What to Expect in the Third Grade

By Jess Corinne
August 17, 2022

Historically, third grade is a transition year for many learners and that has not changed these past few years. Reading passages become increasingly more challenging. Sentences are longer. Vocabulary words are tougher. Math concepts—such as those ubiquitous multiplication tables or lengthy, confusing word problems—require memorization as well as complex thought. By the third grade, children have spent two years mastering reading and doing basic math computations. In third grade, they are able to branch out in their cognitive studies, social interactions and more complex, academic material. 

Teachers expect third grade students to take more responsibility for their education, asking for support when they don’t understand something and devising strategies for learning that work best for them. And in some states, promotion from 3rd grade to 4th grade even depends on students passing a standardized test.

It’s enough to make some caregivers sweat a little, especially when their children are neurodivergent or slower to shine. Educators have learned over the years that, on average, children at this age can handle higher academic expectations. Learners who have a solid foundation from the earlier grades will do well with support, encouragement, and clearly stated expectations.

We understand how overwhelming preparing a child for a new grade can be. To reduce some new school year anxiety, take a few moments to look over the skills that your third grader will need this year to help them with hands-on science experiments, more challenging math problems, and higher-level reading and writing assignments. If you are still unsure or feel worried about your child’s ability to find success in third grade, we strongly encourage you to schedule a SPARK Learning Assessment or reach out to one of our educational specialists to learn more about our offerings

Third Grade Social-Emotional Skills

Third grade will expand your child’s horizons and give them more of a “big picture” perspective, along with the requisite social skills. These skills relate not only to friendships and interactions in school, but to more in-depth learning experiences. Your third-grader will develop these social and emotional skills:

  • Friendships start to become more important, and many third-graders look forward to socializing and seeing their friends at school.
  • Your child will become more adept at understanding and share jokes and riddles with friends.
  • Your child will take on more responsibility himself, such as making sure he writes down homework assignments, packing up his own belongings for dismissal, etc.
  • Third-graders work cooperatively on group projects, such as simple experiments and research projects.

Third Grade Reading

Third grade reading is a big year to build upon your child’s educational foundation. They may find certain aspects of reading more interesting than others and look forward to sharing the information they learn in school with you. Your third-grader will:

  • Continue to expand vocabulary
  • Use reference books such as online dictionaries and thesauruses to get information and to check the accuracy of spelling/definitions
  • Look up information in a book by using a table of contents, glossary, or index
  • Read longer chapter books and be able to articulate the main points of the stories. Popular third-grade titles include “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket and “A to Z Mysteries” by Ron Roy. 
  • Explore fables, legends, myths, poems, and plays as supplements to fiction and nonfiction reading
  • Progress as an independent reader and work up to an appropriate comprehension level
  • Read in groups, alternating paragraphs out loud, to build fluency and vocabulary

Third Grade Expressive Language (Writing and Verbal Communication)

Oral and written expression really ramps up in third grade classrooms as learners are required to start producing structured paragraphs and longer narratives with independence. This tends to be the year that learners start complaining about physical limitations such as sore hands while writing ,or avoid the act of writing altogether because of the challenges it may present. In third grade, your child will be expected to: 

  • Write detailed stories and essays with a logical sequence of events and discernible plot points and endings
  • Write in paragraphs and learn how to use transitions
  • Learn and practice cursive writing
  • Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar (e.g., verb tenses must agree in sentences)
  • Use reference books, such as the thesaurus, to make more interesting word choices
  • Master the writing process: pre-write, outline, draft, revise, edit, and polish
  • Use outlines to write a story or book report that has a beginning, middle, and end
  • Write in a variety of styles, including informative, creative, and persuasive writing
  • Keep a journal to practice personal writing and handwriting skills
  • Understand written instructions and follow them independently
  • Listen actively to a speaker in the classroom, whether that is the teacher or a fellow student
  • Answer questions in complete sentences (for example, “I like to play on the monkey bars more than playing kickball because I like to climb,” as opposed to “Because I like to climb,” or simply “Because.”)

Third Grade Math Skills

Although much of what your child learns in third grade helps to expand their worldview, some of the new information they acquire has practical applications in real life. Math is true to this point. Your third grader will:

  • Add and subtract numbers to 10,000
  • Memorize times tables
  • Multiply multi-digit numbers by a single-digit number
  • Divide multi-digit numbers by a single-digit number
  • Identify written and spoken numbers up to 100,000
  • Explain in words how a math problem was solved
  • Use measuring tools to calculate volume, area, length, and height
  • Analyze and graph data (e.g., collecting and charting the birthdays of all the boys and girls in class to determine how many boys were born in April)
  • Work with simple fractions and decimals
  • Round to the nearest whole number
  • Predict patterns in shapes and numbers
  • Tell time to the nearest minute
  • Relate number problems to everyday situations (e.g., using a budget to plan a party)

Third Grade Executive Functioning

At this age (8-9 years old), children are quickly developing executive functions that relate to academic work. As they are exposed to literature and school-based concepts, they use working memory to recall and integrate information into their current knowledge. They use planning and organizational skills to keep track of their own things and learn how to set aside time with school-based assignments. For long-term projects or group work, they develop initiation to begin a task and chunking it into manageable parts, even if it isn’t motivating.

At this age, learners are really starting to internalize time, so they are learning to estimate how long things should take. For help with this concept, check out one of our favorite tools: The Time Timer. Socially, from beginning to end of third grade students continue to develop emotional control and inhibition which are much needed for successful social interaction. 

Your third grader will learn how to: 

  • Follow multi-step tasks such as cleaning their room, helping with yard work, or sorting toys/laundry into piles
  • Manage homework and projects with support from caregivers and can use a calendar or planner to break tasks down
  • Increase independence in self-care routines such as showering, bathing, and dressing
  • Gather materials for an event or project (e.g., sports game, poster board presentation) and make sure they have everything they will need
  • Inhibit inappropriate behaviors at school; learning to raise their hand, use the restroom during breaks, not talk during class
  • Be a bit more flexible and change plans as needed (within reason)’

Third Grade Science, Social Studies, and Technology

Third grade will introduce your child to a whole new world of fascinating subjects like science, social studies, and technology that may help him develop new interests and hobbies. Your third-grader will:

  • Know how to read world maps and be able to find locations on the globe
  • Compare different parts of the United States (e.g., contrasting year-round climate of the various regions)
  • Learn the 50 states and their capitals
  • Learn how to analyze and create graphs and charts
  • Study topics relating to American history, such as Native Americans, the journey of the Mayflower, pilgrims, and the first settlers
  • Learn with hands-on projects that illustrate the subject matter, such as maintaining a class greenhouse to show the development of plants and flowers
  • Identify rocks and minerals
  • Name the planets in the solar system and explore the galaxies, moons, stars, and meteors of outer space
  • Compare the human skeleton to animal skeletal systems
  • Track water cycles and study how they relate to the formation of clouds
  • Conduct experiments that test a hypothesis and use the scientific method
  • Become more skilled at using the computer to do research with supervision.
  • Learn keyboarding to type on the computer more efficiently

Additional Resources

General Third Grade Resources 

Social-Emotional Learning



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