Third grade

In third grade, students begin to come into their own as scholars and citizens of the school. On stage, in class discussion, and playing in spaces like the garden that serves as third grade's "back porch," students find that they each have something unique to contribute to the school community.

Third grade teachers know their students' worlds are expanding, and they find age appropriate ways to connect their classroom learning with the communities in which they live. The year-long study of New England's indigenous people and European colonization includes material that is reflected in the geography and history of many students' lives. The essential theme What you see depends on where you stand helps students identify the different perspectives in these stories, and begin to sort out how New England history has impacted their own personal stories.

Homework provides another very tangible connection between classroom life and home life. While students might have brought home assignments occasionally during first and second grade, homework becomes an ongoing expectation during third grade. Deadlines and organizational challenges provide another way for students to understand their own learning profiles, and class time is set aside so that students can compare notes on what does and does not work for them.

Gordon's formal health and wellness curriculum begins in third grade, providing yet another connection between students' personal lives and their classroom work. 

Third grade is a big year for performing arts. Many students are eager to begin third grade because it is the first year when they can finally join the cast of the annual third and fourth grade musical, and every student in the grade begins participating in the weekly third and fourth grade chorus as a supplement to their weekly music class.

In third grade, students get to experience the beloved buddy program from the other side, returning to Early Childhood to serve as older buddies for Nursery and Preschool students on a series of activities throughout the year.

Language arts

Third graders continue to refine foundational reading and writing skills and work with greater independence and consistency. Instruction incorporates individual, partner, and small group activities to encourage both personal reflection and collaborative learning.

All students are supported in becoming increasingly capable and confident readers and writers through differentiated instruction. Students learn, practice, and apply essential comprehension strategies as they read both fiction and nonfiction texts. They engage in critical literacy, becoming active and reflective readers, and develop awareness of multiple perspectives. In addition to written responses to literature, they engage in structured book discussions to strengthen listening and oral communication skills.

Emphasis on the writing process, student choice, and individualized instruction through the Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop model ensures that a solid foundation is laid for students to become confident and independent writers. Third graders participate in writer's workshops and learn to effectively apply strategies for developing, organizing, and revising paragraphs and longer pieces of creative and expository writing. Writing is integral to all reading work. Students continue to practice cursive handwriting and engage in daily guided spelling instruction. 


The third grade continues the Math in Focus curriculum which emphasizes concept mastery, a concrete-to-pictorial-to-abstract approach, metacognitive reasoning, and the use of model drawing to solve and justify problems. Emphasis is on students becoming independent, strategic and persistent mathematical problem solvers. Students learn the “why” and the “how” through instruction, hands-on or technology activities, and problem solving. Mathematical topics are consistently introduced in a concrete-visual-symbolic progression that allows students to focus and better understand abstract concepts. 

In third grade, Gordon's Math in Focus curriculum aims for fluency in basic counting, adding and subtracting and conceptual understanding of multiplication, division, and fractions. Students are challenged to learn and share multiple strategies, and to persevere in problem solving through continued practice. They apply their mathematical learning to real-life issues such as their Mapping Me project when they graph and analyze where many of the products they consume come from, and the Rhode Island map project when they explore scale measurement on a giant map that they are able to walk on.

During daily math periods, manipulatives and games help students retrieve basic addition and subtraction facts, and reinforce their understanding of numbers through concrete, experiential activities. Teachers continue to emphasize that there are multiple strategies to use for any calculation, and encourage the students to identify those which are most efficient for them. Students also practice explaining their thinking using both concrete representations and writing. In order to best meet the needs of a range of math learners, students are provided with differentiated material so that each student is challenged and supported appropriately. Hands-on games and activities are used to keep math fun and interactive.


By third grade, students have been introduced to ideas and concepts in a wide variety of sciences as they work with pond exploration, fossil formation and LEGO robotics. Through Gordon's hands on approach, students develop scientific attitudes and ideas while answering questions and making discoveries about the natural world and their relationship to it. 

Experimentation helps students hone their observation skills and compare and contrast new information with ideas they held before. They record their findings in pictorial and written form, and participate in classroom discussions. Students use equipment that includes hand lenses, balances, and iPads as well as many more everyday materials.

Problem solving is emphasized as third grade students work to understand concepts involved with gears and electricity. Through this challenging work, students increase their ability to make sense of cause and effect while developing attitudes about themselves as persistent learners and problem solvers. Experiments include making series and parallel circuits with bulbs and batteries and constructing gear systems with differing gear ratios. 

Social studies

In the third grade, students’ study of the world around them expands from family, neighborhood, and classroom to learning about how families and communities work and live together, both now and in the past. The focus of third grade social studies is an examination of Native American people and the Europeans who came to North America during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

The curriculum aligns with the national social studies standards and is centered around the statement What you see depends on where you stand, encouraging students to look critically at how different perspectives are represented or even misrepresented in history. Field trips to Smith Castle and the Great Swamp in South County, Rhode Island, Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut help third graders grasp the history of Rhode Island's indigenous history and its colonization, as well as the resulting conflicts and displacement of peoples that occurred as different cultures tried to coexist. Books on the indigenous people of Rhode Island like Clambake: A Wampanoag tradition as well as interactions with present-day Native American communities in Rhode Island invite students to take a deep dive into the history to begin to understand how the past connects with the present, an important foundation for the study of history in the upcoming years. 


Students continue to build vocabulary through songs, games, stories and hands on activities as they explore cultures, literature and practice basic grammatical structures. Students practice their Spanish by writing and illustrating stories, performing skits, and communicating with their classmates and teacher in Spanish. They see how many families shift seamlessly between Spanish and English in books such as: “I love Saturdays and Domingo.” They hear their teachers communicating in Spanish with each other, and learn first hand from Spanish speakers who visit the classroom from both within and outside the Gordon community. 

Heritage Language
Gordon's Heritage Language program is for children in Nursery to fourth grade who come from Spanish-speaking households. Students meet with their Spanish teacher to share stories and play games in Spanish. The active and experiential learning environment hopes to develop a sense of affinity and community by having children share their stories and cultural traditions of Gordon's Spanish-speaking community. Heritage Language meets during the school day for Nursery to first grade, and after school in second, third and fourth grade.

Physical education

The Lower School physical education curriculum includes an introduction to fitness activities, locomotor and manipulative skill work, and cooperative games. Students engage in conversations about inclusivity, gender, gender roles, and the impact of gender stereotypes. The primary objectives of the physical education program in Lower School is to reinforce fitness and wellness goals that encourage healthy lifetime decisions and to provide opportunities for students to improve their psychomotor development. Each class presents students with appropriate warm-up, fitness, instructional and closing activities while also challenging children to become self-motivated, reflective and responsible regarding their individual participation. Ultimately, Lower School physical education students should become aware of their movement potential, move competently and confidently and learn to value healthy play in cooperative and organized settings.

Health and wellness

The National Wellness Institute explains wellness as “an active process of becoming aware and making choices toward a more successful existence.” This definition of wellness anchors and guides Gordon’s health curriculum from third through eighth grade.

In Lower School, health classes focus on foundational skills of social emotional learning. Throughout the year, students have explore, practice, and develop strong interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies including self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Through conversations, experiential games, role-plays, movement, mindfulness activities, guided imagery, and guided inquiry that facilitates self and group reflection, students explore a range of health topics such as body systems, nutrition, stress, and social emotional skills. Students gain a more comprehensive understanding of themselves as learners, friends, and self-advocates capable of navigating the ups and downs of their daily experience and making healthy decisions. 


In the Lower School, students continue to meet weekly with the librarian to explore the collection and discover the variety of genres, authors, and texts. The Joukowsky Family Library's collection of multicultural fiction, nonfiction and bilingual books provide entry points for students of a variety of backgrounds, interests and experiences. Students are introduced to the language developed by literary historian Rudine Sims Bishop, in which books are described as windows, mirrors or doors, depending on how the reader identifies with the worlds depicted in each book.

By third grade, students are exploring books in a variety of formats including print, ebooks, and digital audiobooks, and begin to see clear connections between subjects covered in class and the holdings in the library collection. Third graders are actively encouraged to look for books that support their classroom work on Native American and First Nations history, pre-colonial and Revolutionary War America, biography and poetry. Along the way, they will discover a passion for research, and explore areas of the collection that may be unfamiliar. Third graders also begin to recognize the library as a community resource center with spaces clearly intended for collaboration, exploration, sharing, and reflecting. 


Third graders get to know each other through singing games like “Alive, Awake Alert Enthusiastic” and "The Name Game." They review rhythmic and melodic elements from previous years, reading and writing patterns. Third graders begin to play the recorder and early lessons focus on proper fingering and blowing technique as well as echo playing melodic patterns. Students become familiar with notes on the G clef and play several games where they have to "spell" words on the staff. Over the year the curriculum weaves in songs, games and dances that prepare or practice new melodic and rhythmic elements.

Third graders become confident recorder players as they master six notes on the soprano recorder. Rhythmically, they can read, write and play rhythmic patterns involving sixteenth notes, paired eighth notes, half notes, quarter notes and rests. Melodically, third graders can read, write, and sing using the notes do, re, mi, so, la and low la. They can read notes on the treble staff, and can identify simple songs just by sight. They play in multiple ensembles using xylophones and other Orff instruments. Students also learn a variety of folk dances, singing games and movement activities that incorporate both rhythmic and melodic elements of study. 

Visual arts

The Lower School visual arts program presents students with a series of experiences that develop their abilities in a range of media, skills, and concepts. In a studio environment that fosters creativity and independence, children are nurtured perceptually and aesthetically. Skills, concepts and techniques are taught in a developmental and sequential manner throughout the program. Students are taught through presentations that draw on a broad range of cultures, and employ both verbal discussions and practical demonstrations, so as to meet the diverse learning styles, interests and backgrounds of individual students. A wide range of materials and techniques, both two and three-dimensional, develop the facility and skill to express ideas visually. Drawing from observation, memory and imagination requires looking for subtleties and details. An exposure to the works of artists in world history provides students with rich inspiration and knowledge of the artistic heritage of many cultures.

Third graders are introduced to design concepts and relationships like color, pattern, repetition, and proportion as they construct mixed media work using collage techniques on paper. Students generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work, including societal, cultural, and historical context. A ceramic unit on Mimbres pottery explores simple methods of division, hand-building techniques and modeling tools. Students create their own slab plate, and use texture and observational drawing to complete it. A painterly approach to glazing is also encouraged. One-day art challenges address problem solving, creativity, and higher-order thinking. Students work from observation to capture the essence of different objects through drawing in preparation for units on printmaking and paper maché sculpture. Every student has their artwork presented in the annual art show.