Learning Guide: Third Grade
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Learning Guide: Third Grade

Seemingly inexhaustible, these energetic and socially evolving students try to do it all, inside and outside the classroom.

Portrait of a Third Grader

Children this age may appear self-assured, even driven. They are frequently eager for challenges: "I want to be in Little League, but I don't like the rules -- I just want to see how far I can hit that ball; I can do piano and dance lessons, draw a picture; and have friends over...all before lunch." Third graders are feeling their power in some ways: They have expanded vocabulary, life experience, and practice in reading and knowledge of the world. Socially, kids widen their friendships and are less critical of each other. Boys are extremely dependent on mothers; girls are more dependent on peers.

What your child will learn

This is a year when academics click, and socially, kids form "cliques." A subject your child had difficulty with in the past might become crystal clear this year. At the same time, social problems develop for some kids as classmates form tightly knit, sometimes-exclusionary peer groups. This is the year of note passing and name-calling. The sensitive third grader may come home weeping because children in the playground have teased her. Teachers this year focus on independent work and learning multiplication. They ask students not only to learn information, but also to apply it. You'll probably see more cooperative learning as well as paired learning -- completing a project with a classmate by comparing answers and rethinking strategies. Use of computers will extend to the Internet; class assignments may require finding information on the web.

Setting firm limits and schedules for your child has never been more important; third-grade teachers expect homework done independently and on time. It's a good idea to schedule homework as well as playtime into your child's day.

In the Classroom

Teachers will show students how to...

  • Find missing numbers in a sequence; memorize multiplication and division facts through 12 x12.
  • Develop concepts of tenths and hundredths; recognize equivalent fractions; understand the use of letters in simple algebraic statements (ab=12); create, read, and interpret bar graphs, tables and charts.
  • Develop estimating and rounding-off skills.
  • Learn to use conventional spelling, punctuation, and capitalization; write in legible script; experiment with synonyms; identify character, plot and setting.
  • Appreciate and identify different literary types, including fantasy and science fiction; experiment with writing ads to understand concepts of propaganda.
  • Understand that individuals have the right to differing viewpoints; learn historical facts about your community, state, and country; explore geography with discussion of map scales.

6 Ways You Can Help

  1. Discuss the books your child is reading both in and out of school. The point isn't to test what she understands; it's simply to help her think about her reactions to the characters and their conflicts.
  2. Encourage her to write by writing yourself; find a pen pal -- e-mail or U.S. mail -- she can correspond with.
  3. Help your child set up a lemonade stand or sell objects she's made herself or grown in her garden. Show her how to keep track of expenses and revenues.
  4. Let your child plan the dinner or breakfast menu for a week. Together, figure out what food items you already have and which ones need to be purchased.
  5. Practice estimating. When shopping, have your child keep a running total in her head of three of four items. After the bill is totaled, see how close she came.
  6. Spend time with your child on the Internet. Show her how to use search engines to find useful information.

What the Experts Say

"Series of books are great for kids this age. They get excited about reading them because they can become authorities on a certain author's books. And they love having a goal -- so completing a whole series of books makes them feel like superstars!" Amy Ward, teacher, New York City

Here are some of the most popular and appealing series for third grade (and advanced second-grade) readers:

  • Cam Jansen series by David Adler
  • Nate the Great books by Rosemary Sharmat
  • Marvin Redpost books by Louis Sachar
  • Hulian series by Ann Cameron
  • Amber Brown books by Paula Danziger
  • Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne