In Third Grade, students’ vocabulary, grammar, and spelling take on new life; their math skills advance into long division. This school year is often referred to as “the turning point of childhood” because eight- and nine-year-olds go through a change that is particularly profound. Waldorf teachers also refer to it as the “Crossing Point.” Third graders become more independent, and they question everything. They also take special interest in practical work, which is amplified through farming and gardening experiences--including a working stay at Live Power Farm and grape stomping at Frey Vineyards--as well as through hands-on cooking, weights and measures problems, and a challenging building project.
A New Outlook On the World
Developmental Picture of the Student
In third grade, children experience a new sense of self. Students begin to question who they are relative to others and to the world. Waldorf education recognizes this stage of self-discovery as the nine-year change. New capacities for thinking and judgment are taking shape. The younger child’s experience of the unity of all things matures into the third grader’s awareness of his or her distinctly separate inner life. Strong opinions, likes, and dislikes are emerging. The children begin to develop a more realistic view of everyone and everything around them.
How the Waldorf Curriculum Meets the Third Grader
Children at this stage begin to recognize what it means to leave paradise, to step into the real world, and to begin to stand on their own. In response to this growing awareness and sense of self, the curriculum connects third graders to meaningful, practical work, such as construction, farming, and gardening. Developing these skills helps students build confidence and stamina. The primary lesson material is drawn from ancient Hebrew stories, which also meet and reflect the third grader’s inner experience. The Hebrew stories present strong role models who show courage and determination, and they teach foundational language arts which promote writing and independent reading.
In the developing third grader, new capacities for thinking and judgment are emerging as they become more independent in thought and action. In math, the children continue exploring the four basic operations by measuring distance, capacity, weight, and time. Students apply math studies to the real world by measuring in their gardening and building projects, creating a natural bridge between subjects. They study time, including how to read a clock and what the changing seasons mean, in order to trace the ongoing rhythms of life. A weekly Hebrew lesson immerses the students in the language and culture of the Jewish people.
Third graders also begin formal gym classes where basic movement skills are taught through games. In music instruction, students choose a string instrument (violin, viola, cello or base) and are introduced to the basics of instrument handling, reading and playing music. Through stories and hands-on experiences third graders begin to understand their potential for courage, determination, and skill.
- Language Arts: Hebrew legends/Old Testament stories; introduction of grammar; writing stories and composition; cursive writing; recitation of poetry; reading aloud
- Social Studies: Festival celebrations; ancient Hebrew culture
- Science: arming; gardening; nature observation
- Math: Measurement—liquid, dry, linear, weight, time; money; long multiplication and division
- World languages: Counting; naming; songs; dances; poetry; conversation
- Art: Wet-on-wet watercolor painting; beeswax modeling; crayon/colored pencil drawing; form drawing
- Practical Arts: Knitting; gardening; shelter building; plant-dyeing; farming; cooking; gift-making
- Drama: Re-enactment of stories; class play; assembly performances
- Music: Diatonic flute; singing; strings ensemble
- Movement: Two outdoor recesses a day; Eurythmy; traditional and folk dance; physical education; daily rhythm/coordination exercises
life skills experienced in third grade
- Introduction to homework assignments through weekly spelling reviews
- Daily reading in groups, with partners or independently
- Spelling and vocabulary development
- Understanding basic sentence structure
- Beginning library use and research protocol
- Dictation practice
- Learning cursive handwriting
- Memorization of the multiplication tables
- Daily practice with the four basic operations and multiplication tables