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What Skills Do Students Learn in the Third Grade?

written by: Deidra Alexander • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/2/2012

Each year children return to school at the end of summer vacation to face new expectations. National and state standards set the bar for third-grade skills for parents and teachers to help foster their success.

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    Students Must Meet Higher Expectations

    At the third-grade level, students get down to the meat of many subjects. Teachers have expectations for students at the first of the year and also at the end, so it is good for parents to be attentive to performance and to work with their children in several key areas.

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    Beginning of the Year


    Teachers expect students entering the third grade to read at the respective level. Third grade skills in reading include predicting story details and endings and picking out the main ideas of the story and supporting facts. Decoding is a skill built-up in previous years. Eight- and nine-year-olds are very good at this by now, with an ability to read complex words by picking out smaller words they already know. Your third grader has gained an understanding of figurative language and she can now make her own opinions about a story’s meaning and the author’s purpose.

    The study of literature takes form for the first time in the life of a third grader. They study summaries and analyze text for class discussion. Students read for pleasure and make their own decisions about what they want to read. The stories they read connect them to people in faraway places and to people who do not necessarily look like them or live as they do.

    Writing and Spelling

    Students can study the writings of others and can proofread for errors. They can write in various forms such as narrative or expository essay. Proper grammar and the use of a dictionary and thesaurus are signs of a student ready for third grade. This student is also better at spelling and usually makes corrections for their own misspellings. They typically write in longer sentences.


    Third grade students are comfortable with place value lessons in math at the start of the year. They can count up to a thousand and add or subtract large numbers. By now, they have begun working on adding and subtracting money and working on place value. They are very good with addition facts of 20 and under and are gaining ground on higher level facts at a steady pace.

    Science and Social Studies

    Children can identify the parts of plants and animals. They understand that animals fall into classes and can place some animals in their proper category. Life cycles and landforms are easy for them to delve into in their work. They know how to find their town on the map and they can discuss current events. They realize the basic components of an economic system and their place within it.

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    End of the Year


    Chapter reading is nothing new by the end of third grade. Throughout the year, the students have studied plays, fables and poems and broadened their horizons. An abundant amount of time has been spent using reference materials when working with literature. Students comprehend more of what they read and their purpose for reading has matured.

    Writing and Spelling

    Students work through the writing process with the guidance of their teacher. Creating outlines over the year has given them the value of the planning stage of writing. They work on journal writing assignments for personal expression.


    At the end of the year in math, two- and three-digit multiplication fills the math plate. Students know how to pick out patterns and use them to solve problems. They can also make graphs, read them to gather data and then share it. They are able to tell time to the minute, round off numbers and make estimations. Math is what they use to solve real-world problems.

    Science and Social Studies

    Students are initially versed in the complexities of Earth and the solar system. A difference is realized between the skeletal systems of humans and animals. They work on science projects for deeper learning about the discussions from their textbook. Students can name all 50 states and their capitals and find other countries using the globe. By the end of third grade, they realize the role of Native Americans in history and the abridged versions of the country’s history.

    Teachers expect students to become enlightened on their own, and assign homework to push them to grow as a learner. This work will involve investigations and reports for the student to turn in on a routine basis. Tests are more regular in third grade, so expect students to spend more time preparing for them.