Grade Three

Grade three is a transitional year between primary and intermediate grades. Boys move from learning to read to reading to learn, and in this process they begin to develop the critical thinking skills necessary for evaluating the world around them. Boys develop increased independence at this age and often take charge of their learning and make choices about how to best display their knowledge.

In Grade Three, your son will study:

Language Arts

Grade three boys focus on building comprehension skills, making connections, and learning to distinguish between, and appreciate, a wide variety of genres. Vocabulary is expanded and critical thinking is practiced through the reading of novels in small groups. A biography unit early in the year culminates in a “Wax Museum” presentation. Other genres include historical fiction, realistic fiction, mystery, humor, fantasy, myths, and poetry. Monthly “book clubs” give the boys more choice in their selections and smaller group discussions of themes, plot, and character development. The boys develop their writing skills and understanding of grammar rules using the writer’s workshop method. Genres include personal narrative, research reports based on social studies topics, poetry, and “pourquoi” tales. Opinion writing and other topics are integrated into the reading and social studies curriculums.



Third grade boys practice and master a number of math skills learned in second grade. The units are cross-curricular; for example, integrating with social studies, boys use real data from National Parks as they work on problem-solving skills. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska provides real life data as they problem-solve and analyze race related data. Math topics covered include: area and perimeter, graphing, time (elapsed time, military time), money (counting and making change), measuring angles, and analyzing data (mean, median, mode, and range). Boys also cover multi-step multiplication (two and three digit by two digit), long division (one and two digit divisors into two to three digit dividends), and basic operations with fractions.

Social Studies

The third grade social studies curriculum features three major areas of study: regional geography of the United States, Native Americans, and Lewis and Clark. Regional geography of the United States focuses on the geographic features of the country. Students learn about the National Park Service and begin collecting Junior Ranger badges. In addition, the boys look at landforms, learn to use a compass, and try their skills at memorizing all fifty states and capitals. A study of Native Americans includes a look at the prehistoric and historic cultures of the Native Americans with a regional overview. This unit allows the boys some choice in their study. They select a cultural area and pick a tribe to learn about in depth. This results in a research report and the creation of an artifact for display. The final unit includes reading the journals of Lewis and Clark and creating a simulation of the Corps of Discovery around Gilman’s campus.


Grade three boys examines the earth's four spheres, cells and heredity, and simple machines. The learn about the four spheres (atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere), and how they are part of the delicate interconnected system that drives all living and nonliving things on our planet, examining in depth the five layers of the atmosphere, the water cycle, the layers of earth, plate tectonics, volcanoes, the eight major land biomes, and what defines an ecosystem.

The cell and heredity study focuses on plant and animal cells. They learn basic parts of the plant and animal cell: cell membrane, cell wall, cytoplasm, chloroplasts, nucleus, organelles. Students also learn that DNA contain our genes and our genes carry our traits or heredity from our parents.

The boys identify and provide examples in their daily lives of the six simple machines: ramp/incline planes, wedge, screw, lever, pulley, and wheel and axle. They understand how simple machines work and that they make our lives easier, and explore Work = force x distance. Their final challenge is to design, plan, and create a Rube Goldberg machine using at least three simple machines.


The philosophy and work of Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), Hungarian composer and music educator, provide the foundation for the lower school vocal program. The boys develop musical skill in pitch, rhythm, form, and harmony and learn a large repertoire of songs with an emphasis on American folk songs. They grow in competency as choral music performers and music readers, and they listen to classical and folk music from around the world. Folk dancing and children’s musical games are an important component of the lower school program.  Twice a year, all students highlight their performance skills in concerts that include singing, dancing, and instrumental playing.  In addition to their own personal skills and performance, all students are exposed yearly to a concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Students add to their expanding knowledge of music theory both rhythmically and melodically. They identify the sixteenth note (“ti-ki-ti-ki”), along with the sixteenth and eighth note combination rhythms of “ti ti-ki” and “ti-ki ti.” Melodically, they continue to work the the Extended Pentatone in many ways, including reading, writing, and composing. Third grade also begins their journey with the recorder. The boys learn the “absolute pitches,” which are also known as the alphabet letter names. These skills with the recorder help to prepare them for their choice in instruments in fifth grade.


The art program encourages the student to express himself creatively and explore the world from an artist’s vantage point. The lower school art program aims to foster the creative growth of each individual student while exposing him to a wide range of art styles and forms. Through engaging and fun instruction our students are exposed to many aspects of art.  Students learn to use art vocabulary, as well as respond to and  appreciate art. The art program Includes drawing, painting, collage, constructing, printmaking, and ceramics.

The third grade program explores the art of world cultures. Students examine traditional art from Native Americans as well as the art of Australia’s aboriginal people. The boys review art vocabulary and learn new words and concepts. Gesture drawing is introduced, and students learn the art of drawing the figure from life. The boys look at the art inspired by carnivals around the world, and they create an elaborate carnival mask based on the costumes designed by artists each year for parades. The artist Gustav Klimt, known for his lavish paintings using gold and metallic paint, inspires “Tree of Life” paintings by the boys. Students are introduced to pottery hand building construction using the coil method. They look at Native American pots and create a unique coil pot in traditional red clay.

Physical Education

The lower school physical education curriculum includes physical education, aquatics, and athletics. Aquatics instruction starts in the Prep-One year and continues through Fifth Grade. Kindergarten through Fifth Grade receive a spiraling program of individual and group experiences. Sportsmanship, cooperation, and skill development are given high priority in all elementary grades. Specific traits of the Gilman Five are reinforced such as humility, respect, and excellence.

Third grade boys receive 45 minutes of instruction eight days out of the ten day cycle. Homerooms rotate through swimming every four days. The aquatic component stresses water safety, coordination, and skill development.


Design and Woodworking

The Design and Woodworking program is designed to include hands-on instruction and learning. The objective of the program is to expose the students to the art of craftsmanship, teaching them how to use basic tools and follow a specific set of instructions to produce objects that are both useful and beautiful. Projects build sequentially based on students’ age and skill. As the ability to manipulate tools gets better, the projects increase in degree of difficulty. This program further builds skills such as perseverance and patience. Safety is a top priority and emphasized in every class.

Third grade boys learn to follow pattern designs, shape and texture wood with rasps, hammer and nails, and join wood pieces. They locate the center point of a base using intersecting points of two diagonal lines. Examples of projects include a fish weather vane, Viking ship, bird house, and basket weaving.

French or Spanish

The Modern Language program includes French and Spanish. All boys in a grade study the same language. After Kindergarten, they study that assigned language for the rest of their lower school years. Classes meet six times during a ten day cycle.

The lower school’s foreign language courses are taught using activities that will develop listening comprehension and conversational skills. Culture is used to deliver the content of different curricular units, and exposure to a variety of cultures that speak Spanish or French is an integral part of the program. The goals of the program are to expose the students to the language, to help them develop basic conversational skills, and to introduce them to the language used in its cultural context.The environment of the class is of one of neutrality and at no moment is there a preference for one culture or another.

Third grade boys begin to add structure to their thoughts and dialogs. Grammar lessons continue and may relate to geography and vacation during this year.


With over 18,000 books, and access to multiple databases and digital content the lower school library, also known as the William Passano Library, offers the boys a rich, global collection of contemporary materials to explore. Students enjoy the library daily, as a space to research and for reading. Weekly classes with the librarian allows the boys to delve into research, explore what makes an award winning story or illustration, and learn about genres that may expand their reading experiences. Additionally, the librarian collaborates with the classroom teachers to support and enrich studies covered throughout the academic year. Building curious, confident, and avid readers who love reading is the goal of the library program.

Grade three boys define and develop research questions and use appropriate search strategies to locate and explore sources. The students work on note-taking and citing their sources. The third grade boys enjoy selecting a wide variety of material for their reading pleasure.

Special Events

The grade three experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:

  • Wax Museum
  • Iditarod Banquet
  • Marshy Point and Harper’s Ferry Trip
  • Poetry Coffee Houses
  • Lewis and Clark Day of Exploration
  • Big Buddies to Prep-One and Kindergarten
Wax Museum
Wax Museum
Wax Museum
Wax Museum
Wax Museum
Wax Museum
Wax Museum
Student-Teacher Ratio  
Kindergarten 7-9:1
Prep-One 7-9:1
First 15-17:1
Second 15-17:1
Third 15-17:1
Fourth 15-17:1
Fifth 15-17:1