Lower School

Grade 3

Third grade is a year in which students begin to gain independence as they move into a program that requires them to apply known skills as they gain knowledge and understanding. They can follow both oral and written directions accurately. They can fluently express their thoughts verbally and increasingly in writing. They learn to read and write in cursive, which to them is a rite of passage to the adult world.

Students in third grade learn how to organize their time. They use a planner to keep track of their homework, which for the first time includes a combination of daily, weekly, and monthly assignments.

They learn new skills that give them confidence and a feeling of accomplishment. They live what they learn. They become archaeologists. They experience the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. They finger spell as Helen Keller. They reenact the War for Empire (The French and Indian War). They learn what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes and to see a different point of view.

Developmentally, students at this age begin to move from thinking literally and concretely to thinking abstractly. In reading, students can draw conclusions and make inferences about the stories they read. In math, students can estimate, compare, and analyze numbers as they solve higher level multi-step problems.

In third grade, the girls are exploring the give and take involved in a good friendship. This can lead to new friendships and new play patterns.
The core subjects in third grade are language arts, math, and social studies. Other subjects are taught by specialist teachers. Girls are taught through direct instruction, working in small groups, large groups, and individually at various times. Students collaborate on projects which help them develop a deeper understanding of the topic. They are encouraged to express themselves and their opinions verbally and in writing. There are many opportunities for the girls to begin to develop leadership skills.

The Curriculum

List of 11 items.

  • Art

    Third grade art units emphasize increased responsibility and encourage creative problem solving. The focus in third grade is American art, from the art forms of the Native Americans to modern art. Skills newly acquired in grade two will be refined. Two-dimensional experiences will include the work of Romare Bearden and an in-depth study of American art. Three-dimensional units will include copper enameling, clay construction, and the introduction to woven art. Students will be introduced to complex and procedural art activities, which in turn improve organizational skills.

    During the school year, the art and classroom curriculum will merge to provide enrichment and depth for all students.

    Grade 3 Curriculum Units
    • Design: the work of Romare Bearden
    • Color: colonial paintings
    • Size/Scale: clay saltbox houses
    • Shape/Form: fossils
    • Line: Native American fabric design
    • Surface/Texture: plaster masks
    • Value: Colonial portraits
    • Design: fabric design
  • Computer Education

    The goal of the third grade computer program is to empower girls to make informed use of the computer as a responsive tool to meet the specific needs of their academic inquiries. Confidence and independent thinking grow as students work through their assignments. In the earliest grades, they have learned to manipulate hardware. In these later years, they begin to embrace the computer as a learning tool, rather than as just a vehicle through which to play games.

    The girls use software and the Internet for projects and reinforcement of the topics covered in the classroom in math, reading, science, art, library, and social studies. Students will make interactive posters called Glogs as part of their study of Native American life.  They will practice their math facts using Reflex.  They will use the internet to answer questions that arise from class reading and discussions.  They will play with logic and be introduced to simple coding.   Word processing skills will be emphasized, and students will begin formal keyboarding instruction later in the year after they have mastered cursive.  Because regular and consistent practice is such an integral part of learning how to type, it is not a reasonable expectation that the girls learn to type solely through their time in school. To ensure that students have every opportunity to experience success in this area, Ellis has purchased a subscription to a web-based keyboarding program. The program can be accessed from school and from home so that your daughter can practice keyboarding a little bit each day.  Parents will be notified when this is accessible to the girls later in the year.

    School-provided headphones are available for work in the computer lab, but your daughter is welcome to use her own pair. Personal headphones should be stored in a labeled re-sealable bag in your daughter’s locker. Any inexpensive pair will work, including iPod-style headphones, but ear buds tend to be difficult for children to keep in their ears.
  • Dance

    Dance provides a wonderful opportunity for all girls to experience leadership and collaborative roles, develop self-confidence, and to explore the concept that there are often many interesting ways to get to the common goal.

    Each student will learn dance steps for performance, dance vocabulary, and cultural aspects of the dance genres that are studied.
    • Introductory Dance Unit: Students will learn a jazz warm-up and across-the-floor patterns that include jumping, turning, and leaping, to develop proper alignment, flexibility, and strength.
    • Musical Theater Unit: The girls will learn new choreography to perform in the Lower School musical and the third grade play. In addition to dance rehearsal and performance, the girls will learn staging and performance etiquette.
    • World Dance Unit: Students will learn the basics of Flamenco Dancing and its cultural significance in Spain.
    • Leaps and Turns Unit: Students will develop stronger leaps during center practice and will focus on building their turning and spotting technique.
    • Ballet Unit: Students will learn basic ballet terminology, traveling floor patterns, and small jumps.
  • Language Arts

    In third grade, the goal is to foster a lifelong love of reading and writing. Literature is coordinated with the history program and presents diversity of race, religion, and physical challenge, while demonstrating ways to make friends and be a good friend. The third grade year is a transition year. Students begin to focus more on learning comprehension skills rather than on decoding words. Girls begin to read for meaning using novels to focus on finding the main idea, drawing conclusions, locating details, identifying character traits, and broadening vocabulary. Students learn about the writing process through varied formats including organized stories full of descriptive details, paragraphs with topic sentences and supporting details, journal writing, poetry, and letters. By October, all written work is in cursive handwriting and phonics and grammar are emphasized daily. Students speak, present, and share their ideas individually and in small and large groups throughout the year to develop their confidence and leadership skills.
    Literature books (selections may include):
    • Gooney Bird Greene and Gloria Rising
    • Danger Along the Ohio / Next Spring an Oriole / Night of the Full Moon       
    • Search for Delicious/ Mr. Popper’s Penguins/ My Father’s Dragon
    • Little House in the Big Woods
    • Helen Keller / Child of the Silent Night
    • Selection of books on the Underground Railroad
    • Little Riders / Number the Stars
    Encourage your daughter to explore these books with her class even if she has already read them.

    In writing workshop, the students develop important understandings of the craft of writing through the study of mentor texts. We start by writing personal narratives focused on a small moment in time. Students learn how to write strong leads and endings as well as stretch out the suspenseful moments. They enrich their writing by using dialogue, sound effects, specific nouns, and strong verbs and by showing feelings rather than telling about them. Other units include writing legends, letters, informational pieces, and fictional stories. They are introduced to topic sentences and paragraph writing.

    Students begin the year learning about what makes a good sentence. As the year progresses, they learn about parts of speech, punctuation, capitalization, and correct usage. They edit their own work and practice proofreading skills.

    Spelling patterns and strategies are taught weekly and differentiated based on each individual’s spelling stage. Students learn word patterns and spelling rules by noticing and sorting words based on their similarities and differences.

    • Dramatic presentations
    • Storytelling
    • Poetry recitation
    • Sharing of writings
    • Book Report Presentations
  • Library

    Knowledge of how information is organized and an ability to retrieve information becomes increasingly important as children grow. During the third grade, the work of the year will be incorporated into one unifying project: research based on an interview with a family member. Each student will use a variety of library resources to complete her research. The library catalog is introduced this year, and the girls study how to use it to locate specific information for our library class as well as materials for reading enjoyment.

    • To help students gain independence when searching for specific titles
    • To guide students through the multistep process of locating materials
    • To give students practice using a variety of reference sources
    • To encourage a love of reading
    • Organizing information
    • Retrieving information
    • Literature appreciation

    Pennsylvania  Young Readers Choice Awards Program
    The Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program is an annual program for students through grade 8 to read and vote for their favorite book from a selected list. Every year there’s a new list of titles. The list is divided into four sections based on grade level.  

    During the opening weeks of school, the books are presented to the students and they sign up for the titles they’re interested in reading. Participation is voluntary, and no additional work is required—it’s just a chance to borrow additional books.   The purpose of the program is simply to promote reading.

    Any student who reads at least three books on the list is eligible to vote. Voting takes place during the first two weeks of March. Once the votes are sent to Harrisburg and tallied, the book with the most votes is named the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award winner. The author of the winning book is notified. Authors love to win state awards because the award is chosen by children—the intended audience—rather than by adults.

    Students who participate in the program will receive a certificate at year’s end.

    You may view the list of Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards books on The Ellis School Library page or on the library portion of the third grade Haiku page.
  • Mathematics

    In third grade, girls experience math in a variety of meaningful ways, including solving problems using multiple strategies, manipulatives, and math games. The goal of the program is for girls to become mathematical risk takers and learn strong computational skills. By the end of third grade, they are expected to know the basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts quickly and accurately. They are continually challenged to extend their thinking and to enjoy math!

    • place value from decimals in the hundredths to whole numbers in the hundred-thousands and beyond
    • add and subtract four-digit numbers
    • master the multiplication and division facts and begin to multiply two- and three-digit numbers
    • learn about area and perimeter and construct three-dimensional shapes
    • measure using the metric system from centimeter to kilometer and the U.S. customary system from the quarter inch to mile
    • compare fractions
    • find equivalent fractions
    • study time, money, patterns, and probability
  • Music

    Music in the Third Grade emphasizes continued development of musical skills and comprehension fostered in the lower grades. The course is designed to provide students with a variety of experiences with all fundamental music elements: melody, harmony, rhythm, form, texture and expression. These experiences include singing, listening, playing classroom instruments, moving to music, and creating. The course also focuses on strengthening audiation skills, vocal development, and score reading. The course utilizes music from many cultures, including Native American Music to go along with their Native American unit with Mrs. Citron and Mrs. Lakin.
  • Physical Education

    The Physical Education program at The Ellis School is dedicated to the principle of a “sound body, sound mind.” Through team and individual sports, fitness activities and movement experiences, students will be encouraged to develop leadership, character, teamwork, motor skills, personal fitness, and graceful movement. All students are strongly encouraged to make physical fitness and wellness an integral part of their lives and hopefully the lives of others around them.

    • To help every student become aware of the importance of physical fitness in acquiring and maintaining total wellness.
    • To help students achieve and improve basic motor skills in order to lead active lifestyles and increase fitness levels.
    • To encourage attitudes of teamwork, leadership, and good sportsmanship.
    • To understand that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, and social interaction.
    • To learn new activities and movements that can be done outside of the classroom to maintain physical fitness.


    • Balloons: striking skills, volleyball skills
    • Locomotor: movements, balance activities
    • Beanbag/Koosh: throwing and catching
    • Hopscotch: following rules and procedures, using balance and locomotor skills
    • Soccer: 3 on 3 game with introductory soccer skills and strategy  
    • Jump rope: a continuation of individual and group jumping, and annual Jump Rops Contest against grades 2 and 4
    • Gymnastics: stretches, floor exercise, balance beam, an introduction to routine making
    • Basketball: age-appropriate activities using basketball skills
    • Fitness: understanding what it means to be “fit”, how do we keep our muscles strong and our hearts healthy, fitness stations with different focuses on balance, flexibility, strength
    • Performance: participation in rehearsals and a Physical Education Show performance (this may not take place every year)
    • Tag, novelty games, and team building activities throughout the year
    • Cup Speed Stacking: improves ambidexterity, concentration, and hand-eye coordination
    • Football: throwing, catching, positions on field, and flag football games

    As part of the health curriculum, “Stranger Danger” will be included in PE using role play scenarios and strategies for staying safe. Ms. Cook teaches an 8-lesson unit on health. The month of January is "Health Month", when students will spend the first half of PE class in the computer lab researching health topics. The second half of class will be spent in the gym.

  • Science

    The third grade science curriculum fosters the student’s natural curiosity about science through inquiry-based learning. Through asking questions, exploring ideas, designing and conducting experiments, and seeking creative solutions to science challenges, third grade scientists expand upon their ability to understand and impact the world. This approach helps the girls acquire skills and knowledge and develop a deeper understanding of concepts. It allows them to make connections in their learning year-to-year in science and across the curriculum. Each unit of study has a core of essential questions that drive learning. Additionally, the girls formulate questions to investigate as they work on specific science topics. Students are encouraged to explore new ideas, concepts, and problems.

    Learning objectives
    • Utilize the scientific method to observe, hypothesize, make predictions, gather data, and draw conclusions
    • Learn to use a variety of lab equipment
    • Gain the skills of inquiry in relation to course studies and the natural world
    • Use a variety of tools for measurement
    • Apply learned concepts to real world situations
    • Develop curiosity for exploring and understanding their world
    • Demonstrate problem identification and problem-solving through scientific inquiry

    Field Trips
    Third graders will take a field trip to the Pittsburgh Glass Center as an interdisciplinary art and science project. This spring field trip experience ties into the chemistry unit in science.
  • Social Studies

    Students become historians as they interact with the past and discover how exciting history is. Using hands-on activities, they explore how people came to live in Pennsylvania from prehistoric times to immigration in the 21st Century.  Students conduct a simulated archaeological dig and construct a Native American village. They visit Meadowcroft Village where they dip candles, spin wool into yarn, watch a blacksmith, and attend class in a one-room school. They see the development of Pennsylvania through the lives of William Penn, George Washington, and Ben Franklin. They identify groups of immigrants who come to Pennsylvania, their reasons for coming, and their living conditions. Students practice important map skills as they learn the geography of Pennsylvania. Students give back to the community through service projects during the year. 
    • History of Pennsylvania
      • Archaeology
      • Native Americans of Pennsylvania
      • William Penn and his colony
      • War for Empire / George Washington
      • Benjamin Franklin / Philadelphia / Revolutionary War
      • Underground Railroad / Civil War
      • Immigration / Turn of the Century
      • Pennsylvania Today
    • Map skill work
    • Community Service
    • Cultural Awareness
  • Spanish

    FLES is an acronym that stands for Foreign Language in the Elementary School. It is an approach to language learning that allows students to develop basic communicative skills in a language while reinforcing and enriching content in other disciplines. The FLES model at Ellis provides kindergarten through grade three students with Spanish and grade four students with French language learning opportunities. Studies have shown that the early study of a second language results in cognitive benefits, gains in academic achievement, and increases in self-esteem, creativity, and positive attitudes toward diversity. Our experience has shown that students are not only able to learn but are also highly engaged in learning content through the target language.
    The FLES program is based on thematic units linked to all content area subjects taught in the regular classroom, i.e., health, science, math and social studies. In addition, the culture of the target language is integrated into instruction through music, art and dance.

    The girls are provided from 20-40 minutes of instruction two times per week. The focus of the proficiency-oriented instruction is on meaningful and purposeful communication. Students are encouraged first to understand and then to produce in the language, with emphasis given to developing near-native pronunciation. In the early grades, there is little focus on written language.

    The theme of grade three Spanish is My Interconnected World. This theme integrates the necessary vocabulary and grammar for the student to perform the following skills:
    • Identify the countries, nationalities and languages of the world
    • describe world climates and land forms
    • identify animals and their habitats
    • identify global political and environmental issues

Co-curricular Highlights

List of 9 items.

  • Archaeological Dig

    Third Graders begin the year by learning about how historians understand the past. They practice being archaeologists by making observations, examining garbage, looking at the context of found artifacts, and forming inferences about human activity. They excavate a single strata site on the playground, using a grid and authentic tools to discover artifacts, which they then sort and classify to determine what people were doing at the site.
  • Author Day

    Each year Ellis invites a special author to visit students in Lower and Middle Schools. Students enjoy a special assembly, and then spend time with the author in smaller groups. Past authors have included Lisa Yee, Sarah Pennypacker, and Kathi Appelt. 
  • Candlelight Recital

    Two recitals are given every year in the Lower School, one in February and one in May. February’s Candlelight Recital has participants from grades two through four who study instrumental music, voice, or dance outside of the regular school day. May’s Candlelight Mini has participants from Pre-Kindergarten through grade one who study instrumental music or dance. Parents, grandparents, and special friends are invited to attend the Candlelight Recital.
  • Grade