What Children Should Know in the Third Grade


Third-graders are moving beyond the beginning grade school basics and into more complex types of learning. Even though each school or district has its own curriculum goals, educational standards are often universal. During the third grade year, state and national benchmark learning goals include English language, math, science and social studies content. These provide a guide for what the students should know before they move on to Grade 4.

English Language Knowledge Requirements

  • Reading, the ability to speak effectively, listening, writing and literature knowledge are all part of English language learning, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. While each state has its own standards, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is the closest list to a national set of goals available. Although not every state uses the Common Core, its standards represent what is developmentally appropriate for each grade level. The Common Core's third grade reading standards state that students should be able to identify and understand prefixes and suffixes, decode multisyllable words, understand some irregularly spelled words, read text with understanding, understand grade-level prose and poetry and use context to recognize words. Third-graders should also demonstrate writing skills such as linking words and phrases, creating a list type of organizational structure to written reports, and write informative texts that convey ideas. During this school year, students can also identify and use nouns, verbs adverbs and adjectives correctly, and write sentences with the correct capitalization and punctuation.

Understanding Math in a More Complex Way

  • Before the third grade year is over, most students will know how to multiply and divide numbers within 100, understand what fractions are and be able to analyze two-dimensional shapes, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Third-graders also know how to measure and estimate volumes and masses and can understand the idea of area. They can reason in abstract and concrete ways when solving math problems, use the correct tools to make measurements and employ reasoning strategies to make sense of other students' solutions.

Studying Science in Grade 3

  • Like English and math standards, schools may use differing versions of third grade science standards. That said, there are some general expectations that teachers have across the bar for third-graders. These include physics, biology and earth science content areas. The National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Science Teachers Association and Achieve developed the Next Generation Science Standards to define what children at each grade level should know. Third graders should understand the basic forces of motion and interactions between objects, according to the Next Generation Science Standards. They should also understand cause and effect in relationships and use this knowledge to explain change. During the third grade year, students should describe the life cycle, identify and understand the interactions in an ecosystem, recognize that organisms inherit traits from their parents and that there is biological diversity. Science knowledge at this point also includes understanding that there are different climates with different weather-related conditions.

Social Studies Content and Learning

  • The third grade year often includes social studies content that covers the origins of American democracy. This includes learning about ancient Greece and the Athenian idea of democracy. Students in third grade are also learning about famous Americans throughout history, such as Paul Revere, Eleanor Roosevelt or Susan B. Anthony, according to Georgia's state social studies standards. The third grader should also know major geographic features of the United States such as the Mississippi River. Students will also need to know about productive resources, how governments provide goods for citizens and how trade works. Although these are basics for third graders, some states may differ in what they think children of this age should know.


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