Academic Program
Lower School

Grade 3

Grade 3

Children in Grade 3 are naturally beginning to think more abstractly. They are eager and increasingly able to engage with complex concepts that are fundamental to academic learning and social development.
Teachers across the curriculum meet these emerging abilities by delving more deeply, encouraging students to pursue answers to questions and challenges that are meaningful to them, and increasing expectations for independence. As part of this growing independence, Grade 3 homerooms are supported by one teacher instead of the two homeroom teachers present in the younger grades. In Responsive Classroom practice, students collaborate to create their classroom agreements, engage in morning meetings, and use collaborative strategies to resolve misunderstandings and disagreements. Grade 3 students also take on a mentoring role as Big Sisters to our Kindergarten students, learning to welcome and support younger children who are new to Spence. With close and steady guidance from the homeroom teacher and other faculty, students grow into greater responsibility for taking good care of themselves, one another, and the broader school community. 

Grade 3 Curriculum

List of 10 items.

  • Literacy

    Grade 3 students are challenged to read and write with purpose, using their expanding literacy skills to understand more deeply and communicate more clearly throughout the curriculum. Students hone their skills for analyzing texts, and deepen their ability to identify and use themes and literary devices. Students sharpen their language skills by practicing the use of standard grammar, spelling, and mechanics as they write research paragraphs, pourquoi tales, poetry, and much more.
  • Mathematics

    Students round out their understanding of the four basic operations as they review concepts of addition and subtraction and learn the concepts of multiplication and division. The emphasis is on understanding what these mathematical operations mean and how they relate to each other, a foundation that supports students’ skills for accurate computation as well as their flexibility in identifying and choosing the best strategies for any given problem. Students solve increasingly complex, multi-step word problems and model their thinking to share with peers and teachers. Students analyze two-dimensional shapes and learn to calculate the area and perimeter of quadrilaterals, and they explore the meaning of fractions as parts of a whole.
  • Social Studies

    Building on their knowledge of the geography of New York City, students learn about the history of the land and the people who lived here long ago, the Lenni-Lenape. Students broaden their exploration of Native peoples throughout North America with field trips, the Ecology Residency program, and individual and group research projects that touch on stories of historical activism, the civil rights movement, and current day Native peoples and activists.
  • Art

    Grade 3 art projects build on the skills mastered in prior years, adding complexity and even more options for individual exploration and expression. Working in three-dimensions, students use deep observation to build a “Pop-Up Self Portrait” collage, transforming paper and other materials to form the shapes and features of their face. Through their active engagement with every project in the art studio, students learn to express themselves visually as they build confidence in their own creative instincts and choices.
  • Dance

    Work in the dance studio focuses on one important thread of dance history: jazz dance, exploring its development and forms in different times and places. Beginning with Ugandan traditional dances, students move through contemporary jazz dance in the United States, vernacular jazz in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, and Broadway jazz. Students learn how to respectfully approach cultural dance forms, and how to understand the influences and evolutions of movement and improvisational structures. Small-group work allows students to learn movements and design short pieces of their own, and every group member is encouraged and supported in listening and contributing her own ideas in equal measure as part of a positive creative process.
  • Physical Education and Athletics

    Students engage in a series of fun challenges that develop their strengths and skills for highly interactive, competitive games. They learn to isolate movements, then use them in specific combinations as they apply to various sport techniques. Power, speed, and flexibility are highlighted as students tumble in gymnastics. Every activity includes a strong focus on skills that are fundamental to successful competition: responsibility, collaboration, independent thinking, and progress through reflection and thoughtful intention.
  • Science

    Students put their scientific skill set to use in a wide range of explorations, deepening their understanding of both the specific topics studied and also the broad principles of how science works. They learn about electricity by using batteries, bulbs, wires, and other conductive materials to build working circuits and design electrically powered games, a light-up card, a safe to hold candy and light-up playdough sculptures. As they investigate the properties of polymers and the human digestive and nervous systems, students develop their own scientific questions, follow experimental procedures, and examine their results to draw conclusions. Students learn to control variables, measure test results, and use graphs and charts to record findings. In class presentations, students share and discuss experiment conclusions based on their fair test findings.
  • Spanish

    Students deepen their speaking and listening skills while also learning to read and write in Spanish. Integration with other aspects of the curriculum fosters deeper connections and builds the context of the language as part of students’ growing understanding of the world around them. Students engage in an in-depth study of El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), along with other explorations of Spanish-speaking cultures, music, and art.
  • Music

    Grade 3 students expand their musical literacy along with their skills and confidence for performing, playing, and singing. Choral singing remains a central focus as students approach increasingly complex rhythms and melodies, all while working together to achieve a blended sound. On the recorder, students apply and deepen their skills for reading music and for improvising, and the recorder ensemble is another opportunity to make music together as a group. Music integrates with STEAM in a special project of creating animations to accompany a song the whole grade sings together.

    Students in Grade 3 increase their creative and conceptual fluency as designers, coders, and makers, taking on a wide range of projects and collaborations. Using the Getting Unstuck Curriculum, which was developed by the Creative Computing Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, students are challenged to explore, create, share, and reflect upon their ideas and outcomes. Students combine the physical and digital worlds with Makey Makey devices and conductive objects that allow them to interact with their projects. Combining STEAM with music, students also design and program animations for a special grade song that includes every student’s work. Grade 3 students learn a variety of 3D design techniques and use these as a way to celebrate community, for example, creating friendship necklaces for their Kindergarten Little Sisters.

Curriculum Highlights

Explore Our Curriculum

A K-12 independent school in New York city, The Spence School prepares a diverse community of girls and young women for the demands of academic excellence and responsible citizenship.


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