what do you learn in third grade

First grade is exciting. Your child is just starting out and is swept up in the excitement of learning to read, write and perform basic math. Second grade is exciting as well, as your student is building on this foundation and reaching the point where things like reading and writing are slowly becoming second nature. So what about third grade?

It might be easy to assume that third grade represents a stage where school becomes mundane, and your child is no longer excited about the prospect of learning new things. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Third grade can represent an extremely exciting year for your child as they reach a point where they can truly begin to dig into new subjects and areas of studies with real depth, instead of the brief overviews and introductions they’ll receive in earlier years. By this point, kids are really and truly in the thick of elementary school and are ready for some more challenging material

With this in mind, what can you do as a parent to help your child prepare for their journey into third grade? We’ve put together this guide to help you out as you do your best to walk with your child through this year. We’ll talk typical third-grade subject matter to be prepared for, school supplies and ways you can help prepare your child for this year. By brushing up on these and other things, you can help set your child up for a fun and successful year.

What Do Kids Learn in Third Grade?

In third grade, things start to get a little more complicated. If we compare first grade to riding a tricycle, and second grade to riding a bike with training wheels, then third grade is the year the training wheels come off, and your child begins to learn to ride a bike on their own. Students move beyond focusing primarily on language and math. Subjects like literature, history, science and more begin to be more important.

In addition to the expansion of subjects and topics covered, homework assignments will likely become more regular and slightly more difficult. Students will also now be able to better grasp the concept of change over time and have a better understanding of the past, present and future, meaning that this will become a greater focus in history, science and more.

Here are a few of the specifics to keep an eye out for this year in your child’s education.

1. Language and Literacy

When it comes to things like reading and writing, third grade is no longer about simply learning how to do it. Now, the focus will shift to doing it well. Further nuances and complexities will be introduced, and students will be expected to take more responsibility for doing these things well. A few of the particular areas that will likely be in focus this year include:

  • Enhanced Reading Skills: A student’s reading level will increase, moving them from simple chapter books up to longer books with more complicated prose as well as more nuanced storytelling that requires more knowledge to understand and follow. Kids will also learn more about how to become better readers, including how to look up words they don’t understand as they encounter them, and so on.

kids sitting at desks raising hands and text about book discussion

  • Book Discussion: Whether the class is reading a book together, or the students are reading on their own, there will be a greater focus on discussion and analyzing a text. Kids will be expected to grasp more obscure details, such a character’s motivations, feelings and goals that may be more subtle. Students may be expected to participate in in-class book discussions as a teacher walks them through this process.
  • New Genres and Styles: Kids will be introduced to a greater variety in their reading. They’ll learn about magazines, newspapers, websites, poetry, short stories, the difference between fiction and non-fiction and many other distinctions. They’ll learn about dictionaries and other reference materials that can help them navigate the world of reading better. Teachers will likely introduce children to a variety of different fiction genres as well, and kids may begin to develop distinct preferences for one genre over another.
  • Different Writing Styles: Kids will also be expected to advance their writing skills. They’ll be asked to write personal anecdotes or journal entries, fictional stories, non-fiction reports and more. They’ll also learn how to organize their thoughts better for a more natural flow, in addition to learning about organizational strategies for writing such as outlining.
  • Grammar, Style and Punctuation: Children will learn more about correct grammar including things like expressing a complete thought in a sentence, avoiding run-ons and fragments. They’ll learn more parts of speech such as adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and more. They’ll also talk about more advanced punctuation and capitalization and how to use these tools.

2. Math

Because children should have a solid understanding of the basic functions of math, as well as numbers, place value and other such foundational concepts, third grade is a time when these ideas are really built on and expanded upon. A few of the specific ways this will play out include:

  • Larger Whole Numbers: With an increased knowledge of place value comes a greater ability to work with larger numbers into the thousands. Students will begin doing addition, subtraction and more work with these large numbers.

girl doing math on chalkboard and text about fractions and decimal points

  • Fractions and Decimal Points: These will likely have been touched on in lower grades, but typically in a very simplified way. Now, these concepts will get a little more in-depth and intense. Place value after a decimal point will be discussed, and students will perform computations with these figures. Fraction circles and other such aids will likely be used.
  • Multiplication and Division: This is the year where your student will truly begin to dive into the world of multiplication and division. Multiplication tables will likely become a regular part of your child’s school day, and they may do work with flashcards and other such tools. Numbers used are still likely to be small, and concepts like long division are often reserved for the following year.
  • Mental and Written Math: Increasingly, third graders will find themselves being asked to do math on paper or even in their head, without the aid of physical counters or other helpers. Speed will also become a factor, as students will be encouraged to memorize certain equations and tables until they can calculate without even thinking about it.
  • Complex Word Problems: Word problems will also increase in complexity and difficulty, and students will likely find themselves completing more and more of these.

3. Science

Science lessons will still largely deal with the observable world, but in a much more detailed way. Students will begin investigating in-depth systems and patterns found in nature, as well as the symbiotic relationships between many different creatures and parts of nature. A few of the specific areas their attentions are likely to be focused this year include:

  • Planets and Space: Kids will likely learn a bit about the different planets, the solar system and space, with a particular focus on Earth, the Sun and the Moon.
  • Weather and Climates: Students will spend time studying things like what causes the weather and different types of climates throughout the world like deserts, rainforests and so on.

hot topics in third grade science

  • Earth Sciences: Hot topics in third grade include such things as the water cycle, different types of rocks, ecosystems, the food chain and more.
  • States of Matter: Third grade is the perfect time when students will likely first encounter the different states of matter. This often ties in perfectly with already-existing discussions about the water cycle and other earth-science based questions.
  • Experiments and the Scientific Method: Children will begin to perform slightly more complicated experiments, and there may be a greater focus on trying to predict the outcome and recording the results.

4. Social Studies

This year, social studies will become more important to your student’s curriculum. Most third graders are finally ready to begin learning more about the world around them, especially concerning all the history that has come before them. With a greater ability to understand the passage of time and places far away from themselves, your third grader will begin tackling subjects such as:

  • Geography: Students should be fairly comfortable pointing out continents, oceans, major rivers, large countries and more. They should be well-versed in the four cardinal directions. American geography will likely be a particular focus, and while children might not learn every state, they should certainly be able to pick out their own state and the major regions of the country.
  • History: History will come more into focus this year as well, with children learning American history, and some world history as well. They’ll learn about the American Revolution, the 13 colonies, ancient Rome and Greece, Ancient Egypt, Vikings and much more. They’ll learn about major players from history as well as major events throughout history.

How to Get Your Child Ready for Third Grade

What should a third grader know already? Is your child ready to take on the challenges of this next big step? And what can you do to help them get ready to face these more advanced materials?

One of the best things you can do is to simply familiarize yourself with the material and be ready to help whenever they might come to you with questions. If you’re looking to do more, however, here are just a few of the ways you can be an invaluable part of your child’s third grade experience.

1. Encourage Homework

father and son reading together and text about encouraging your child to do homework

Homework is likely something that’s still fairly new to your child. They’ll certainly have had take-home assignments and things before, but there’s a good chance that this is the first year this homework truly begins to feel like work and becomes more time-consuming. As a parent, one of the most helpful things you can do is encourage your child to stay on top of this work. Offer to help them create a schedule and a timeframe. Make yourself available if they have questions about their work, or need something explained more fully. Be fully supportive of them as they tackle these bigger projects.

2. Get Them a Library Card

If your child doesn’t already have a library card, now is the perfect age to get them one. Make sure your child has a constant supply of books to read as a way to truly foster a love of reading and learning. Try to avoid making reading a chore, and instead show them that reading is something fun and something that can be enjoyed as a pastime.

3. Notice Their Interests

Even at this young age, students are likely to begin developing distinct interests and preferences in their studies. Maybe you have an avid reader on your hands, a budding mathematician, a science whiz or a young artist. Whatever your third grader begins to display an interest in, encourage that to its fullest and help them pursue it. Get your child books on the subject, sign them up for extra-curricular activities in that area and more.

School Supplies for Third Grade

The key to success is knowing how to prepare for it. That means that as your child gets ready to tackle the new and exciting challenges of third grade, they’ll need the right tools and supplies to help them out along the way.

Here are a few of the third-grade essentials to add to your shopping list this back-to-school season.

  • Pens and Pencils: As your child begins to do more and more writing in school, you can never have too many pens or pencils. Remember that if you’re sending your child to school with pencils, you’ll also want to supply sharpeners and extra erasers as well.
  • Scissors: These will help your student create the next great art project. It may also be time to upgrade your student from their blunt-tip child scissors, although we recommend using your discretion.
  • Glue Sticks: Glue sticks are always an essential when it comes to art class.
  • Pencil Case: Give your third grader a place to keep all their supplies contained, organized and easy to access.
  • Markers and Crayons: Whether your child uses these for art class or simply to doodle in their spare time, they’re a must-have for any elementary school student.

wide-ruled notebooks

  • Wide-Ruled Notebooks: Make sure your child has a few wide rule notebooks to help them keep up with the new volume of material they’ll be learning.
  • Pocket Folders: When your child is handed assignment sheets, papers, homework and other things, make sure they have a place to store them.
  • Backpack: Reuse your child’s old backpack from the year before, or treat them to a new one with the start of the new school year.
  • Student Planner: With homework assignments beginning to pick up, a planner is an increasingly valuable tool that can help kids keep themselves organized and on-track.

Shop Student Planners Today

Set your child on the road to success by buying them a student planner to help them stay ahead of homework and school assignments. Here at Success by Design, our student planners come in a variety of different beautiful designs, so that every student can have one that best fits their personality. They’re also equipped with large calendars, plenty of room for note-taking and so much more. Shop our full selection today and help get your child organized this school year.