Third Grade

Click on the link below to view a description of a curriculum unit that exemplifies how different core subject areas are enacted within a particular grade. These descriptions provide a glimpse of life inside SCCS.

Counting River Study


Counting the Days in School

As students arrive in their third grade classrooms each morning, there is already speculation about the “ways to count” to today’s number. This daily routine, centered on the number of days we’ve been in school, offers our students an opportunity to think expansively about multiples and factors. As they create snap-cube models for representing the factors, they extend their notions about odd and even numbers and begin to consider ideas related to fractions, prime numbers, squared numbers, and cubed numbers.

For example, on our 51st day of school this year, many students proclaimed it must be prime. It felt like a prime number. It looked like a prime number. It seemed connected to a pattern of numbers that were prime numbers. This kind of intuition about numbers, this “feel” for how numbers can be analyzed, decomposed and recombined, is an important outcome of our daily “number talks.” On this day, as students began creating their models for 51, someone noticed that it was possible to break it up into 3’s.

“Oh, of course,” someone else replied, “We had threes on day 48, and it’s been three days since then. But it really doesn’t feel like there would be threes today!”

“What pairs with 3?” another child wanted to know.

“Let me count my three’s. In this part, I have 30 cubes, so I know that’s ten 3’s, and then I have 21 more cubes. How many 3’s is that?”

Another child replied, “Well, on day 48, we had sixteen 3’s, so today we must have seventeen. We got one more three since our record-breaking day!”

Later in the day, at the end of our discussion about their findings, one child said, “You know how we’ve been talking a lot about halves of the numbers lately? Well, I think today we’re talking about something different. Would you call it thirds, or something like that?” This exemplifies the kinds of observations and discoveries students are making as they engage in mathematical thinking.


Connecticut River: River Study
River Study
River Study

In the third grade, students engage in a full year study of the river using the Connecticut River as our primary “real world” example. We study the anatomy of the river, learning about the features of rivers and how they form. We learn about how the Connecticut River’s history is related to the geologic history of the Connecticut River Valley and how it has both influenced and been altered by people. Of course, the river is also a habitat, and children learn about the many animals included in the ecosystem of the river. In the early fall, we take a boat ride along a section of the Connecticut. This trip serves as a communal touchstone as the study deepens.

During the year, we investigate ideas relating to the power of a river to shape land as it moves through it. One of the exciting parts of the curriculum is a hands-on exploration of what happens when water meets land. Students make discoveries about the interaction of land and water by engaging with a “stream box.” The stream box contains a mixture of soil, gravel, clay and sand.

As they begin to design an investigation, students make theories about the relative strength of water and land:

“I think water is more powerful because water can wash away land and dirt.”

“I think land is more powerful because whenever you have water, there’s always a bottom which is land.”

“I think water is more powerful because it can move rock, and it moves dirt itself.”

“I think they are both powerful because water erodes land, but why hasn’t water eroded the continents?”

The children then work in partners to create a “landscape” in their stream box. They make predictions about what will happen to their landscape when they add water at the “source”:

“We think some of the water will go into the dirt but some water is going to survive and carry the dirt too.”

“We think the water will go down the hill and stop at the mountain.”

“We think the water will follow the path we made.”

“We think the water will split and go both directions around our land shape. It would surprise us if no water came out of the mouth.”

Children often think that the water will follow a path they create and are surprised by the fact that water will create its own path. They are also surprised by how much water can be absorbed by the soil mixture. As they continue to propose, test, and revise their theories, they excitedly make discoveries:

“Water can wash land away.”

“Water can carry dirt.”

“Water can be absorbed by land.”

“Water does not go uphill.”

“Rivers make their own paths, and go where you don’t expect them to go.”

“The water pushed the land down in seconds and then the path widened.”

“Water can destroy some land, but not all.”

One of the culminating activities is a class project to help restore Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River Valley. As children monitor and observe the growth of Salmon eggs into young fry, they are learning about the amazing lifecycle of the Atlantic salmon and developing a sense of responsibility for the natural environment. As they engage in this service to their community, they come to feel that they truly are “stewards” for the river and the animals that reside in it.

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