Parent Guide to the Curriculum: Third Grade

Language & Literacy

Highlights of what your child will learn in third grade include:

  • Reading texts closely to determine the main idea.
  • Making connections within text between sentences and/or paragraphs.
  • Defending a position or opinion with evidence.
  • Writing with details to show sequencing.
  • Asking questions about what they are reading or listening to show understanding or connections.
  • Distinguishing between literal and non-literal meanings of words and phrases.
  • Reading fluently without pausing to consider word meaning.
  • Spelling grade-level words appropriately using pattern knowledge.

The school year is divided into five units of instruction:

  • Accessing Reading and Knowledge Around the World: Students read rich literature and informational texts that introduce them to the power of literacy and how people around the world access books. During this unit, students build the foundational skills they will use the rest of the year, including close reading skills, finding important details in a text, using the context to determine the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary, and writing paragraphs with details and explanations to support the topic.
  • Researching the Wide World of Frogs and Their Adaptations: While studying frogs, students learn how to use non-fiction texts to research a topic and become experts on it so they can teach others.
  • Fact and Fiction: Students explore texts about wolves to learn how to distinguish fact from fiction. They read fables to learn about the role of the wolf in fiction, then read informational texts to research the characteristics, behaviors and habitats of wolves.
  • The Role of Fresh Water Around the World: Students write a lot in third grade. In this unit, students learn about the importance of clean water around the world by reading the book “One Well.” They build their geography skills and knowledge about the water cycle while they compare texts, research challenges, and learn how to effectively communicate their own opinions in writing.
  • How Writers Capture a Reader’s Imagination: Students read “The Adventures of Peter Pan” and analyze how the writer creates Peter’s Neverland through figurative language, character analysis, and how the author moves the story along through the plot. Students engage in a readers’ theater based on the text, write their own Neverland story, and write opinion pieces about their favorite characters.

Characteristics of books for proficient third-grade readers

  • Informational texts, simple fantasy, realistic fiction, traditional literature, biographies, simple mysteries, genre combinations
  • Beginning chapter books with illustrations; series books; graphic texts
  • Variety of underlying structures (description, comparison/contrast, sequence, problem/solution, cause/effect) and formats (question/answer, paragraphs, boxes, legends)
  • Narratives with complex plots and multiple characters to understand
  • Topics go well beyond readers’ personal experiences and content knowledge
  • Content requiring reader to take on diverse perspectives, understand cultural diversity
  • Some texts with abstract themes requiring inferential thinking to derive
  • Use of descriptive and figurative language important to understanding plot

Characteristics of proficient third-grade readers

  • Identify the characteristics of a full range of genres
  • Read both chapter books and shorter information texts, mysteries, series books, books with sequels, short stories
  • Can understand more elaborate plots with multiple characters who develop and change over time
  • Can understand abstract and mature themes and take on diverse perspectives and issues
  • Can identify and use underlying structures (description, compare/contrast, sequence, problem/solution, cause/effect
  • Can process more complex sentences
  • Word solving is smooth and automatic in both silent and oral reading
  • Can read and understand descriptive words, some complex content-specific words, and some technical words


Highlights of what your child will learn in third grade include:

  • Multiplying and dividing using facts up to 12.
  • Mastering multiplication facts.
  • Solving word problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division.
  • Multiply a 2-digit number by a 1-digit number.
  • Measuring weight and liquid volume within word problems.
  • Reasoning about shapes by using their knowledge of attributes.
  • Understanding fractions as part of a whole.
  • Solving for area and perimeter of a given shape or figure.

Questions to ask your child’s teacher

  • How can I help my child improve or excel?
  • What are some specific strategies that my child uses in school that we can practice at home?
  • What are some resources that I can use to help my child learn outside the classroom setting?
  • What are the steps my child needs to follow in order to solve a math word problem?


In third grade, students learn to use their senses to make scientific observations. Children also learn about buoyancy, matter, sound and the solar system. English Language Arts units about frogs and wolves also help students develop their scientific knowledge.

Science Topics

  • Scientific observation
  • Buoyancy
  • Matter
  • Sound
  • The Solar System

Social Studies

Social studies is embedded in the English Language Arts curriculum. Third-graders learn about education in different places around the world, with a focus on geography and world cultures. Students also study the election process and celebrate holidays from other cultures.

Library/Media Program

The media center supports the grade-level skills in the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum. Media center staff teach these skills in collaboration with classroom teachers on a variety of projects, particularly in the subject areas of social studies, English Language Arts and science.

In third grade, children learn to:

  • Search the online catalog (author, title and subject) with assistance to locate materials.
  • Use bookmarked websites to find appropriate information.
  • Use at least two sources for research projects.
  • Use simple note-taking strategies (e.g., graphic organizers).
  • Identify and use the organizational structure of a non-fiction book (table of contents, index and glossary) to locate information.
  • State the main idea.
  • Present information clearly so that main points are evident.
  • Identify and evaluate the important features for a good product.
  • Assess and revise their own work with guidance.


Academic Intervention Services (AIS) are offered in reading and math for students who need extra instruction and support. Students who are eligible for AIS services score below benchmarks according to multiple assessment tools, including:

  • New York State English Language Arts or math assessments;
  • Fountas and Pinnell running records;
  • DIBELS Next and DIBELS Math; and
  • iReady assessments.

Students may receive AIS services during the intermediate school’s Sunrise program; “pull-out” support, in which the student leaves the classroom during the day to work one-on-one or in groups with an AIS teacher; or “push-in” support, in which an AIS teacher goes into the student’s classroom to work with them. Students who do not receive direct AIS services may still receive “monitor” services, which means the child is given support and monitored closely by their classroom teacher.

AIS reading support focuses on improving student skills in decoding, comprehension and fluency. Possible interventions include:

  • System 44, a technology-based program that focuses on phonics;
  • small-group reading instruction that focuses on comprehension;
  • small-group reading instruction that focuses on phonics; and
  • individualized reading instruction that focuses on phonics.

AIS math support focuses on improving student skills in computation (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), as well as solving word problems.


Intermediate school students attend two 45-minute sessions of art per week. During this time, students are challenged to explore the elements and principles of art as they create using a wide range of materials (traditional and technological). The BPIS art room is a place where interdisciplinary standards converge as math and ELA concepts are infused throughout different projects.


In third grade, students learn basic computer foundation skills. Third-graders learn keyboarding, starting with the home row and sitting in ergonomically correct position. They also discuss digital citizenship topics, such as being safe online and how to create a positive digital footprint. Students also learn how to use Google Docs and how to effectively search the Internet.


In third grade, all students learn to play the recorder (a wind instrument). The curriculum emphasizes American, Native American and multicultural folk songs with connections to history and classroom curriculum. Students have opportunities for creating and composing, while developing an understanding of and appreciation for many genres of music. Students will prepare for and perform in one concert.

Physical Education

During two 45-minute PE sessions each week, third-graders engage in a variety of activities. These activities are designed to not only to improve their gross and fine motor skills, but to help them learn to appreciate and value the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle. By the time they leave the intermediate school, students will able to:

  • Demonstrate manipulative (throwing, catching, striking, etc.), non-manipulative (stretching, twisting, bending, extending, etc.), and locomotor skills (skipping, galloping, etc.).
  • Demonstrate spatial awareness (self-space vs. general space) during activity through various pathways (curved, zig-zag, straight).
  • Demonstrate responsible personal and social behavior while engaged in physical activity.
  • Identify opportunities for extracurricular activities through local organizations, such as the YMCA and the Broadalbin and Perth youth commissions.