Report: Students research an assigned planet and write a report on five assigned topics. Students will also create a PowerPoint presentation or Voice Thread as a part of the report.
Students use Wordly Wise 3000 in third grade. The program is structured around weekly vocabulary lists that incorporate grammar, word study, phonics, reading comprehension, and other language skills. Students are required to learn both the spelling and the definition of each word on the vocabulary list and to apply correct spelling in dictated sentences on the Friday test. Additional words may be added from class units of study, trade book vocabulary, and science units.
Grammar studies are based on the Scholastic Reading Program, The Write Source series, and other supplemental resources. Grammar skills are taught two or three times per week and reinforced through daily practice. Grammar mastery is assessed through quizzes, independent skill practice, and written products.
The handwriting curriculum in third grade emphasizes cursive skills. The Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Program is used. During the first months of the new school year, third graders receive direct instruction and guided practice in cursive handwriting, three or four lessons per week. Students apply these skills in daily writing activities. As the year progresses, formal handwriting lessons are reduced, and cursive is used in final writing assignments and spelling.
During third grade, students make gradual transitions from concrete operations to abstract skills and advanced mathematical ideas. Math is often integrated with other curricula to give students real-life math experiences. The Mathematics curriculum in third grade continues in the Houghton Mifflin Math Program. Third graders review basic facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division expanding their skills to completion with multi-digit numbers. Third grade students cover units in: Place Value to the Millions, Measurement, Geometry, Decimals, Fractions, Position, Negative Numbers, Mean, Median, and Average. All students are expected to have mastered their multiplication and division up to 10 by December, in anticipation of the multiplication and division units. Nightly practice is encouraged until the students have mastered their facts.
The third grade Science curriculum focuses on the scientific process of observing, describing, predicting, testing, recording results, and drawing conclusions. We explore topics in life science, environmental science, introductory biology, and astronomy. Third grade units include:
- Insects and Arachnids: In their first unit, students learn about insect and arachnid classification, habitat, and life cycle. Students examine ladybugs/butterflies in the different stages of life, and identify and record their observations. Students also learn about and can identify the basic anatomy of insects and arachnids. A specialist from Incredible Insects speaks to the entire class and gives the students first hand exposure to a variety of backyard and exotic insects. Students also complete a Mini-Beast report, creating their own insect/arachnid and describing it.
- Cells: The second unit involves a thorough study of cells. Students identify different kinds of cells, study the parts of a cell, and discuss cell division. Students use microscopes to observe plant and animal cells.
- Simple Machines: Students learn types of simple machines and investigate how simple machines work and how they benefit our environment. They build and test a simple machine.
- Solar System: Our solar system unit focuses mainly on the inner and outer planets in our solar system. We also touch on constellations briefly. The second part of our solar system unit focuses on the use of space stations, satellites, and telescopes in space. The unit culminates in two large projects: a planetary report and a space station project. Students may be asked to create a PowerPoint presentation or a voice thread as a part of the project.
- Rainforests: In our Rainforest and Conservation unit students locate and learn about Rainforests. Teachers discuss issues such as conservation, deforestation, environmental pollutants and global warming. In addition, there are discussions on new energy sources and renewable resources. When possible the Discovery Creek Rolling Rainforest Bus comes to St. Johns as a final activity on this unit.
The third grade social studies program is an exciting aspect of the third grader’s experience. Many class-wide projects evolve from third grade studies of the world and cultures around us.
- Community: The third grade formally studies community at the end of the year, although the concept is discussed in various ways throughout the year. Students add to their evolving definition of community. They study continuity and change, commonality and diversity, community building, and interaction within different environments. Teachers use discussions and activities in conjunction with St. John’s Success Traits that are intended to ultimately help mold students of high character.
- Map/Chart Skills: Students in third grade develop their map skills. They learn how to read, label, and use a map. Students recollect how to use a compass rose with the cardinal directions. Students also learn about various landforms that are found on a map.
- The Fifty States: A primary objective of this unit is for students to be able to name the location of every state in our country. During this unit, students participate in a project called Flat Person. This project involves an information exchange with a person in another state. Flat People (student drawings of themselves) are sent by mail to friends in various parts of the country. These friends take the Flat People to famous historical sights and send back photos and brochures. Students create poster displays for a Travel Fair. They become a spokesperson for their chosen state. Parents and siblings are invited to visit the Fair to hear the information each student has collected.
- Early American History: The final unit covers a study of the beginnings of the United States and its early history. Students study colonization, the Revolutionary War, and the presidency of George Washington. Students visit Mount Vernon to experience this time in history first hand.
Beginning in third grade, vocabulary is increased, as are basic rules of grammar. A textbook is used and concise and clear explanations of the grammatical concepts are presented and are followed by examples that illustrate these concepts. Classwork is reinforced with required homework. Exercises and games are tools used to review and improve their vocabulary and spelling skills. Videos and CDs are shown to explore broader aspects of various South American nations (people, history, custom) and to build confidence using verbs in Spanish conversation. Declamation Days and work on booklets offer students the opportunity to reinforce previously learned material and test themselves on what they’ve learned. Classes meet for forty-five minutes period twice a week.
Lower school religion is a hands-on and tactile learning experience. Children move, sing, act, write, create and most importantly enjoy their time learning about God. Activities and discussions are targeted specifically for the group’s developmental level. In Grade 3, students are taught how to find passages in the Bible. During the Fall, students study passages that focus on the Old Testament stories of Creation, Noah, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Joseph, Joseph & Pharaoh, Moses & Miriam. They explore the question, “Why did God want Judges to rule Israel?” through the stories of Joshua, Deborah, Samuel. They investigate the prophets’ role in Israel’s history. Additionally, they prepare for, perform and analyze the Christmas Skit: “The Real Story of Christmas: God Gives Us His Son!” After Epiphany students study Jesus’ public ministry as healer and teacher through the miracles he performed, the Parables he told, and his Sermon on the Mount. After celebrating Easter, students will learn about the sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing the Sick, Reconciliation, and Ordination. Children may also explore God’s relationship with His people through reflection upon a variety of Max Lucado short stories. Religion classes will end with a celebration of Pentecost and summer blessings upon each child.
In general music in Kindergarten through fourth grade, students explore four key areas of development; music performance, music literacy, music appreciation, and classroom and global connections. Students perform through singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Students acquire and apply music literacy skills through development of musical vocabulary. Students listen and respond to music from a variety of cultural and historical sources. Students make connections between music, their world, and the greater global community through their singing, dancing, listening, and playing. Students have many opportunities to connect to and demonstrate the Traits for Success particularly Courage, Persistence, Positive Attitude, and Attentiveness as they study and perform music.
Students in third grade sing with tonal accuracy in classroom songs including multi-part rounds, canons, and partner songs. They play increasingly difficult accompaniments on classroom instruments. Students acquire and demonstrate increased musical vocabulary including the identification of treble staff pitch names and expanded rhythm patterns. Students create and perform simple folk dances or movements appropriate for song repertoire. Third grade students begin to play the soprano recorder as part of the curriculum focusing on music literacy application and appropriate technique. To demonstrate these skills, each student will participate in performances annually including the Festival of the Arts. Students also complete performance-based assessments on or above grade level expectations.
Third grade students work in a variety of media including pencils, markers, pastels, watercolor, tempera, etc. Children complete 2-D and 3-D projects. Students complete a rainforest composition related to their science studies. The curriculum provides the opportunity for children to learn and develop skills in drawing, painting, composition, and craft with more emphasis put on correct shapes, details, and shading. The main rules of perspective and figure drawing are introduced. Demonstration and step-by-step explanation of how to complete projects are used to ensure children understand the project and how to complete it. The instruction about the safe and proper use of equipment is a part of the lessons.
The third grade Physical Education program provides opportunities for the students to experience a wide variety of activities. These activities aid in developing motor ability, fitness, sportsmanship, teamwork and fundamental sports skills. The program exposes students to a variety of activities that are both competitive and non-competitive in nature.
The third grade program lays the groundwork for the development of skills that enable our students to safely and successfully participate in individual and team sports throughout their lifetimes. Fitness games encourage the children to challenge themselves and introduce them to the health components of fitness. The traits for success are reinforced during a variety of cross-curricular and global offerings.
The Physical Education department organizes and supervises school events such as community building week, International Festival, blue-gold events, and field day. An appreciation for teamwork and good sportsmanship is emphasized in class and team activities.
During third grade, students will develop an age-appropriate understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations, building on their previous years’ experiences. By the end of third grade, we expect St. John’s technology students to be able to work independently in all software programs that we use throughout the year, including operating the related peripherals, tools, and menus. Third graders are expected to be able to complete successful research projects on the Internet and to select the ideal resources for each, explaining what makes a good resource. They are expected to understand and practice ways of engaging the online community in a safe manner. This year, they begin to experience word processing in earnest and to learn to use all of the tools in the Word toolbar, and many in the PowerPoint toolbar, including saving documents to a community file server. Formal keyboarding training begins with a goal of reaching fifteen words per minute by this year’s end. Their experience includes the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards for Students) categories of critical thinking and decision making, digital citizenship, creativity, communication and collaboration, and finally, basic research and information fluency.
In third grade, weekly library visits continue to include Read Aloud time though now the emphasis is on longer fiction works by noted and often award-winning authors. Time is also spent on library skills including how to locate reference materials using the library computers. At this level, class periods are often dedicated to research projects assigned by the classroom teachers. Being persistent in finding useful materials is now stressed.
Each year, the students participate in the International Festival. One week is devoted to the study of a country. The selection of a country is made on a three-year cycle. During this time, children are immersed in the study of the selected country, with all classroom activities, literature, and projects centering on that country.
Each year, the third grade takes an off-campus field trip that ties directly into and complements the curriculum. This trip, In March, is to Mt. Vernon. Students explore the grounds of George Washington’s home during colonial days and experience life as it was when George Washington was alive. The third grade also has “The Bug Lady” bring many insects for the students to see and touch for our science and reading units on insects.
Beginning in third grade, students participate in Declamation Day assemblies. Once a month, each student in the class memorizes a poem and presents it to the entire class. Poems often reflect our core values and success traits. Two or three students are then chosen from each class to present at the monthly Declamation Day Assembly. Ideally, every student in the class presents a poem in assembly during the school year. Declamation Day is an exciting event at St. John’s. Students actively search for interesting poems all year long. They learn a great deal about public speaking and presentation. This is a tremendous confidence-building activity.