Third grade instructional programs in Palo Alto schools are committed to helping each child meet the academic and intellectual competencies expected at this grade level and become active, engaged learners in a classroom setting. The following summary of the instructional program provides an overview of the third grade year. The third grade program builds on the skills and knowledge children have learned in preceding years. It encourages critical thinking, creativity and respect for self and others. The manner of instruction—motivation, grouping, pacing, reinforcing and reteaching—is determined by each teacher as he or she works to meet individual student needs. Expectations are, of course, modified or expanded to meet a child’s needs and abilities.

Curriculum standards are what all grade-level students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a school year. Key standards of third grade education are highlighted below. All K-5 teachers will continue efforts to fully implement the California Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by making strategic instructional shifts in both English Language Arts and Mathematics. Instruction will be adjusted to best meet the needs of all students.

In third grade, each student will . . .

Language Arts

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language Arts

As part of the shift to the Common Core State Standards, students will be working toward College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards (CCR) in language arts. These anchor standards describe the skills of graduating twelfth grade students, and are all included in the specific kindergarten through fifth grade standards at the appropriate developmental level for each grade. There are ten standards for reading, ten for writing, six in the area of listening and speaking, and six in language. These standards include reading closely for deeper meaning, analyzing details, interpreting and using evidence, integrating and evaluating content from various multimedia sources, writing routinely over extended time frames for different purposes using different forms of technology (including the internet), and more.  For a list of the specific 32 kindergarten through 5th grade language arts College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.


  • uses a variety of strategies to decode
  • reads narrative and expository texts aloud with fluency and expression
  • chooses appropriate reading materials for independent reading
  • comprehends grade level literature and expository text
  • determines main idea and explains how key details support that idea
  • asks and answers questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicity to the text
  • compares and contrasts the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters
  • compares and contrasts the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic

Writing/Word Work

  • writes legibly
  • applies spelling knowledge to written work
  • applies grammar rules to written work
  • edits conventions: uses correct capitalization and punctuation
  • writes independently with fluency (original ideas, thoughtful word choice, leads)
  • writes narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences
  • writes opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons
  • writes informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly
  • revises content


  • Actively listens to speaker
  • follows agreed-upon rules for discussion
  • follows complex directions and instructions
  • makes relevant comments and questions during discussions
  • supports spoken ideas with evidence and examples in classroom discussions and oral presentations

The major shifts in mathematics education for all grade levels are the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  These standards are the same for kindergarten through 12th grade students.  The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education.  The 8 Math Practice Standards emphasize the importance of students’ ability to explain and apply mathematical concepts to solve a range of complex problems, as well as precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning, and critique the reasoning of others.

Math Practice Standards

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

For more information about the Common Core Math Practice standards visit

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

  • memorizes multiplication facts to automaticity for numbers between 1 and 10
  • memorizes to automaticity the addition facts (sums to 20) and the corresponding subtraction facts
  • identifies and explains arithmetic patterns
  • fluently multiplies and divides within 100
  • understands and applies properties of multiplication
  • uses and understands the inverse relationship of multiplication and division to compute and check results
  • represents and solves word problems using multiplication and division
  • solves two-step word problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division

Number and Operations in Base Ten

  • understands place value, counts, reads, writes, compares, and orders whole numbers to 10,000
  • uses place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100
  • uses expanded notation to represent numbers
  • finds the sum or difference of two whole numbers between 0 and 10,000
  • multiplies one-digit numbers by multiples of 10

Number and Operations – Fractions

  • understands a fraction as a number on a number line
  • understands the meaning and representation of unit fractions and how the quantity of parts changes the fraction
  • explains equivalence of fractions and compares fractions by reasoning about their size

Measurement and Data

  • chooses the appropriate tools and units (metric and U.S.) to measure the length and weight/mass of given objects
  • determines liquid volumes and massesof objects using standard units
  • estimates and/or determines area of a figure by covering with squares
  • finds the perimeter of a polygon with integer sides
  • solves problems involving addition and subtraction of money amounts
  • tells and writes time to the nearest minute and measure time intervals in minutes


  • identifies shared-attributes of quadrilaterals and recognizes them by name
  • partitions shapes into parts with equal areas

Problem Solving and Mathematical Reasoning

  • explains and justifies solutions using correct mathematical vocabulary
  • makes decisions about how to approach problems and uses strategies, skills, and concepts in finding solutions

In science, PAUSD uses the Full Option Science System (FOSS) program K-5. The program features a life, earth, and physical science hands-on unit at each grade level.  Teachers strive to integrate reading, writing, and math within science. By focusing on informational writing and non-fiction text science aligns more closely with reading and writing.  California has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and PAUSD is currently exploring these new standards and who they will affect teaching and learning.



Life Science

Earth Science

Physical Science


Animals 2 x 2


Wood and Paper


Plants and Animals

Air and Weather

Solids and Liquids


Insects and Plants

Pebbles, Sand and Silt

Balance and Motion


Structures of Life/Baylands

Sun, Moon and Stars

Matter and Energy



Solid Earth

Magnetism and Electricity


Living Systems

Water Planets

Mixtures and Solutions



Scientific Process Skills

  • Differentiate evidence from opinion and know that scientists do not rely on claims or conclusions unless they are backed by observations that can be confirmed
  • Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects, events, and measurements
  • Predict the outcome of a simple investigation and compare the result with the prediction
  • Collect data in an investigation and analyze those data to develop a logical conclusion

Physical, Life, and Earth, Science standards encountered through participation in units of study: Matter and Energy, Baylands/Structures of Life, and Sun, Moon and Stars

  • Energy and matter have multiple forms and can be changed from one form to another
  • Energy can be carried from one place to another by waves, such as water waves and sound waves, by electric current, and by moving objects
  • Evaporation and melting are changes that occur when the objects are heated
  • Light has a source and travels in a direction
  • Adaptations in physical structure or behavior may improve an organism’s chance for survival
  • Living things cause changes in the environment in which they live: some of these changes are detrimental to the organism or other organisms, and some are beneficial
  • When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations
  • Objects in the sky move in regular and predictable patterns
  • The position of the Sun in the sky changes during the course of the day and from season to season
  • The Moon’s appearance changes during the four-week lunar cycle

Palo Alto Unified School District adopted Social Studies Alive! by Teachers Curriculum Institute. This program is aligned with the California History Social Science Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

This program truly engages students in learning. Student will be an active participant instead of a passive observer by experiencing history through imaginative teaching practices that include dramatic role playing, creative simulations, dynamic group projects, and writing from a historical perspective. Student’s program contains exciting lesson games, audio tools, and drawing activities, as well as an Interactive Student Notebook.

Social Studies Alive! California Communities broadens students’ awareness about the local and global communities in which they live. Students learn the fundamentals of geography and explore different cultures and public service roles.

Visual and Performing Arts

Visual Arts

  • Identify how foreground, middle ground, and background are used to create the illusion of space
  • Mix and apply tempera paints to create tints, shades, and neutral colors
  • Distinguish and describe, representational, abstract, and non representational works of art
  • Compare and contrast selected works of art and describe them, using appropriate vocabulary of art

Music and the Performing Arts

  • Read, notate, listen to and describe music
  • Sing songs with accuracy and use hand percussion instruments to play rhythmic and melodic ostinatos
  • Sing and play songs from diverse cultures
  • Make judgments about the quality of a musical performance
  • Describe how music communicates ideas and moods
Physical Education
  • Participate in running, skipping, jumping, hopping games, and activities
  • Increase ball control capacity
  • Participate in group games and folk dancing activities
  • Demonstrate good health practices (e.g., nutrition, exercise, rest, health care)
Library Media Program
  • Information Literacy: Students learn to find, evaluate and use information in meaningful and responsible ways
  • Library and Information Usage: Students learn to practice ethical and responsible behavior
  • Literature Appreciation: Students learn to choose, enjoy and respond to a wide variety of literature