Every grade level, but especially the Lower School grades, present quite specific, individual challenges to educators. It's so important that teachers take advantage of all of the resources available to them in order to understand not only what classroom content is appropriate for their students, but what age- and grade-related developmental issues they are very likely facing.
The 3rd grade is no exception.
What does a challenging 3rd grade program look like?
- Daily access to the library to promote reading as a resource for learning, research, and pleasure. 3rd graders should have the opportunity to make independent reading choices for content and enjoyment. This choice fosters a love for reading
- Support for reading skills through a variety of materials, including fiction and non-fiction books. It offers reading comprehension strategies and teaches grammar. Students are learning about different genres and developing personal preferences
- Individual spelling support and consistent spelling rules
- Daily recess and physical education class
- Hands-on science labs with activities that reinforce classroom instruction
- Logical and sequential thinking development through coding activities
- Basic computer skills instruction, including computer file management
- Club activities and team sports that allow students to pursue interests
Third graders have acquired the basic tools of math and reading and are ready to be challenged to use those tools. These students are curious friends and teaching them is incredibly rewarding. This is the year when it seems children can do so much more on their own. A program that consists of challenges to which students can apply their own thinking and problem-solving skills is perfect for 3rd graders.
Developmentally, 3rd graders are at a tricky time. They are at a point where they are able to tackle all kinds of problems that were beyond their reach just a year or two earlier, leading to the possible assumption that with all of the new abilities under the 3rd grader’s belt, an added excitement for learning would follow. However, research tells us that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade years can be a time when excitement and engagement wane in children.
According to Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well, the reasons for this include having less fun while learning, and children at this age beginning to compare themselves with each other.
As educators, we need to be mindful of these possible roadblocks to engagement. Levine advises parents and educators to pay attention to two things as we navigate these issues:
- • "Children who are interested only in performance, that is, being positively evaluated by others, have narrow goals. Their focus is on the grade more than the material. They are so afraid of failing that they challenge themselves far less, take fewer risks, and therefore limit opportunities for growth."
• "The most highly regarded researchers in the field of education agree that there is little value in thinking about intelligence as a single, static entity.”
Our 3rd graders are just starting to show us how they learn, where they excel, and what topics ignite their curiosity. Our goal is to encourage each student to pursue his or her curiosity with gusto, to use the skills he or she is learning to push forward, and to celebrate each failure! We learn so much in failure and only become better, more knowledgeable, and more resilient. By approaching learning in this way, we hope that our students will tackle challenges head on rather than shy away from them.