The Guide to 3rd Grade

Review general curricula for third grade, including what to expect for each subject. Plus, get ideas for at-home activities to support learning in the classroom.



The Guide to 3rd Grade

Third grade marks an important time in children’s education as they transition from what is often known as the “lower grades” to the “upper grades.” It is a crucial period in students’ learning as they become more independent and mature learners. In 3rd grade, students progress from practicing basic skills to mastering them and moving on to further developing more complex skills. Third graders become more advanced readers, writers, mathematicians, and thinkers, digging deeper into topics and beginning to analyze what they learn.

The 3rd grade classroom is structured like most elementary school classrooms, with desks or tables for the students and usually an area for lessons and class meetings and discussions. There are often also areas or centers dedicated to different subjects of learning. For instance, there may be an area with all of the math tools and supplies as well as a class library dedicated to reading. Technology is a very important part of the 3rd grade classroom as students use it for writing and research.

Reading in 3rd Grade 

After mastering reading skills in earlier grades, 3rd graders become better and more independent readers. Third grade reading work focuses on teaching kids how to think and talk about what they read in deeper and more detailed ways. Students read longer texts, and specifically, most read chapter, fiction books. Many reading lessons are dedicated to writing about and talking about texts to think about their meanings, lessons, and important ideas. Third graders are also encouraged to develop their own points of views about books and texts that they read, talking about their ideas about a text or characters.  Series books are also important in 3rd grade. As students read these both independently and as a class, they can make connections across different books within one series as well as talk about how the characters change.  As 3rd graders read more, they become more fluent readers and learn to read harder and more complex words. In addition, students learn the definition and pronunciation of complex words they encounter.

In order to build reading skills, your 3rd grader:

  • Reads multi-syllable and grade appropriate, irregularly spelled words (ask your child’s teacher for a list of these words).
  • Reads grade-level text with appropriate pace, accuracy, expression and understanding.
  • Self-corrects mistakes and re-reads when necessary.
  • Talks about and answers questions about a text using specific example from the text and connects different parts of a text.
  • Reads a variety of texts including, fiction, non-fiction, fables, and poetry and understands and talks about their main ideas and lessons.
  • Begins to understand the difference between literal and non-literal text such as metaphors and analogies.
  • Uses the text and context to determine the meaning of words.
  • Is able to express her own point of view about characters or a text.
  • Makes comparisons between books written by the same author and books such as series that are about the same characters.

Reading Activities

  • Get Serious About Series: Find a series that interests your child and begin to read it together. You can read to your child, your child can read to you, and he can read a chapter independently. You and your child can interview each other as you read — ask about main ideas, events, and thoughts you each have about the books and characters.
  • Look It Up: When your child encounters a word she doesn’t know the meaning of, look up the meaning together. You can even begin to keep your own family dictionary, recording words and their definitions. Your child can create illustrations that show definitions of the words, as well. Use the word yourself, or encourage your child to use that word in a sentence sometime during the day.
  • Learn About an Author: As your child develops favorite authors, look online for that author’s website.  Your child can email or write a letter to the author (under your supervision). The author may even be at a book signing or other events in your neighborhood for you and your child to attend. You can also try this Author Hunt Printable to find facts and record what you learn.

Writing in 3rd Grade 

Third graders grow as writers as they write more structured and complex pieces. They continue to practice writing the pieces they learned to write in 2nd grade, but the ones they write in 3rd grade have more detail and are longer. In addition, 3rd graders use more sophisticated language as described below, using phrases and terms to connect writing within one piece and provide examples. More time is also spent on planning, revising and editing texts so that students really learn the “writing process” that writers go through.  As a result, students may spend a long period of time such as a few weeks, working on one writing piece. They also practice how to write pieces in a shorter amount of time, for example within one sitting, through class and homework. Third graders continue to use and become comfortable with technology as they use computers for writing pieces and research.

In order to build writing skills, your 3rd grader:

  • Writes a variety types of texts including:
    • Opinion Pieces: Students introduce their opinions, state their opinion, provide reasons for their opinion and provide a conclusion.
    • Narrative Pieces: Students write about an event, using descriptive details, feelings and proper order and provide a conclusion.
    • Informative/Explanatory Pieces: Students introduce a topic and use facts, definitions and if helpful, illustrations to further explain the topic. Students also provide a conclusion.
  • Uses terms such as: becausesince, for example, also, another and but to elaborate on and make connections in his writing. 
  • Plans, revises and edits his writing, going through the same process as most writers do.
  • Uses digital tools (under the guidance of the teacher) to publish his writing and interact and communicate with others.
  • Begins to take notes and do research for short research projects.
  • Spends a variety of time writing a piece, ranging from a short period of time (such as 30 minutes) to working on one piece over the course of a few weeks.

Writing Activities

  • Write About Your Lives: When your child experiences an enjoyable or important family moment, you and your child can write about it together as a narrative piece. Describe the events that occurred using details and emotion. You can then send the piece to family members or friends to share the event and the writing.
  • Get Technical: Under your supervision, begin to help your child use a computer to research a topic or communicate with friends and family. Your child can also use the computer to write his own pieces or pieces you write together.
  • Learn How to do Something New: Pick something you and your child want to learn about or learn how to do, for example, planting a garden. Research the topic online or in a book together and then create an informative piece, explaining a topic or how to do something. You can then do the project yourselves or teach another family member or friend using the piece you and your child wrote.  
  • Make Your Own Magazine: Read magazines for children, such as Scholastic News, to familiarize your child with the format of magazines. Then work together to create your own magazine about your family, topics of interest, or anything you’d like!

Math in 3rd Grade 

Third grade is a very important year for math learning, as students dive into multiplication and division. Specifically, students use math tools such as number rods, (units of blocks that represent a certain number), base blocks and tiles or marbles. This helps them truly understand the concepts underlying multiplication and division as they add together and divide different groups of objects. In doing this, students don’t just memorize their multiplication tables but instead understand what it means to multiply.  In addition, students also practice explaining these concepts when they detail, both orally and through writing, how they solve a problem. Third graders also begin to study fractions.

In order to build math skills, your 3rd grader:

  • Multiplies and divides numbers up to 100 and understands the relationship between multiplication and division.
  • Understands that 3x5=15 and 5x3=15 (this is the commutative property of multiplication).
  • Begins to memorize the product of all one-digit numbers so that she has memorized them all by the end of 3rd grade.
  • Solves word problems that require two steps and more than one mathematical action. For example: If Scott has 9 cupcakes and 12 candies, how many cupcakes and pieces of candy can he give to 3 people so that each person has the same amount?
  • Rounds numbers to the nearest tens or hundreds.
  • Adds numbers up to 1,000.
  • Understands and creates fractions and uses number lines to represent and compare different fractions.
  • Solves problems involving time and measurement.
  • Creates and uses graphs to represent data and answer questions.
  • Learns about shapes (and specifically quadrilaterals) and their features.
  • Learns about and calculates the area of an object using multiplication and addition (and specifically by multiplying the lengths of the sides of an object).

Math Activities

  • Create a Multiplication Collage: Your child can look through magazines and newspapers to find multiple pictures (around 20) of one type of thing (for example, animals with 4 legs, cars and trucks, or pairs of things). Then help your child practice her multiplication skills by asking her to group the objects to solve a multiplication problem. She can use the collage to solve the problem and explain how she solved it.    
  • Take a Poll: Ask family members a question and create a graph of the answers using numbers and pictures. Ask your child questions about the different “data” you collected and create a graph based on the data. Your child can then “report” the findings to the family like a news reporter.
  • Cook with Fractions: Make foods such as parfaits, sandwiches, or pizzas using fractions. For example, ask your child to help you make a pizza with 1/4 of a topping. Or when serving food such as pizza or a pie, your child can help you slice it into parts and serve it.
  • Time It: Towards the middle and end of the school year, when your child has become more familiar with multiplication, begin to time how long it takes it for her to do multiplication tables by heart for one number at a time. For example, work on 2, then 3, then 4. Record how long it takes as well as her progress, encouraging her to break her previous records. 

Science in 3rd Grade 

In 3rd grade, students learn about the physical and living world as they make observations, experiment, research, and record and present what they have learned. Third graders conduct hands-on experimentation to develop questions, hypothesize, and make observations and conclusions. Children may work in small groups or as a class observing and experimenting. As in other grades, the specific topics studied in science vary according to state. However, common topics studied in 3rd grade include: earth and space; plants; the cycle of life; animals; electricity and magnetism; and motion and sound. Consult your child’s teacher or research your state’s science standards for more details.

In order to build science skills, your 3rd grader:

  • Observes living and non-living things and makes inferences about the observations.
  • Researches information on a variety of topics using both text and digital resources.
  • Collects and uses data to support experiments and what he learns.
  • Records her observations both through writing and talking and uses those observations to explain and make conclusions.
  • Understands what living things need (air, water, and food) and what they do (grow, move, and reproduce).
  • Studies and observes life cycles.
  • Experiments with different types of materials and different matter such as solid, liquids, and gas.
  • Works in groups and as a class to conduct experiments and create projects.

Science Activities: 3rd Grade

  • Research Your World: Choose something your child likes—for example, animals, plants, cooking, weather, and the body. Your child can come up with a list of questions she has about a topic and then work together to find the answers, experiment, and observe that topic.
  • Plant Something: Plant something outside or inside and ask your child to observe what she sees, recording the growth and process. Once the plant has grown, help your child identify the different parts of the plants and talk and learn about what those parts do.
  • Move It!: Go outside or stay inside to experiment with motion. Take a variety of objects (for example, a ball, a balloon, a paper airplane, or a toy car) and have them move in different ways. Slide them down a ramp, a hill, or stairs; push or throw them with different amounts of force; or blow air on them. As your child does this, talk about the different speeds of the objects, what makes them go faster and slower, and why this might be.
  • Picture Science: You and your child can take close-up pictures of objects in science, such as animal parts, fur, plants, trees, or different materials (wood, rubber, metal).  Then you and your child can use your observation skills to try to guess what the picture is. Make this a game, taking turns guessing what each other’s picture is.
  • Quiz Show: Find either actual objects or pictures of objects that are both “alive” and “not alive.” Show your child one object at a time and ask him to answer “alive” or “not alive.”  Make this feel fast paced and like a quiz show, showing objects quickly and asking your child to answer as quickly as possible. You can even time how long it takes. After a round of play, look at the different objects and talk about the similarities and differences between the alive and non-alive objects. 

Social Studies in 3rd Grade

Third grade social studies often emphasizes and teaches students about communities, both local and in the wider world, as well as citizenship, leaders and governments, and economic systems in different communities. As students learn, think about, and compare these aspects of different communities, they both learn more about the world around them as well as improve on their analysis, writing, and reading skills. Third graders have the ability to understand the greater communities beyond their own, as well as question and analyze the facts they learn, making social studies an ideal outlet for them to develop their critical thinking skills. Consult your child’s teacher to find out which specific communities and which specific aspects of the community will be covered.

In order to build social studies skills, your 3rd grader:

  • Learns about global and historical communities.
  • Learns about the connection between a culture and its environment.
  • Studies and uses maps to gain a deeper understanding of geography and how geography affects a community.
  • Learns about basic financial needs, such as how different communities support and sustain themselves.
  • Learns about how different communities govern themselves and their leaders.
  • Compares both the similarities and differences between different cultures with an emphasis on accepting and understanding why these differences exist.
  • Uses graphic organizers and charts to make comparisons between cultures and communities. 
  • Uses different media such as literature, art, writing, film, and museum visits to deepen her understanding of concepts and portray what she has learned.
  • Discusses American holidays and important days and events as they approach.

Social Studies Activities

  • Keep Up with Current Events: Read local newspapers, magazines, and websites with your child. Look at the pictures and talk about important events or news. Even if your child doesn’t read the articles, you can summarize the subjects for them. Magazines made just for kids, such as Scholastic News, are also great resources for learning current events.
  • Learn about Your Local Government: Visit your town hall and learn about your local leaders. Your child can write a letter or email to local government leaders. It is sometimes even possible to meet with them.
  • Form a Family Government: Assign different roles to family members, vote on family decisions or rules, or hold meetings to discuss decisions and issues that come up in the family.
  • Pick a Place: Have your child pick a place on the map she would like to learn about. Use the internet and/or books to learn more about the place and its community. Or ask someone you know who lives in a different place to send you pictures of and facts about that place. Then work together with your child to create a collage or magazine about that place using text and art.
  • Find a Pen-Pal: If you know of another child who lives somewhere else, coordinate with a parent to set your children up as pen-pals, using technology (under your supervision) when possible. Your child can use email, letters, and phone- and video calling to communicate. Have the children send pictures of their communities to each other.
  • Find the Historical Figures You Know: You and your child can talk with and interview an older family member or friend about an important or historical moment he/she experienced. This can be filmed or recorded, or you can even put together a poster or book of what you learned together.
  • Map It Out: When visiting a new place, look at a map and show your child your planned route and important locations on the map. When you are given a map somewhere (such as in an amusement park, department store, zoo, or museum), help your child read the map and let her lead the way. 

Recommended Books for 3rd Graders 

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements: This chapter book about a boy’s creative attempt to add some excitement to school is a great book for your child to read independently or together with you.
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: This classic chapter book is a wonderfully touching story about (among many things), the friendship and loyalty on a farm and between animals.  
  • The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau: This picture book addresses the issues of materialism and charity.
  • Geronimo Stilton Series by Geronimo Stilton: This humorous adventure series is especially appealing to hesitant boy readers.
  • A Drop of Water by Walter Wick: This beautifully photographed book examines water and experiments that can be done with water.
Third Grade
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