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Curriculum guide - Grade 3

The elementary school program is designed to develop students’ confidence in themselves as learners, to instill a love of learning, and to help them develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to communicate effectively, understand the world about them, and participate fully in a democratic society.

This web page outlines the major content areas and skills taught in grade three.

Students will engage in integrated or thematic study that requires them to read, write, investigate, converse, design, create, analyze, share and present data and opinions as they pursue solutions and understandings.
While all students will study at least the topics indicated here, there are also opportunities for students to choose other areas of study based on their interests and needs.

Parents can support their children’s school learning by using the vocabulary and discussing the concepts identified here as they share reading, discuss current events, or explore new places with their children.

Please click on any link below to learn more about that topic:

Language Arts
Social Studies
Library Media
Physical Education


Language Arts

The Language Arts--reading literature and informational texts, writing, speaking, listening and language--are a major part of students’ elementary school program. The goal of Guilderland’s Language Arts program is to adhere to the K-12 Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and to develop literate students in the 21st century.

Students read and write every day for various purposes and receive frequent written and oral feedback from their teachers and peers. Instruction occurs individually, in small groups and in whole class settings.

Students are expected to read and understand more complex material and write and speak with more sophistication as they progress through the grades. Attention to Language Arts skills and strategies is integrated into student learning throughout the day.

The purpose of reading is to make meaning from written material. It is a highly complex act of communication requiring active involvement. The overall objective of reading instruction is to develop motivated readers who process written language efficiently and derive meaning from what they read.

In grade three, reading instruction builds upon previous learning and adds focus on:
Both literature and informational texts
Self-selecting appropriate level texts for independent reading
Building reading stamina
Describing characters and how their actions contribute to events
Asking and answering questions referring explicitly to the text
Comparing and contrasting themes, settings and plots
Reading increasingly more complex texts with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension
Determining the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text

Progress in reading is assessed formally and informally throughout the year. In addition, students will take the New York State ELA Assessment.

The goal of Guilderland’s writing program is to develop students who can write competently and with confidence. Guilderland recognizes that writing is a complex process, and its writing program addresses the following student learning objectives:
Introduction of writer’s notebooks
Students at every level need frequent opportunities to write and to receive a great deal of appropriate instruction and feedback
Students need to realize that their lives, ideas and interests are worth writing about
Students need to know that audience and purpose will influence decisions they make about their writing
Students need to know the qualities of good writing and how to evaluate their own work
Students need to increase writing stamina

In grade three, writing instruction builds upon previous learning and adds focus on:
The Writing Process (with an emphasis on planning and organization)
Informational writing using various text structures
Opinion writing
Narrative writing
Responding to literature
Use technology with guidance and support to produce and publish writing

Students are expected to produce a variety of writing pieces throughout the year. They will complete their work with attention to the qualities of good writing, correct spelling and mechanics. Progress in writing is assessed through individual conferencing and review of the students’ writing folders with attention to specific areas of instruction. In addition, students will take the New York State ELA Assessment.

Students will master the cursive alphabet in uppercase and lowercase letters, utilize right and left margins as appropriate, and maintain appropriate spacing between words. Zaner-Bloser cursive is introduced in third grade. As each letter is introduced, there is writing time for practice with attention given to functional pencil grasp as well as letter formation. Once formation is mastered, connections between letters are introduced and practiced.

In grade three, students are expected to spell most high-frequency words correctly and use spelling patterns to help them write words. Students will engage in a word study approach that includes the development of phonics, spelling, word recognition and vocabulary.

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The New York Common Core Standards for Mathematics became mandated in the 2012-13 school year. The purpose of these newly developed learning outcomes is to create math instruction that is much more focused and coherent for students. In essence, children become more deeply familiar with math skills and concepts with a projected goal of mastery. The sequence of the standards allows our students to become more competent math learners by applying their math knowledge to everyday, critical math topics. The long-term goal of the Common Core initiative is to better prepare all students for college and the opportunities they will face in the future.

Students at the primary grades will develop a solid foundation from which future math concepts and skills are built upon. At the third grade level, a stronger emphasis is put on the conceptual understandings of more difficult mathematical operations such as multiplication and division. At this level, fractions are also introduced as numbers. Fact fluency expectations in third grade require that students now add and subtract within 20 and multiply and divide within 100 with a goal of automatic recall and are fluent with procedures to add and subtract within 1000.

Go Math! by Houghton Mifflin Hardcourt Publishing Company is specifically written to support the Common Core State Standards. The critical areas and mathematical practices outline in the New York state curriculum are integrated into Go Math! chapters. Student tools allow children to engage in context-based mathematical situations that build to more abstract problem solving. Students use models, manipulatives, quick pictures and symbols to build deeper mathematical understandings. Instructional methods focus on the use of literature and technology as well as encourage students to talk and write about math.

Mathematical Content
Third grade Common Core Standards are organized into the following domains:
Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Number and Operations in Base Ten
Measurement and Data
Number and Operations—Fractions

Pervasive throughout the domains are several key mathematical practices. These are:
Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
Reason abstractly and quantitatively
Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
Model with mathematics
Use appropriate tools strategically
Attend to precision
Look for and make use of structure
Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Required Fluencies in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics
When it comes to measuring the full range of the Standards, usually the first things that come to mind are the mathematical practices, or perhaps the content standards that call for conceptual understanding. However, the Standards also address another aspect of mathematical attainment that is seldom measured at scale either: namely, whether students can perform calculations and solve problems quickly and accurately.

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In the 21st century a person must be armed with a science overview to adapt to the extraordinary changes that will occur, to be employed by the new industries that will emerge, and to participate in the decisions that society will make. The key is education and programs such as Science and Technology for Children (STC) to give every student science content and science process needed to develop scientific literacy.

Our elementary science program places an emphasis on acquiring skills, knowledge and attitudes toward science through active involvement in hands-on activities. The heart of the program is problem solving. Students are actively engaged in situations which begin with their questions and take them through the process of inquiry. Students gather information to help them find answers to their questions using the data they have collected.
Because many of the ideas being studied have direct relation to other disciplines, students are encouraged to make connections. We provide literature and other resources to foster such connections.

Teachers are encouraged to enrich science instruction with topics of interest to their students and themselves. The catalyst for such studies may be student-generated questions, teacher or parent interest or current events. Problem solving is the common thread which ties these topical studies to our core curriculum.

Teachers assess student progress by observing their development as observers, hypothesizers, careful data gatherers and generalizers and by watching them work, reviewing their journals, and assessing their written and oral responses.

Our core program includes a series of topical units of study that include hands-on activities, specific scientific skill development (observing, measuring, comparing, predicting, estimating, and describing), problem solving, and assessment.

In grade three these topics are ROCKS AND MINERALS and PLANT GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT.

ROCKS AND MINERALS gives third graders the opportunity to investigate the properties of rocks and minerals. Students explore the similarities and differences among rocks; they also study how rocks and minerals are both similar and different. They conduct several tests on minerals and develop a systematic way to record their observations. Finally, students apply the information they have collected to identify the minerals they have been studying by name. These activities introduce students to the way geologists study rocks and minerals. They also help students develop and apply process skills in observing, describing, and recording.

PLANT GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT gives students the opportunity to experience the complete life cycle of a plant in a very short time and learn that the cycle includes germination, growth, development of specialized parts, and even death, with the promise of new life in the seed. Students will observe seeds and record their observations in writing and by making scientific drawings. They will gain experience with practical gardening techniques of thinning and transplanting. The unit emphasizes the theme of interdependence and explores the reasons why the bee and the flower need each other.

Always building upon prior knowledge and understandings, students will use the following vocabulary words in the study of science in grade three:


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Social Studies

The ten key concept goals of the K-6 social studies curriculum are:

basic alterations in things, events, and ideas

membership in a community (school, state, nation...) with its accompanying behaviors, rights, and responsibilities

the way of living any society develops to meet its fundamental needs

the ability to understand others through being able to identify in one’s self responses similar to the experiences, behaviors, and responses of others

surroundings, including natural elements and elements created by humans

awareness of one’s own values, attitudes, and capabilities as an individual and a member of groups

reliance upon others in mutually beneficial interaction and exchange

a geographic/political organization uniting people by a common government

the conflict between unlimited needs and wants and limited natural and human resources

the tools and methods used by people to get what they need and want

social studies graphicThrough social studies experiences in the elementary grades, students will develop mental categories which provide a foundation for social studies learning in grades seven through twelve. As a result of participating in the social studies program, students should demonstrate steady growth in the following abilities and the skills which contribute to them:

The ability to obtain, organize, process and communicate accurate social studies information and ideas.

The ability to identify and investigate issues, generate and test hypotheses, and take and support positions persuasively.

The ability to make appropriate decisions, to identify and solve problems effectively and to initiate appropriate action.

The ability to form or acquire a set of standards and apply them to the evaluation of assumptions, sources, evidence, reasoning and arguments (critical thinking) and to the evaluation of beliefs, qualities and behaviors (valuing).

The ability to determine and understand their rights and responsibilities and decide how they should be exercised as contributing citizens (citizenship competency).


The focus in grade three is on expanding and applying understandings about rural, urban, and suburban communities around the nation and world. The thematic keystones are social/cultural, political, economic, geographic, and historic, with special emphasis on the impact of geography on a community. Specific countries are identified for in-depth study. Students will enhance their understanding of their community and consider other communities removed from their immediate experiences. As in previous grades, self-identity, social interaction, and participatory citizenship will pervade the program.

Central Themes Content Direction Skills Emphasis
History Communities adapt and change over time Information collection
and presentation
Cultural/Social Each member of a community is unique; families differ; members of community develop and are influenced by its culture and vice versa Interpersonal and group relations
Self management
Political Societies develop rules, rights and responsibilities Interpersonal and group
Economics People have needs and wants and are producers and consumers; many factors influence people’s economic choices Decision making
Problem solving
Geography Effects of environment; map and globe skills Map reading
Understanding of globes, charts


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Health is a condition of well-being that is required for the development of each individual and for society as a whole. Health instruction at the elementary level builds a strong foundation to promote the health and well-being of our students. The health education program works in partnership with the home, school, and the community. To support this partnership with the parents, a list of videos that may be used is posted on our district website, and, prior to instruction of any personal safety lesson or video, a parent notification letter is sent home with students.
The elementary program provides accurate, age-appropriate information and builds upon prior learning. The curriculum consists of six strands and is taught by the classroom teacher and sometimes the support of other school staff or guest speakers. The six strands are:
Personal Activity and Nutrition
Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs
Family Life and Maturity
Violence Prevention
Unintentional Injury Prevention

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The elementary art curriculum in third grade continues with a sequential learning process that exposes children to a variety of techniques, concepts, and skills in both the two-dimensional and three-dimensional arts. The third grade visual art curriculum is aligned with the NYS Learning Standards in Art. It allows the art teacher to guide children through hands-on learning activities in a studio like setting that integrates art history from both past and present cultures, art criticism, aesthetics, technology, visual and digital literacies and careers in art.

Elementary art teachers work closely with classroom teachers to promote a positive, exciting learning experience. Connections are made across subject areas while simultaneously allowing children to express themselves as unique individuals. Each learning experience includes both a process and/or a product that may conclude over a period of several classes. All students meet once/week in the art room for 40 minutes.

In addition to the skills and content already learned, the third grade artist is introduced to and will experiment with but not limited to the following; spatial relationships, texture/relief, introduction to color value, reinforcement of appropriate use and manipulation of materials and tools.

Student artwork is displayed throughout the classroom and building on a regular basis. An annual K-5 student art exhibition is held in the spring at the Guilderland Public Library.

*The K-12 Visual Art Sequential Curriculum is built upon the fundamental principle that the Arts assists in the development of the whole child as it supports the child’s emotional and intellectual growth through sensory experiences that promote creativity, imagination, innovation, problem solving, critical thinking and artistic expression.

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Library Media

The Library Media Program plays a vital role throughout all aspects of the curriculum. The mission of the Library Media Program ensures that all students and staff effectively generate questions, access resources and create and share their new knowledge. In addition to managing the book collection and library web page, the Library Media Specialist provides instruction for individuals, small groups and whole classes of students. Areas of instruction include library orientation and circulation, literature appreciation, information skills and utilizing technology and digital media. Our third grade students further develop and reinforce skills through participation in a variety of library experiences, such as:
Using the OPAC (library catalog) and Interlibrary Loan (Orientation and Circulation)
Learning elements of a story, appreciating award-winning books, acquiring visual literacy skills (Literature Appreciation)
Learning the arrangement and gaining access to the fiction, nonfiction and reference collections, beginning research processes, identifying features of nonfiction (Information Skills)
Online resources for research, creating digital products (Utilizing Technology and Digital Media)

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The purpose of the Guilderland music program is to advance the cognitive and cultural development of every student through active participation in music. Sequential class activities:
Promote critical thinking and listening skills.
Foster creativity through musical improvisation and composition.
Advance innate musical aptitude through class and public performances.
Encourage an understanding of world cultures.
Aid neural development of the brain benefiting literacy, spatial reasoning, verbal memory and problem solving skills.
Allow for a shared community experience by teaching music literacy (pattern structure recognition).

The elementary general music program is offered to students in grades K-5 twice a week for 30 minutes. The emphasis in music class is on the development of each child’s tonal, rhythmic and movement skills through a sound before sight approach. Similar to the way children acquire language skills, music is taught as an aural art. Students build a solid foundation of aural and performing skills through singing, rhythmic movement, and tonal and rhythm pattern instruction before being introduced to notation and music theory. The voice is a natural instrument for all children and emphasis is placed on the singing of a variety of songs from many cultures. Movement activities support dexterity, rhythm skill development, and beat coordination. Creativity, composition, and improvisation are encouraged at every level of music instruction. All students have opportunities to perform on classroom instruments including xylophones and rhythm instruments.

The curriculum utilizes Dr. Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory. Children are evaluated for music aptitude in both tonal (melodic) and rhythm skills. The movement portion of the curriculum is based on Phyllis Weikart’s Education through Movement developed as a result of her study of the body as the center of learning for children.

In third grade the essential elements of the curriculum focus on:
Vocal development continues to help students expand their singing abilities so that they can achieve a clear head voice with a warm quality while singing songs of many cultures.
Rhythmic movement - folk dancing continues with an added focus on integrated movement (Moving to the primary beat and secondary beat at the same time).
Tonal & rhythm patterns. These building blocks are extended to increase students’ vocabulary and labeled with rhythmic/tonal syllables. Students also begin to recognize tonal and rhythmic music patterns in standard notation.
In addition to rote songs, third graders begin part singing using rounds and partner songs.
Tonal and rhythmic skills are extended to a variety of classroom instruments such as recorders, xylophone, African drums etc.
Instrumental music. All third grade students take an aptitude test (IMMA) and have the opportunity to try out many of the instruments during the instrumental recruitment period in the spring. Each third grade students is screened for their interest and physical development. A parent informational night is held in late spring to answer questions regarding the beginning instrumental music program.

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Physical Education

Guilderland Central School District begins Physical Education in kindergarten. Basic concept and skill development are the primary concerns of the K-4 program. At these grade levels much time is spent helping the learner become aware of and develop a working knowledge of the Elementary Physical Education Concepts:
Foot-Eye Coordination
Hand-Eye Coordination
Locomotor & Axial Movements
Physical Fitness
Reaction Time
Rhythm & Dance
Spatial Awareness

With these concepts the following attributes are emphasized:

In third grade our curriculum is still driven by our thirteen concepts. By third grade our students have been thoroughly introduced to our concepts so we can begin to really challenge our students through a variety of activities and games. Third graders are involved in more game settings with multiple rules and increased tasks. For example, students will play a game that not only requires the foot-eye coordination concept, but also requires the strategy concept, agility concept, and/or locomotive movement concept. It is important that our third graders can apply our concepts to real life situations, whether it is a game for fun or just being active as a healthy choice.
The students are also fitness tested twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring. At this level, students are introduced to the process and importance of setting realistic goals. With this knowledge, students then apply personal goals to the fall fitness test results for ideal aspirations for the spring fitness testing. After the fall results have been recorded the students write a goal on their fitness card and this gives them something to strive for.

After completing the Elementary Physical Education program, each child should be able to understand and apply all thirteen concepts whether in an organized physical activity or being active as a healthy choice. The Physical Education program is designed, ultimately, to enhance each child’s skill development and prepare them for the upcoming middle school program. 

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