3rd Grade: What to Expect

back to school guide

As we count down the days to back to school, the Daily Buzz talks with moms and public school teachers about what you and your child can expect in the coming year.

Today 3rd grade teacher KairisMama and post-3rd grade moms Jewjewbee and Larisa72 answer common questions about...



KairisMama: Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Reading, Health, and Writing are the main subjects taught in 3rd grade. Critical thinking, problem solving, comprehension, and analyzing data are also emphasized. This is the first year where students (in many states) are exposed to state testing.  

Jewjewbee: Math and reading were highlighted more than anything else. Our system was centered on group accomplishments and group testing scores.

Larisa72: By third grade, students should be able to work independently, though, assistance is given when new concepts are introduced. Critical thinking skills are definitely high on the list of educational goals.

It seems that the main goal is to teach the students for the SOL tests (Standards of Learning, part of the No Child Left Behind initiative), and because of this, some things get dropped (such as handwriting).

School Supplies

KairisMama: The school supply list for 3rd grade will depend on the school. There are 30 items on our list: the basics, plus paints, graph paper, Clorox wipes, dry erase boards and markers. Parents can get great deals at Walmart on school supplies.

Jewjewbee: Being in a poor system we needed everything right down to toilet paper. I spent $200 dollars easily.

Larisa72: Here's the supply list that my son's school gave out for 3rd grade: 3-ring binder, Crayola markers, crayons, glue sticks, liquid hand soap, notebook paper, notebook dividers, spiral notebook, pencil pouch, pencils, color pencils, pocket folders, school glue, scissors, tissues, Ziploc bags. For one child I spent about $50 on school supplies alone, plus another $10-$15 for a backpack that will make it through the year.


KairisMama: Parents are not expected to help with homework, but I do hope that every parent wants to be involved in their child's education and to help their child should they need it.

Jewjewbee: We had a lot of homework: four nights a week in at least two subjects with accelerated reading on top of that. Parents are heavily depended upon to help kids with homework. Many times the homework assignments were not discussed earlier that day, and the kids were left to figure it out or read the textbooks on their own first. In my opinion 8- and 9-year-olds are not ready for that.

Larisa72: The amount of homework depends on how much work the child finished in class. Most weeks my son had to do: math homework, vocabulary homework, and often history/Social Studies homework. At this grade, it seems that teachers would rather have the children do the homework all on their own (instead of having their parents help them). However, if extra examples or explanations are needed, then the teachers encouraged the parents to do this.

Social Scene

Jewjewbee: Friends for my daughter were more important than anything else. The girls became very sociable. The best friend was of utmost importance and was the cause of most of our behavior problems in class: laughing, talking, giggling. There was peer pressure to not do her morning work in class so she could goof off with her girlfriend.

Larisa72: Some children have a very best friend that they do everything with, and some have a few that they call their best friend, but as soon as there is a slight problem in the friendship, they are no longer friends at all.

It's unfortunate, but this seems to be the year when the cliques actually start forming.  If your child is blessed, they will have friends in various cliques without having to choose which one to belong to. Of course, if your child draws negative attention to themselves on a regular basis, they will be excluded from nearly all the cliques that are forming, regardless of if they may be "friends" with any of the other children. 

This is also the time when it is not good to be "different" in any way. If you don't dress in the latest styles (because your family can't afford it or whatever), you will wind up on the outside of some cliques. If you are perceived as "odd" or "different" whether it's because of a disability, learning problem, etc. then people will, mainly because they don't understand, avoid you—almost as if they think that you might be contagious!

Behavioral Issues

KairisMama: At this age I notice a lot more students have trouble handing in their homework. It is more common for students to forget it at home, or simply not turn it in. Other behavior issues I've dealt with at this grade level include class disruptions (boys wanting to be the class clown), excessive talking with peers during instructional time, and picking on other students.

Larisa72: Tattling!!!  Even among the boys, this seems to be a big thing.

Jewjewbee: The most common issue I had was with other children not behaving in class and disrupting class time.


KairisMama: My students lose recess for any disruptive behavior or unfinished homework. If behavior gets too extreme I conference with mom and dad.

Larisa72: The first offense, if it is mild, is a warning. Second is time-out within the classroom, and third is time-out in another teacher's classroom. After that, it goes up the chain: guidance then principal. Notes home are written when the child reaches the third offense and calls are made if it goes any higher.


KairisMama: Moms at my school help with class parties and supervise field trips. Moms can sign up to be a room mother and/or to be part of the school's PTO.

Larisa72: One option is to volunteer to help in the library: shelving books, helping during book fairs, etc. It is a wonderful way to volunteer, and it doesn't keep you in direct sight of your child (some children tend to act worse if their parent is in their classroom).


Jewjewbee: Our bus system also carried high school kids. It was disruptive, unsupervised, and we did have issues of little boys wanting to touch my daughter inappropriately. I would not recommend children walking to the bus stop alone at this age or to school.

Larisa72: My kids ride the bus home in the afternoons, and this is where we have had some issues with bullying. My son got off the bus one day with bite marks on his arm from a student in a higher grade.

What was the biggest challenge for your child?

Jewjewbee: Overcoming the need to be sociable rather than getting homework done and paying attention in class all the time.

Larisa72: Not really a school issue, but my son had problems adjusting to the cliques and understanding that it was okay to not belong to any specific one.

I also think math was a struggle for him: Multiplication and division are still causing headaches for both him and me.

Thanks so much to the 3rd grade teachers and moms who helped us present this valuable Back to School information.

Since schools and activities vary depending on the district and where you live, tell us what the 3rd grade experience like for you and your big kid!

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