The main goals of the reading program are to encourage students to enjoy reading, to appreciate good literature, to become fluent readers, and to understand, interpret and synthesize information. Reading should excite the imagination, inspire invigorating discussion, lead students to inquiry and discovery, and help students make meaningful connections. Students read a variety of genres including novels, short stories, poems, essays, plays, mysteries, fables, folktales, legends, biographies, and nonfiction.
Teachers consistently emphasize fluency, speed and expressiveness in oral reading. Independent and silent reading are also integrated into the reading program. Book reports and projects are frequent, and often require creativity, problem solving, and inquiry. Choices focus on each child’s ability and interests.
Teaching methodologies include direct instruction of formal comprehension skills, class discussion, lecture, directed reading, vocabulary preparation, and providing background. Project-based, hands-on, and experiential techniques are used, as is arts integration. Teachers use brainstorming, debate, group read-aloud and role-playing, as well as literature circles, or other small group discussions or projects. Written responses to literature may take a variety of forms, such as answering formal comprehension questions, journaling or reading logs, diary entries, newspaper articles, and character interviews.
In writing, students work on expressing themselves clearly, vividly and with meaning through well-structured sentences and paragraphs. The writing program emphasizes the development of fluency in a variety of forms of writing including personal narratives, journals, letter-writing, persuasive writing, poetry, scriptwriting and different types of creative stories. Expository writing assignments include essays, research reports, journalism (class newspaper), and writing in the content areas of all subjects. Methodologies include teaching the entire continuum of the writing experience, from brainstorming and drafting to revising, editing, polishing, and publishing. There is a focus on purpose, audience, voice, organization, word choices, and descriptive details. Students are guided in the use of a dictionary and thesaurus.
The third grade Math curriculum begins with a review of whole numbers through the thousands, addition and subtraction of large numbers, and the basic multiplication and division facts. New calculation skills include estimation, multiplication of large numbers, and division of larger numbers. Students learn new math concepts: using customary and metric measurement, creating and reading graphs, plotting data and predicting outcomes, comparing and ordering fractions, equivalent fractions, mixed numbers, adding and subtracting fractions, decimals to the hundredths place, and negative numbers.
Geometry concepts include points, lines, rays, angles, circles, polygons, symmetry, perimeter, area, and volume. Beginning algebra concepts include missing numbers, functions, and graphing equations. Essential building blocks of third grade math are memorization of the multiplication and division facts, careful checking of addition and subtraction, and critical reading of story problems to determine what is being asked. Instruction is differentiated to meet students’ individual needs. As mastery is reached, students are appropriately challenged.
Third grade Science units include magnetism and electricity, animal and plant adaptations, light and color, and the human eye. A variety of hands-on materials are used to help students investigate and draw conclusions about the world around them. Students build simple telegraph machines; wire, series and parallel circuits; and pin-hole scopes. They write animal research reports and grow their own plants. A highlight of the science curriculum is building microscopes that are used in field investigations. Students keep science notebooks to record and analyze the results of their investigations. The science curriculum offers students many opportunities to improve reading, writing, and math skills with its emphasis on measurement and graphing. Students also participate in engineering projects.
The third grade curriculum is based on the history, geography, and citizenship of California. History lessons link the past and present so that students can begin to understand how and why California became a state. Geography lessons teach a variety of map-reading skills. Citizenship lessons help students discover and appreciate the diversity of cultures and points of view that constitutes California. Units include natural and human resources, native Californians, early European exploration, Spanish settlement, Mexican California, the Gold Rush, statehood, and the Transcontinental Railroad. Students begin to read primary source documents and research historical events through Internet sites. The Social Studies curriculum is integrated with the Language Arts and Science curricula throughout the year. Students gain first-hand experience through several field trips to historic California sites.