English/Language Arts

The third grade language arts curriculum is centered around units of study that continue to develop skills in vocabulary, comprehension, and writing. Students are actively participating in the process of reading, writing, speaking and listening.There are ample opportunities for reading and responding in a large group, small groups, or independently. Children practice comprehension strategies that include: retelling, identifying the main idea, questioning, reading for specific detail, etc. Children learn to listen to and retell stories and through reading are encouraged to form ideas, opinions and feelings about writing. Within the structure of writing workshop students learn to build habits and develop strategies that proficient writers use on a daily basis. Children are encouraged to express their ideas in written form, utilizing the writing process. Students learn about the crafting techniques that are common to narrative, informative, and opinion writing. They further develop and strengthen their writing by cycling through the process of planning, revising, editing, and publicly sharing their opinions with a real audience. Grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling and language usage are introduced and practiced within the context of daily writing activities. Children read and write in a variety of genres and curriculum areas.


In third grade students work toward mastery of problems involving addition and subtraction. They write fact families for addition and subtraction sentences and solve open number sentences. Students continue to work with multiplication and division, learn basic multiplication facts, and begin to explore various multiplication algorithms. They write fact families for basic multiplication and division facts, up to 5 x 5. Students continue to measure lengths, including perimeters, and become more facile with measurement equipment and with metric and customary units. Place value is extended to ten thousands. Students continue to work with decimals. They learn more about equivalent fractions, and begin to add and subtract unit fractions. Students’ geometric knowledge is increased by learning about lines (e.g., parallel lines, intersecting lines), line segments, and angles, and by studying properties of polygons. They investigate line symmetry and geometric transformations (e.g., slides, flips, turns). Students begin to explore volume using unit cubes, and continue to work with weight, capacity, and temperature. They tell time to the nearest minute. Students experiment with various probability devices, collect data from experiments with these devices, and display their data with bar graphs, line graphs, and histograms and draw conclusions about whether outcomes are equally likely.
Social Studies

Third grade students explore the social studies disciplines of history, geography, civics and government, and economics through the context of Michigan studies. Building on prior social studies knowledge and applying new concepts of each social studies discipline to the increasingly complex social environment of their state, the third grade content expectations prepare students for more sophisticated studies of their country and world in later grades.


In third grade, students refine their abilities to think like a historian by identifying the types of questions that historians ask. Building upon experiences of timeline construction, students sequence early periods of Michigan history from exploration through attaining statehood. The expectations move students from examining a variety of simple sources to understanding how historians use both primary and secondary sources to learn about the past. Students use both types of sources as they explore the early history of Michigan, providing a rich connection to the English language arts. Through traditional stories, students learn about the beliefs of American Indians. They compare how American Indians and settlers interacted with their environment through informational text. The skill of constructing historical narratives is developed using the context of daily life in the early settlements. The expectations build on students’ sense of chronology by requiring students to describe causal relationships among events. These foundational understandings prepare students for more sophisticated writing and analyses as they prepare to study United States history in subsequent grades.


Third grade students draw upon prior knowledge to create more complex understandings of geographic concepts using the context of Michigan. They further develop spatial awareness through the use of more complex maps of
Michigan. Students refine the concept of regions as they explore different ways Michigan can be divided into regions and learn about the different geographic regions to which Michigan belongs. Building upon their knowledge of human systems, students investigate current economic activities in Michigan and explore factors that influence the location
of these economic activities. The expectations also extend the geographic theme of movement as students describe current movements of goods, people, jobs, or information to, from, or within Michigan, and investigate the reasons for the movements. In addressing human-environment interactions, the expectations integrate history as students apply their knowledge of how people adapt to, use, and modify the environment to the more complex social environment of their state. More sophisticated understandings are also created as students locate different natural resources in Michigan and analyze the consequences of their use. These foundations prepare students for a more elaborate understanding of geography as they examine their country and world in subsequent grades.

Civics and Government

In extending students’ civic perspective beyond the family, neighborhood, and community to the state, the third grade content expectations prepare students for their role as responsible and informed citizens of Michigan. Building upon their knowledge of government of the local community, students distinguish the roles of state government from local government. Using the context of state government, students examine the concept of separation of powers by exploring the powers of each branch of state government. By examining how the state courts function to
resolve conflicts, students deepen their understanding of the rule of law. The idea of representative government is introduced. By focusing on key concepts, such as citizens’ rights and responsibilities, separation of powers, individual rights, rules of law, representative government, and justice, students are prepared for the roles of citizens in our democratic republic.


Third grade students refine their understanding of the principles and concepts of economics. Building on a basic understanding of scarcity and choice, students learn to appreciate the relationships among scarcity, choice, and opportunity costs in making economic decisions. In addition, students are introduced to how incentives impact economic decision making. Students explore Michigan’s economy by examining how natural resources have
influenced economic development in the state. An introduction to the concepts of entrepreneurship, specialization, and interdependence allows students to explore the relationship of Michigan to the national and global economies. Finally, students use these concepts to consider the role of new business development in Michigan’s future.

Public Discourse, Decision Making, and Citizen Involvement

Students continue to develop a more sophisticated understanding of public issues and the importance of citizen action in a democratic republic. Using the context of Michigan, third grade students identify public policy issues
facing citizens in Michigan, use graphic data and other sources to analyze information about the issue, and evaluate alternative resolutions. By utilizing core democratic values to demonstrate why people may differ on the resolution of a state issue, students continue to develop competency in expressing their own opinions relative to these issues and justify their opinions with reasons. This foundational knowledge is built upon throughout the grades as students develop a greater understanding of how, when, and where to communicate their positions on public issues with a reasoned argument.


Science Processes: Inquiry Process, Inquiry Analysis and Communication, Reflection, and Social Implications

Students continue building their inquiry and investigation skills through the use of observations and data collection. This learning requires using measurement with appropriate units of measure and conducting simple and fair investigations. Students use their data as evidence to separate fact from opinion, and compare and contrast different sets of data from multiple trials. In the application of what students discover through their investigations, they begin to describe the effect of humans and other organisms on the balance of the natural world and how people contribute to the advancement of science.
The content expectations for third grade science students present high interest content that leads to investigations, data collection, raising questions, and the identification of current problems in the environment that society faces on Earth.

Physical Science: Motion of Objects, Energy, and Properties of Matter

The previous grades have provided the students with an introduction to the understanding of motion (kindergarten), and properties of matter (first grade and second grade). The study of motion asks for students to compare and contrast motion in terms of direction and speed of an object. Using force as a push or a pull from the kindergarten expectations now builds toward the idea that when an object does not move in response to a force, it is because another force is acting on it. The force of gravity as the force that pulls objects towards the Earth is the foundation of this learning.
The third grade science content expectations introduce the concept of energy through the study of light and sound. Students explore light and how light travels in a straight path, how shadows are made, and the behavior of light through water. Students discover that different objects interact differently with light; objects can reflect, absorb, or refract light. Objects can also absorb heat energy when exposed to light. Properties of sound are also introduced in the third grade curriculum. Students are given the opportunity to explore how different pitches are produced and sound as a result of vibrations.

Life Science: Organization of Living Things, Evolution

The third grade life science curriculum combines the previous studies of animals and plants from the first and second grades. These studies build toward an understanding of the complex interactions among living and nonliving things and the diversity of life. Children explore the functions of structures in plants and animals that help them to survive in their environment, establish the initial association of organisms within their environments, and develop ideas regarding the dependence of living things on various aspects of behavior within their environment.

Earth Science: Earth Systems and Solid Earth

Initially, the third grade students explore natural causes of change on the Earth’s surface, different types of Earth materials (rocks, minerals, clay, boulders, gravel, sand, and soil), and identify those materials used to construct common objects. The skills students need to understand and apply their scientific knowledge and develop an awareness of the effects of humans and other organisms on the environment are a primary focus in the third grade Earth science instruction. Students explore natural resources (renewable and non-renewable), and describe how humans protect and harm the environment. Children are asked to employ causal reasoning between human activities and the impact on the environment.
The common idea of the dependency of life on the environment and the effects of humans and other living organisms on the environment, provides the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge to current environmental problems and what the third grader can do to protect the environment.