Third Grade (8/9s)
Students follow the threads of exploration that shaped our history and explore their own power of positive change.
The social studies core curriculum in third grade (8/9s) builds on students’ natural curiosity about the world. In this elementary year, children learn the language and symbols of maps and how to locate continents and oceans on a world map. They create their own maps using a variety of materials. Through nonfiction readings, research, writing and reflecting, field trips, and hands-on activities such as re-creating artifacts, children expand their understanding of the history, cultures, and human relationships that maps represent visually.
Building on the work we did in 7/8s, we examine why and where explorers traveled. We learn about modes of travel over land and sea. And we focus on the Silk Road as a major trade route between Europe and Asia, discussing the religions, cultures, commerce, and ideas that traveled between those two parts of the world, the encounters between explorers and indigenous people, and the clashes and exchanges of cultures.
Building on students’ knowledge of the indigenous people of Manhattan, we expand their understanding of the exploration and history of New Amsterdam, including the Dutch beginnings of New York and comparisons between historical events and our lives today.
Literacy, Library & Language
Reading in the 8/9s focuses on developing a strong sense of self as a reader. Reading logs allow students to document their own reading habits, and they study this data to learn more about themselves as readers. In addition to talking about how to choose “just right” books, students expand their reading comprehension skills: retelling, summarizing, making connections, making predictions, visualizing, and making inferences. They learn to read nonfiction texts for information and learn how to share this information with others.
Writing this year combines a study of both the craft and mechanics of good writing. Students learn spelling patterns and rules, grammar, and sentence structure. They learn about rules of capitalization and punctuation. They learn the difference between a fragment and a sentence and apply this understanding to their own writing. Writing work this year includes personal narrative, letter writing, descriptive writing, some free writing, and writing to support the work students are doing in social studies, math, and science.
Building on the library skills acquired in the 7/8s, students in the 8/9s enhance their literacy skills and understanding of stories and information. They delve deeply into one particular book and learn to become increasingly independent library users—using alphabetical order to organize books and finding books within sections of the library. Students also have an opportunity to hone their critical reading skills by evaluating picture books for the Irma S. and James H. Black Book Award, , which is presented by Bank Street’s Center for Children’s Literature. For this annual award, children in the 8/9s and 9/10s select four finalists after evaluating 16 current picture books, guided by the librarian and their classroom teachers. The 6/7s and the 7/8s read the four finalists and vote, along with students from hundreds of schools around the world, on the winning book.
The Spanish program in the 8/9s is designed to help children acquire language-learning strategies and build a meaningful and usable vocabulary. Learning a language is a social experience, and Spanish class is full of interpersonal and experiential activities. We emphasize listening and speaking in the classroom through stories, games, songs, chants, art projects, conversations, videos, Total Physical Response (TPR) activities (learning vocabulary through gestures and actions), and written work. At the end of each class, children are encouraged to practice speaking in Spanish at home to reinforce and support the retention of their language skills.
Math, Science & Technology
In mathematics, we work to build a community of expressive mathematical thinkers. By analyzing their peers’ work, children deepen their understanding of problem-solving. They learn to explain mathematical thinking using words, equations, and diagrams. We believe in the importance of communicating mathematical thinking in a clear, logical, and organized manner. Areas of focus in math in the 8/9s include:
- Practice in addition and subtraction to help develop a strong number sense and understanding of place value up to four digits (ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands).
- Use of a variety of problem-solving strategies to give students flexibility in approaching problems—using equations, number lines, number charts, and diagrams.
- Data collection and representation—using information collected from our school community to create, read, and interpret bar and line graphs.
- Multiplication and division, both in context (the real-life applications of multiplication and division processes) and through problems.
Science extends and connects to the core curriculum focus on explorers and exploration. Students learn what water looks like at different stops along the Silk Road. Later in the year, we begin our study of the human body. Students become familiar with scientific thinking processes. By questioning, observing, predicting, and explaining, students consolidate their learning about how bones, joints, and muscles work together to help the body move.
Human Growth and Development focuses on reproductive anatomy, puberty, reproduction, and prenatal growth. Using appropriate vocabulary, we encourage frank, age-appropriate discussions in the safe, courteous environment of the classroom. We begin by setting up community guidelines. These help to ensure that all conversations are respectful and these classroom discussions remain private between our community and parents at home.
The Middle School technology program is developing quickly. The 8/9s classrooms use a range of technology for instruction, documentation, and collaboration.
Art, Shop & Drama
Art, Shop & Drama:
The integration of art into social studies, language, arts, math, and science helps children make personal connections to their work and continues to deepen their learning. The 8/9s curriculum includes:
- In art, students are moving into the “Richer Symbols” stage of artistic development. Their representations show increased attention to shape, color, composition, pose, and descriptive detail. Children want to express their growing, and increasingly specific, understandings of the world. Narrative is a driving force in painting. Animals are a favorite theme in the 8/9s, allowing students to consider elements of color, shape, pose, and proportion in a subject that they naturally connect to. Projects include paintings, sculptures in clay, functional clay objects, printmaking, and, finally, papier-maché sculptures of animals that are native to Manhattan.
- The shop curriculum is designed to further enhance students’ development and understanding of tools and materials. The semester begins with the creation of xylophones; this develops students’ awareness that wood has musical properties and teaches how it can be tuned to create an endless variety of pitches. We discuss the history and physics of this instrument—and the instruments students create are used in music class. During the second cycle, students create a circus act. This imaginative narrative involves working on the setting as well as the action. They learn about the sculptor Alexander Calder and his circus.
- Students meet for drama once a week in half groups. The school year starts with scripted plays based on books, which the students adapt in small groups, using improvisational games and scene work. In the second half of the school year, the class collaborates with other teachers on a project related to the work students are doing in other areas of the curriculum.
All students in the 8/9s participate in weekly chorus rehearsals and perform in the winter and spring concerts. Recorder Club meets weekly before school and participation is voluntary. Students learn songs ranging from classical to jazz and perform in the winter and spring concerts, providing opportunities for students interested in learning more advanced pieces and performing solos. the curriculum includes:
- Singing is the core of the music curriculum. Song selection in the 8/9s ranges from folk songs to jazz tunes, seasonal songs to songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
- Music Literacy and Instrument Playing are integrated in the 8/9s. Students continue their study of the recorder and develop proper breathing and fingering technique. They learn to read treble notations and expand their knowledge of note values, rhythmic patterns, expressive markings, dynamic, and tempo. Each student moves at his/her own pace, and there are written exercises to be completed at home. Barred instruments such as xylophones, metallophones and glockenspiel, as well as percussive instruments, continue to be used for ensemble playing. Towards the end of the year, students read and play written arrangements for Orff ensemble in different styles and genres.
- Movement/Folk Dance allow students to perceive the connection between patterns in music and physical movement, while learning the art of collaboration, self-regulation and, most important, listening. In the 8/9s, students continue to expand their folk dance repertoire, including more sophisticated dance patterns.
- Music Appreciation in the 8/9s includes study of Western operas and different voice types by range and timbre. Students have attended final dress rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera. Guided listening during the lessons to prepare for concerts explore elements such as synopsis, characters, sections of opera, the language and culture of the opera, and the various stages of opera productions and jobs involved in the process.
Movement & Physical Education
For 45 minutes, three times a week, 8/9s classes participate in physical education. Children are encouraged to develop strength and endurance through fitness activities to build a foundation for a lifetime appreciation of fitness. The emphasis of physical education classes in the 8/9s is to develop social skills and appropriate team play. Students are introduced to skills and equipment and participate in a variety of team sports, including lead-up games in team handball, soccer, basketball, floor hockey, and softball. This grade level plays competitive games as well as recreational tag games for a balanced approach to group play.