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Third Grade

Third Grade

The Third Grade is such a pivotal year. Whereas first and second grade students are learning to read, third-grade students are reading to learn.  There is much new content and many exciting opportunities and areas of growth for students. In the third grade we strive to help students become more independent, responsible, and, of course, more knowledgeable. We seek to empower our students to face challenges with confidence, to embrace mistakes as opportunities to grow, and to realize that they are leaders and lifelong learners. Along the way, we have lots of fun, create many good memories, seek to help students feel good about themselves, and have countless opportunities to smile and laugh together.

Our reading program encompasses several approaches: guided reading, independent reading, explicit instruction of reading skills, explicit instruction of vocabulary strategies, and interdisciplinary reading and writing. We begin reading longer novels and working through more interdisciplinary theme units in the third grade. Our first unit of the year is an exciting (and yummy) “Countries of the World” research unit which incorporates technology.  Students in the third grade enjoy one-to-one laptops for this and other reading projects and practice. As the reader becomes more adept in his/her reading skills at this age, longer novels allow for a more in-depth character and plot analysis, as well as increased opportunities for related research and projects. A couple of our favorite novels in the third grade are The Tale of Despereaux and Because Of Winn Dixie, two award-winning books by Newbery-award winning author Kate diCamillo. We also read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl in another fun, interdisciplinary theme unit about chocolate. Our third-grade reading students enjoy starring in the play Vacation To Mars in a cross-curricular unit between reading and science. Reader’s Theater is always a favorite of our third-grade students. As a culminating event for our Vacation to Mars unit, our students visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science where they participate in a simulated trip to the planet Mars. Students utilize their reading and other skills to solve problems, complete tasks and goals, and handle “emergencies” on the trip.  The Accelerated Reading program gives the children opportunities to track independent reading. Regarding reading, our goal in third grade is to inspire a love for the written word and create enthusiastic, lifetime readers!

The language arts program is a comprehensive study of grammar, mechanics, usage, and vocabulary practice. The broad scope of skills and range of difficulty provided in digital and print materials enable us to precisely target what each student needs. Units from the textbook (Houghton Mifflin English - Gr 3 & 4) are enhanced with songs, stories, and kinesthetic learning to reach the students in as many ways as possible. Lessons and activities are integrated into other subjects and applied in writing regularly.  Spelling begins with standards-based English rules and ends with individualized small group work from the Words Their Way program. The program provides systematic, explicit, and sequenced instruction based on assessment results. Groups are created with a pretest in December but are adjusted if, and when, necessary.  Learning the logic behind the spelling or pronunciation of a new word creates better understanding of vocabulary over rote memorization of spelling lists. Nonsense word practice provides proof of understanding. IXL and other interactive sites are used weekly to reinforce learning.

The math program provides the student with an opportunity to learn math through involvement, understanding, practice, and application. In third grade, students know that doing mathematics involves solving problems and discussing how they solved them. As third graders develop their mathematical communication skills, they use clear and precise language. This is a main area of focus in our third grade math program: math vocabulary.  Math vocabulary is not often used in everyday conversations, so it is important that our third graders and their teacher(s) practice the use of precise and correct math terminology when doing and explaining math. As the saying goes, “If we don’t use it, we will lose it.”  Third graders often use concrete objects and/or pictures to help them conceptualize and solve problems. Students and their teacher(s) represent problem situations in multiple ways including numbers, words/ math vocabulary, drawing pictures, using objects, acting out, making a chart, list, or graph, creating equations, etc.  This is another important focus in our program: deepening our understanding of mathematical concepts and problem situations through visual, verbal, and tactile representations.

We begin the year with place value and a review of addition and subtraction. We then begin working on the two main content areas for the third grader to master: multiplication and division. The third grader will also be introduced to "real" multiplication (several digits times one and two digits) and "long" division (a number containing several digits divided by a one-digit divisor). Fairly thorough (for third grade, that is) introductions to geometry and fractions are given, and continued work on measurement; graphing, numeration, time, and money are also part of the third-grade math program. Math is so much more than the computation of numbers. We give students many opportunities to develop logical and creative thinking skills while solving math-related problems. We also provide opportunities for cooperative and educational games, the use of manipulatives, and real-life applications in mathematics lessons. Our goal is to have students deepen their understanding of mathematics concepts as opposed to having them simply memorize facts and algorithms. Lastly, the beauty of math and the spirit of art combine so naturally that we create several art/math projects each year! One of our very favorite math projects is our hand-knitted hats project where third graders knit hats for local chemotherapy patients and deliver them during the Christmas season.

The social studies program allows students to learn from the past, make connections to the present, and realize their impact on the future. Units of study include First Americans, tribes of Louisiana, the World Heritage Site of Poverty Point, early explorers, and Louisiana history. During the space unit in science, students use the book, Hidden Figures, to explore themes of adversity and discrimination during a Socratic Seminar. “Free choice” projects provide another opportunity to expand into more complex connections for social studies learning topics. Geography lessons are integrated into each unit in order to connect students to the world around us. Students may also compete in an optional geography competition if they qualify. Additionally, the students are given a chance to “show what they know” during our annual trip to the Native American exhibits at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  

Our science curriculum covers life science, physical science, Earth science, environmental science, and health science. These areas are explored by the learning of factual information in a classroom discussion environment and through hands-on experiments and projects that allow the student to see science at work in our world.  Some favorite units of study include space, ecosystems, force and motion, matter, and plants and their functions.Third grade students play an active role by helping with sustainable gardens, using citizen science apps, and learning about local environmental issues. STEAM challenges for each unit build resilience and problem solving skills while providing opportunities to record and interpret data. We also travel to The Houston Museum of Natural Science for an exciting "outer space" field trip via the Challenger Learning Center. On this trip, students work in teams to complete tasks and communicate results.

To provide a well-rounded program, the students are challenged to become physically healthy in physical education, and to acquire an appreciation of the fine arts in the areas of music and art. The ever-changing world of technology is presented in the "state-of-the-art" computer lab and students regularly visit our library to further their reading development. Third grade students also have the opportunity to develop a working knowledge of the Spanish language. Enrichment programs offered at EDS are second to none!