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A Guide to Every Grade

Jon Whittle
      • Third Grade

        School gets more serious in third grade. And so do the children. They begin to become aware of themselves in a wider context than children in a family. Third-graders can now draw on their own mental resources (memories, problem-solving skills, personal experience) when learning something new. In third grade, school becomes not just a place of learning, but also a place of socializing; children look forward to seeing their friends there day after day after day.

        What to Expect

        1. "Big kid" responsibilities. Children will be expected to pack and unpack their own backpacks, write down their own homework assignments, and hand in their work. Third-grade homework moves into the 20- to 30-minute range.

        2. Textbooks. Many schools shift much of the curriculum into textbooks in third grade, often for spelling and social studies, although this varies a lot by school system.

        3. Group work and projects. Third grade is project heaven, with hands-on science experiments, literary dioramas, and social studies construction projects providing varied and colorful activity  -- and a lot of fun  -- throughout the year.

        4. Writing gets sophisticated. Children curb their self-expression and become more self-conscious in their writing, as they are taught more explicitly about crafting prose and poetry. And, adding style to substance, cursive is typically introduced during the third-grade year.

        5. Fruitful multiplication. Multiplication "facts," as they are usually called these days, fly hot and heavy around the third-grade classroom. The goal is to have all single-digit multiplication down cold by the end of the year.

        6. Instrumental music. If your school has a music program, your child may learn the recorder in third grade. If there is no music program in the school, this is a good age to pursue lessons on the outside.

        Watch Out for:



        • School blahs. This can be a make-or-break year regarding your child's attitude toward school. Try to foster a positive attitude about learning.


        • Grade pressure. Grades are a guide to what your child has learned and what she still needs to learn, no more; not a reason to pressure your child.


        • Gender rivalry. In third grade, boys and girls dissociate, flagrantly. Same-sex clusters rule the day. This is not anything to worry about  -- just funny.