Last Monday, illustrator Joseph Santiago of Saint James Studios and his business partner Yamilca visited their son's fifth grade Core class with Stefanie Trepper to give a lesson on a crucial aspect of the filmmaking process: storyboarding.
At CGPS, third grade balances active and authentic learning opportunities with meaningful social engagements.
As a celebration of students' year-long study of Native Americans, a ceremonial performance captures their learning and appreciation of the cultures they have studied. The students learn and perform traditional Iroquois dances and create regalia in partnership with the Redhawk Native American Arts Council.
- Language Arts 3
- Math 3
- Social Studies 3
- Science 3
- Spanish 3
- Art 3
- Music 3
- Technology 3
- Library 3
- Meeting 3
- Physical Education 3
- Yoga/Drama 3
- Dance 3
Third graders receive daily small-group instruction in reading with classroom teachers and reading specialists. In both small-group and whole-class settings, students are exposed to various genres, such as historical fiction, realistic fiction and autobiographies. Students have opportunities to engage with and respond to literature across the curriculum. Through a specialized scope and sequence designed to enhance spelling abilities, students learn to decode and spell multisyllabic words. Third graders are generally fluent readers and instruction focuses mainly on comprehension strategies and monitoring reading for meaning. Students engage in small group discussions and practice making connections to text and identifying main ideas. They respond to explicit and inferential questions through writing. Using the vocabulary program Wordly Wise, students follow a sequenced progression to develop sophisticated oral vocabulary.
The third grade writing curriculum is influenced by approaches to writing instruction such as Benchmark, Judith Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing, and Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study. Students are introduced to elements of writing such as similes and metaphors, dialogue, and the use of strong verbs and adjectives. Third graders also receive explicit instruction in sentence and paragraph structure, grammar and punctuation. Using the program Handwriting Without Tears, students review and practice cursive letter formation.
The Grammar School mathematics program develops mathematical thinkers who value collaboration and communication when investigating big ideas, identifying patterns and explaining relationships. Students learn to think flexibly and persevere through productive struggles as they develop the growth mindset needed for problem solving. Concepts and skills build from grade to grade in each of the major domains: counting and cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, numbers and operations in base ten, numbers and operations with fractions, measurement and data, and geometry. Students are given ample opportunity to construct their own understanding of foundational concepts and computation strategies through hands-on experiences and rich opportunities for discourse, as well as the use of concrete materials, pictorial models and contextual problem solving. Our teachers and math specialists promote the type of learning environment that encourages risk-taking and celebrates mistakes as students revise and develop their thinking.
Third grade mathematicians become experienced problem-solvers who flexibly access a host of strategies and work to express their thinking to their peers in collaborative tasks. They learn to analyze the process and explain their reasoning with words, equations and diagrams. Students build upon their understanding of place value through the thousands and begin to realize why our number system is called a base ten number system. They explore properties of operations as they learn to use sophisticated strategies for mental computations and further enrich their number sense. Multiplication and division are formally introduced and students have ample experience building models to represent multiplicative contexts. Fact fluency begins to build as students find creative ways to use facts they know to reason about those they do not. Measurement and geometry units support this conceptual work as students take on rich investigations with area and perimeter. Finally, fractions are explored and students begin to see the conceptual connections between division, common multiples and fractions.
At CGPS, the social studies curriculum focuses on events from the past and present through the lens of an essential question. In third grade social studies, that question is, “Who lived in New York first, and why do they matter?” The year concentrates on the life of Native Americans of the Northeast Woodlands. Students explore how the Native Americans used their environment to meet their basic needs for their daily life, as well as informing their culture and beliefs. This study is enhanced with visits to the American Museum of Natural History, the Trailside Nature & Science Center in New Jersey and Inwood Park. The students also explore Native American life in the present day, confronting stereotypes and impact on current American culture. This includes an “In-School Field Trip” called Journeys, during which experts in the field come speak to students. The highlight of the year is the months-long student project with the Redhawk Native American Arts Council to learn authentic Iroquois dances and then perform them in a grade-wide Powwow.
In science, third graders learn how to use their senses to make accurate scientific observations. Students focus on identifying accurate shapes, colors, sizes and details as they sketch leaves, lima bean plants and banana peels. They explore variables in experiments with plant growth and decomposition. Students also investigate the living and nonliving parts of various ecosystems in the classroom. Students investigate the plant and animal diversity found within an estuary. Through a case study of the Hudson River watershed, third grade scientists explore how waterways and watersheds can become polluted and how a system can recover. In the engineering unit, third graders create a tool to clean up oil spills that occur during ecological disasters like Deepwater Horizon.
World language exposure encourages empathy for learning a new language, development of problem-solving skills and an understanding of and openness to cultural differences. All Spanish classes are full immersion experiences with focus on acquiring speaking and listening skills. Third graders a acquire Spanish vocabulary through songs, poems, books and games, and investigate Latin American culture, including a celebration of the Day of the Dead when they decorate their own sugar skulls. The third graders learn fruit and vegetable vocabulary in connection to their social studies exploration of Native Americans and the Three Sisters. Third graders create ads for an imaginary store by designing clothing and labeling the articles of clothing with descriptions and prices, and then practice real-world interactions when shopping in that store. Students finish the year by learning how to form essential questions, practicing vocabulary by interviewing each other and asking basic questions about age, birthdate and favorite color.
Third grade students continue to explore and expand their art skills. They incorporate a variety of art materials into longer term art projects. Over the course of the year artists work to refine their visual acuity including a unit in color theory, texture and shape. Drawing projects include a self study, still life observations and drawing from their imaginations. In third grade, students look at the work of various artists throughout the ages and create projects that are inspired by their styles. They also observe architectural details on buildings. From these observations they draw and sculpt the head of a gargoyle. In collaboration with the classroom Native American studies curriculum, students construct ceramic pinch/coil pots which are painted in styles reflective of Native American culture. The art studios provide children a valuable opportunity to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas in a safe and nurturing environment.
Third grade marks an important milestone for young musicians at CGPS: the students choose one of a selection of instruments to study. Students also perform in a vocal and instrumental concert for parents at the end of the school year, showcasing healthy singing habits (proper posture, breath regulations and using the “flute voice”). In general music, students play ostinati (repeated musical patterns) on pitched instruments such as xylophones, metallophones and temple blocks while singing in both unison and canon. The students confidently sing using the pentatonic scale and continue to build their music literacy.
In third grade technology, coding is central to the curriculum. Using MIT’s Scratch program, students create projects by applying different coding blocks for sequencing, looping and conditionals. Students create a Scratch Studio to share their projects and post productive and supportive comments about them. They also explore Bloxels, a game-making app combined with a hands-on level-making board, allowing students to focus on rapid game design and testing.
The technology curriculum also includes the study of computer art, graphic design, animation and storytelling. Third grade students enjoy writing their own comics with the website storyboardthat.com. Each student creates multi-frame digital animations based on the their own original ideas and drawings. They explore different ways to express themselves with photos and text using computer and cloud-based apps.
Along with Library and Reading Buddies classes, third graders begin using reference materials and other resources in the library for research. Each cycle, they alternate between having Library class and Reading Buddies, during which they proudly serve as the older buddies. In Library, students share chapter books and work on making connections and predictions based on the text. At the end of each class, students are able to check out up to two books. As the older Reading Buddies, third graders relish the opportunity to set an example and form a bond with a younger child. They read books to and with their buddies and do book-based projects together. Third graders are also given the chance to submit poems, short stories and book reviews to the Library's literary and book review magazines, enjoy an annual book-based movie night and experience presentations by visiting authors and illustrators. Students also visit the library to work on research projects and are taught lessons on utilizing the library's online databases, as well as navigating various forms of book based research.
The third grade Meeting program focuses on helping students build skills to support social-emotional development, and it is part of the fundamental program of social-emotional learning in the Grammar School. A particular topic is introduced during class through books, video clips, discussion and hands-on activities. These topics range from concepts such as social problem solving and conflict resolution to perspective-taking and digital citizenship. The curriculum is flexible and concepts are introduced on an individualized basis, with the goal of best supporting the students as they develop.
The third grade physical education curriculum incorporates a variety of individual, partner and group activities that introduce and continue to develop sport-specific knowledge. By using lead-up drills and game simulations, students are taught offensive and defensive strategies which are then built upon as they progress toward mastering game concepts. Cooperative team games and fitness activities are also integrated into the curriculum throughout the year. These lessons focus on building character and encourages students' awareness of sportsmanship, kindness and respect for others.
The third grade yoga curriculum is focused on building confidence, creative expression and presence. The students’ study of yoga is enriched by drama and theater. Third graders learn about drama fundamentals such as exploring different characters, scene transitions, following stage directions and performing before an audience. This class culminates in a performance of a short comedic play that focuses on important themes like conflict resolution, building character and empathy. Students attend Yoga/Drama for half of the school year.
Third grade dancers incorporate gross motor movements into solo, partner and group dances. Students explore improvisation, tempo and sequencing with directional changes as well as retrograding movement. They create patterns and formations and vary their control of energy. Students explore a basic overview of dance history, deepen their understanding of music notation and create more complex choreography. This fosters spatial and body awareness, self-expression, and body and emotional regulation and instills a love and appreciation of dance.