Third Grade Intellectual Development

In third grade, children are really growing up. They have a couple years of elementary school under their belt, and they're past many basic learning milestones. So what comes next? What can you expect to see from your child this school year? Read this slideshow to find out what's happening in the excited minds of third graders.

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They want to know “how” and "why.”

By third grade, children have been taught much of the “what.” What’s two plus two? What letters are in the alphabet? What’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction? It’s time for them to learn “how” and “why.” How does a plant grow? Why is multiplication useful? Why does the Earth spin?

What you should do: Be patient and answer questions whenever possible. If you don’t know the answer, look it up to show that adults are also curious and that learning is a nonstop process.

They develop their own opinions.

The opinions of a third grader often go much deeper than “The teacher is mean,” and “I like pizza." They can often have different opinions than their parents and peers, and they want to express them.

What you should do: Expose your child to different things and ideas. Open dialogues and exchange opinions whenever possible.

They work hard to complete challenging tasks.

As kids get smarter, they want tougher challenges. Most third graders are able to use logical reasoning and set up a system to complete a challenge. They take on projects like writing a book, organizing collections or using construction toys to build something extravagant.

What you should do: Encourage your child’s activities, whatever they are. Show them off to family members. Buy supplies for your child to use. If your child has challenging school projects, lend a helping hand, but don’t do all the work.

They’re becoming better readers.

The word-by-word style of reading your child previously had might be switching over to an easier, smoother technique in third grade. Many children begin to have a passionate love of books at this age.

What you should do: Encourage reading and make use of the local library. If your child can read fluently, challenge her to read above her grade level. If your child is struggling, seek tutoring or testing that can determine why.

They have a wide range of reading levels.

Although most children can read fluently by third grade, the difference between the best and worst readers is extreme. It’s difficult for third grade teachers to determine an appropriate curriculum for reading, and schools generally allow children to choose books for themselves from the school library.

What you should do: Help your child find books that she can read fluently, regardless of grade level. Find topics that your child enjoys. Ask her to read aloud, so you can gauge her reading skills. Make sure she is reading at home, without distractions, for the entire time she is required to by her teacher.

Their understanding of sexuality is becoming more detailed.

By third grade, if not earlier, children are aware of sexual differences, gender roles and gender stereotypes. Many are eager to find out what they don't know, and they look to peers and media for information. They have a stronger self-image regarding their bodies and gender roles than ever before.

What you should do: Teach your child about sexuality, even if she doesn’t ask. Recognize that children this age might be shy about asking questions, but that they may actually be very curious.

They can write complex stories.

Most children in third grade generally know how to write a sentence and how to spell words. They’re learning to edit and revise their writing. As writing skills improve, children can focus more on the plots, characters and drama of their stories.

What you should do: Take an interest in your child’s imagination. Ask what her stories are about. Put her work on the refrigerator for all to see.

They want to know what’s happening around the world.

Kids in third grade have hungry minds. They’re learning countless new things about their immediate surroundings, but they’re also interested in what’s going on elsewhere. They may have an interest in historical events, and they try to predict what will happen in the future.

What you should do: Spend time teaching your child about the world. This is a great time to plant the seeds of a worldview.

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