Lower School Curriculum Guide
Third grade is a year of tremendous growth. Throughout the year, the teachers guide the students to develop increased accountability, responsibility and independence in all aspects of the third grade curriculum. We look at the students’ potential, both academic and social, as we build on their strengths, emphasizing critical thinking and cooperative learning as tools for discovery. As students’ abilities increase, so does their confidence. They are challenged to be reflective and conscientious thinkers, and empowered to become partners in their own learning. Throughout this growth, students continue to be nurtured and guided, as they come to understand their unique learning styles.
Woven throughout our curriculum are the tenets of the Responsive Classroom model. We strive to give each third grader the tools and skills necessary to model the fundamental principles of (C.A.R.E.S.) - Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. With the use of common language and regular class meetings, along with academic choice, the students gain a greater sense of their role in our third grade community during the year.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Visual Arts
- Modern Language
- Physical Education
Language instruction involves many dimensions of the program, as the heart of third grade is reading and writing about important topics. It blends reading, spelling, literature, and writing together in meaningful ways. Skills taught in isolation are embedded into the curriculum and revisited throughout the day.
In third grade, we continue to focus upon building reading skills in the areas of word recognition, fluency, and comprehension while encouraging a love for reading. The foundational skills acquired in first and second grade are now becoming more automatic so that students’ attention is focused on the active processing of text. By using the workshop model, these reading skills are solidified through guided reading, shared reading, independent reading, and myriad reading related activities. The focus of reading in third grade builds on the second graders’ shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students not only read and discuss books, but they respond to what they have read in writing.
Writing crosses all areas of the curriculum: reading, math, science, and social studies. The writing process is used extensively, whether students are writing creatively or involved in a research report. Students begin with a pre-writing activity, such as brainstorming, followed by drafts, revisions, edits, before the completion of a writing piece. Through the writing process, skills such as sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, and paragraph development are reinforced. Research skills are taught both in the classroom as well as in special areas. To support the students in spelling, we use a combined approach of the Rebecca Sitton spelling program and Multi- Sensory Reading and Writing program. Third grade students begin the year using manuscript writing, but they soon change over to cursive writing and continue to practice throughout the year. Students are given opportunities to practice keyboarding skills during computer class and on classroom laptops.
The third grade math program, Singapore Math, relies upon a concrete, pictorial, and abstract process that has our students first working with tangible materials, and then exposing them to a pictorial representation of the mathematical concept before moving onto more abstract numbers, notations, and symbols. This program emphasizes the communication of mathematical ideas, and students are encouraged to be conscious of the strategies they use to solve problems and to share these strategies with their peers. With a teacher’s guidance, students are led to select the most efficient and accurate strategy for solving a task.
Students begin the year by developing their understanding of place value within four digit numbers. They start by counting, reading, and writing whole numbers to 10,000. By using place value discs, students practice creating four digit numbers, writing them in expanded form and using the “greater than” and “less than” symbols to compare and order the numbers. Students end the unit by rounding off numbers up to 10,000 to the nearest ten, hundred, and thousand. In their addition and subtraction unit, students review their mental addition and subtraction strategies to practice their flexibility with numbers and increase their number sense. Students continue to use algorithms for solving addition and subtraction numbers under 10,000 while representing the procedure being performed with place value discs. This allows students to fully demonstrate their conceptual understanding.
In third grade students learn to solve complex multistep word problems. Two pictorial models known as bar model techniques are introduced to facilitate their understanding of the problem and provide methods for solving them. These tools are useful in translating word problems into algebraic equations and are used throughout the year to solidify student understanding. In the beginning of the third grade, students review their multiplication facts of 2,3,4,5, and 10 and then spend the bulk of the unit learning and memorizing to automaticity the multiplication facts for 6,7,8, and 9. Students spend time playing games and practicing their facts until they have demonstrated mastery. Students solve simple problems involving multiplication and division while using number discs to demonstrate the connection between the concrete materials and the algorithm. By the end of the unit, students should be proficient at dividing and multiplying numbers within 1,000 by a one-digit number.
Students spend the last third of the year exploring fractions, time, and money. Using concrete materials such as fraction bars and circles, students recognize and name fractions of a whole, demonstrate an understanding of numerator and denominator, compare and order fractions with a common denominator or numerator, and order fractions. Working with fraction cards, students find equivalent fractions, find the simplest form of a fraction, and practice adding and subtracting fractions. Using geared clocks, students learn to tell time to the minute, find the duration of time intervals, and practice adding and subtracting time. Using calendars, students understand the relationships of time within years, months, days, weeks, hours, and seconds and practice converting between the units mentioned above. In their money unit, students use real money to convert dollars and cents to cents and vice versa while also solving word problems involving addition and subtraction of money.
An overall goal for third grade is to use social studies as a tool for critical thinking, and for students to begin acquiring knowledge of geography, map skills, and research skills through the study of history. Our three main units are European Explorers, Colonial Life in North America, and A New Nation. These units bring the students from the sixteenth century up through the eighteenth century. Through the use of literature: fiction, and non-fiction, students learn about the past, noting how diverse cultures confront and resolve problems, which helps them to understand our world today. Students are guided to think within an historical context in order to understand the history, geography, economic, political, social institutions, traditions, and values of the United States as expressed in both its unity and diversity.
Each year the Lower School art program, has an overarching theme for its curricular focus in conjunction with the Choice Based Art philosophy. Third grade’s curricular theme is “Art Through the Ages,” spanning the years to include the Cave Paintings of Lasceaux to the Renaissance, while spending some time on early American art to coincide with their social studies units, and ending with current artists and the envisioning of future art.
Sometimes the lessons at the start of class will focus on the curricular theme, while at other times the focus will be on a material or technique within a certain medium. After each lesson, students will then have the choice to work on art inspired by the special projects or an original creation made from the resources found around the room. Third graders learn to hone their observational drawing and painting skills with scientific illustration and landscape painting. Students are introduced to the 3Doodler Start, a 3D printing pen. They will be encouraged to spend longer periods of time creating art by developing and trying new skills in drawing, collage, painting, Inventor’s Workshop, printmaking, fiber arts, iPad art and the 3Doodler Start. Third graders are full of ideas, which they want to express through their art. They are more concerned with making their drawing look “real,” so drawing from observation is a skill we continue to develop. Third graders reflect on their artistic process by taking photographs of their artwork using Artsonia with the apps on the iPads, and they learn basic photo-editing skills as well as how to add titles and artist statements.
The eight Studio Habits of Mind are incorporated into daily life and language in order for students to learn true artistic behavior. Those habits include envisioning, observation, expression, developing craft, stretching and exploring, engaging and persisting, reflecting on their work and understanding art worlds.
The third graders explore ways they can safely use the Internet and other technology at school and at home. Through project-based learning that is integrated and collaborative with the child's homeroom and specials classes, each child gains an understanding of how they can use technology to develop, refine, and teach others. We also do a considerable amount of work that is more autonomous to the computer lab. These stand-alone assignments encourage the students to problem solve and develop resilience in working with technology. Using a touch-typing tutorial, the third graders focus on their finger positioning as they become familiar with more keys.
Using both the Scratch and LOGO programming languages, the students explore factors of 360° as they create complex nested programs composed of repeating polygons. These geometry and coding concepts are expanded upon as they work together to create complex polygon illustrations. Working in small groups, they write and edit a Revolutionary War newspaper. The students frequently use Google Docs on their laptops in the classroom to refine their word processing skills. The students also use Google Sketchup to build a 3D re-creation of Rye in the year 1776. Each child uses Photoshop to create beautiful scientific illustrations incorporating work done in science, library, and in art. The third graders design slideshow presentations to teach other about the language of probability. We also work in science, art, and computer class to design, code, and construct, LED light sculptures using Arduino mini computers.
The Lower School Spanish and French programs provide opportunities for language acquisition. Students are exposed to the language through developmentally appropriate activities and contexts via stories, role-plays, songs and rhymes, games, videos, and other strategies. Attention is paid to the four language skills: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Listening always precedes speaking, and reading precedes writing. We seek to foster the students’ awareness and appreciation of the native speakers’ cultures in and out of the classroom. The class meets twice for forty-five minutes every six-day cycle.
In third grade, the vocabulary that the students are able to recognize and recall orally and in writing continues to expand along with repetition and recycling of language that was previously presented. The students begin noticing language patterns on their own. The students also start retelling and rewriting the stories and texts presented in class.
The Lower School library is a place of inquiry and discovery for all who use it. Students visit the library on a regular basis so that they can explore their own interests; be introduced to new stories, concepts, information and ideas; and discover who they are as readers and thinkers. Third graders take a close look at how the library is organized, which helps them to be able to find books and information more independently. They also explore the basic principles of good digital citizenship, and utilize various online tools in order to practice building those skills. The library program is also designed to support the third grade curriculum. Various fiction and nonfiction books are introduced to expand and enrich classroom topics of study, such as explorers and colonialism. Inquiry-based activities and projects are developed in collaboration with classroom teachers so that students can explore what interests them about a topic and develop their research skills. Every library class also includes the opportunity for children to use the library independently. During this time, students decide for themselves the books they want to read and/or take home to borrow.
Third grade music focuses on vocal, rhythmic and dance development through traditional music from around the world. The pentatonic scale is still the basis of much of our staff reading, with additions from the extended scale. Students use the recorder to practice reading music on the staff, work on their fine motor finger isolations, and prepare their breath support for a band instrument in fifth grade. Students work on singing and playing alone and with others in both unison and beginning harmonies.
The second and third grade program focuses on maximizing the learning experience using activities, which incorporate locomotor, manipulative and gross motor skills, movement patterns, and spatial awareness both in the gymnasium or on the fields. Through a variety of sports and games, character building and social skills that include active listening, cooperation and teamwork, respect for self and other, and good sportsmanship are consistently emphasized. The teachers include the Lower School’s Responsive Classroom philosophy to create an inclusive and supportive atmosphere that allows students to develop individual responsibility that enhances the learning for everyone.
The goal of the third grade program is to develop the students’ skill levels while encouraging them to feel positive about themselves and their participation in physical activity. The activities are varied to tap the myriad talents of our students and to stretch their abilities. In addition to the instructional units covered in class, students will participate in community events such as the American Heart Association’s “Kids’ Heart Challenge,” the “Fun Run” that kicks off Wildcat Weekend in the fall, and the Lower School Field Day in May.
The third grade science program provides a variety of “hands-on” activities as the students become completely immersed in the scientific method and use related process skills. Throughout the year, the children are expected to work independently as well as cooperatively in observing, documenting, and reflecting on their varied experiments and activities. The children begin the year by learning about the Hudson River and Blind Brook Stream habitats including the macro-invertebrates living there. Later, each child becomes an expert on one animal living within the deciduous forest and its relationship to the other animals living there.
In the winter, the children learn how the constellations, moon, compasses, and sundials helped the early colonists and explorers navigate their journeys (a topic of study in social studies, art, language arts, library, and computer.) In the middle of the winter, students build upon their knowledge of electricity from second grade when they create a lighted sculpture. Students develop their understanding of how electric circuits work when they combine their computer programming and their artistic creativity. When spring arrives, the children discover the impact that weather and boat styles had on the early explorers and colonists.