Students work with Ms. Sullivan in the Brain Space to use the design thinking process to build a tower that can hold multiple apples without toppling over.
Questioning is a key component of third grade. Most people have moved away from the continuous questions we asked as a child. In third grade, we “relearn” the art of questioning. Students explore the concept that "opening our minds to our own curiosity and asking the questions of how and why help “train our brains” to gain more knowledge in all that we read, research, and learn. “Reverse Questioning” is a skill often used to start the day in third grade. Through this, the students receive an answer and must allow their minds to go through backwards thinking to arrive at a question that would end with a given answer.
Our goal for Language Arts in third grade is to give our students the tools they need to become successful lifelong readers and writers. They learn that reading is a tremendous way to gain knowledge and that writing is a cornerstone for effective communication not only throughout their school years, but also throughout their lifetimes.
Language Arts in third grade is taught both discretely and in conjunction with all other areas of our curriculum. We have Guided Reading groups where we focus on the skills associated with reading and comprehension, grammar lessons where students learn to use writing conventions to become stronger writers.
Third grade is an important year in math because students build the foundation concepts which they will continue to use in fourth grade and beyond. A large portion of the year is dedicated to multiplication and division. Students use their previous learning from second grade to connect with the grade level objectives in third grade. In multiplication and division, a key focus is placed on groupings and this related to multiplying and dividing. In addition, students begin to understand the role of fractions. Specifically, we focus on understanding that a fraction is a part of whole, identifying numerators and denominators and introducing the concept that two fractions can be the same in their size.
Third grade scientists begin the year observing and caring for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Through this study, students understand that all plants and animals live in habitats, have diverse and unique lifecycles and needs within their habitats, that insects change in form as they grow, and that as citizens of the earth, we have a responsibility to care for one another. As the year continues, third graders engage in a physical geography study which includes plate tectonics and volcanoes and a short inquiry research project in-line with their Adventure America study. In their unit on the physics of sound, students learn that sound is a form of energy as they predict how sound changes with instrument variables, such as length and tension of strings. They learn the basic anatomy of the human ear and employ Design Thinking to design and build instruments from recycled materials. As in all grades, students continue to make observations, find patterns, investigate cause and effect, and engage in argument from evidence. An illustration/writing component is factored into every class as a means of individual reflection on the day’s work.
Social Studies in third grade focuses on Project and Inquiry Based Learning as well as the development of research skills. Students employ the research skills they have developed in the previous years and begin to take true ownership in not only what they are going to research, but how they are going to research and in what way they are going to construct their final projects.
During our New Jersey Research unit, students prepare for the expectations and skill sets required in our Adventure America study. Students research, synthesize information, and present information about New Jersey. While creating finished products for each New Jersey topic they explore, students utilize Google Docs and Google Slides. Following the New Jersey unit, students begin Adventure America, which is a highlight of the third grade experience. Through this long term research project, third grade students practice and develop many of our mission skills, with a specific focus on time management, creativity, resilience and curiosity. Adventure America is the first time that Far Hills students present to the entire school community as well as their family and friends. The excitement and engagement seen and felt by each third grader during Adventure America is unexplainable. The ownership that the students feel for their state through all of the hard work they put into their project is something, as teachers, we can only hope for. Without fail, we see this pride every year on the faces of each third grader who steps into the Adventure America Fair.
Directed writing instruction is taught through the Write From the Beginning program using Thinking Maps as a foundation. Our Spelling program focuses on the teaching of morphographs (prefixes, bases and suffixes) and spelling rules that can applied to many words rather than just memorizing specific words for a test. Our Social Studies curriculum provides practice for students to hone their non-fiction reading and writing skills in a purposeful way. In Math, students are taught to read and analyze real world problems and explain their problem solving strategies.
Cursive handwriting is an important learned life skill in third grade. Brain research has shown that when children are engaged in the act of handwriting various parts of their brains are activated including regions associated with thinking, language and working memory. In third grade we teach cursive handwriting several times a week beginning with the lower case letters and moving to upper case. Once the alphabet is learned, some students choose to write in cursive, while others continue with printing. Spelling assessments and other writing assignments are sometimes required to be completed using cursive handwriting.
Adventure America is a highlight of the third grade experience. Students select one of the 50 United States to study. Through this long term research project, they practice and develop many of our mission skills.
Students produce a variety of writing including two full-length informative reports—one a cultural landmark or on the geography and climate of her or his state and one persuasive essay convincing the reader to visit his or her state.
The Engineering Design Process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve) is also incorporated. Third-graders build a replica of an architectural landmark in their chosen state, using only recycled materials. They also explore the mathematical concepts—researching their states’ summer and winter temperatures, and calculating mileage from their home to their chosen state.
Students create and design their own website for their selected state, as well. They also code Dash robots to communicate facts about their landmark. The project culminates with a presentation to the entire school community, among outside visitors.
"Adventure America" helps third grade students to refine their skills in the following areas:
A Day in the Life...
Third grade is a year of tremendous growth and preparation. Teachers encourage students to take the lead in their learning, ask questions, discover who they are as students and grow as individuals. Overall, the third grade curriculum supports the development of a growth mindset as students work on persevering through a given task and growing as resilient problem-solvers regardless of subject.
Below is what a sample day could look like in our Grade 3 classrooms: