Third graders are roly-poly and rambunctious, but they are also curious elementary schoolers. Whether you’ve taught this pivotal, precocious grade for years or are setting up your first class, we’ve got you covered with tips from real teachers. We’ve scoured our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook and the web for some of the best tips and ideas for teaching 3rd grade. While it by no means covers every possible topic, we hope this list of gems will inspire you, whether you are a brand new teacher or a veteran. And, we’ve organized the list by topic to make it easy to cruise for ideas!
Getting Your Classroom Ready
1. Create an inviting classroom.
Need ideas to take your classroom to the next level? We’ve gathered real-life third grade classrooms for you to browse!
2. Gather all the supplies.
Not sure what supplies you need for your third grade classroom? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with this list of essential third grade classroom supplies.
3. Pick an inspiring theme for your classroom.
“Even at this age, kids like the themed rooms.” —Kathleen W. We’re obsessed with this third grade teacher’s Harry Potter theme!
4. Try different classroom layouts.
Long gone are the days of straight rows of desks lining the classroom. Throw out your seating chart and try one of these ideas instead.
5. Put together an irresistible classroom reading nook.
Your third graders are well on their way to becoming readers, so make this time extra special for them by setting up one of these awesome reading nooks.
6. Fill your classroom library with these classic third grade books.
Teaching 3rd grade involves a lot of reading! Here are 50 of our favorites.
7. Get a jump start on lessons.
Teacher planning and prep time are precious! It makes life a lot easier when you can purchase existing lessons, bundles, books, and pages. And why not support other teachers while you do it! Check out our favorite Teacher Pay Teachers sellers for third grade.
The First Days of School
8. Introduce yourself creatively.
Make day one memorable by introducing yourself in a creative way, such as sending postcards over the summer! For 10 creative ideas, click here.
9. Start the year with a challenge.
Build teamwork at the start of the year with a challenge: Divide students into groups and give each group 56 cups. Then, challenge them to build the tallest (or most stable) tower.
10. Send home a classroom brochure.
“I made a brochure for parents rather than a welcome-back letter. The brochure was easier to look at and it was easier to find the information. It included the behavior plan, information about lunch prices, and pickup and dismissal times.” —Kendall R.
11. Take advantage of their “in between-ness.”
Third graders are not little kids, they’re not quite upper elementary students, and they’re far from middle schoolers. That means they still love their teachers and school and aren’t afraid to show it!
Take advantage of that with fun ideas for Back-to-School Night or parent-teacher conferences.
12. Start the day with a morning meeting.
Third graders are not too old for morning meetings. Consider including class rules, a self-reflection (What did you do well as a researcher yesterday?), a silly class question (What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?), sharing good news/bad news, and the Word of the Day.
13. Plan an end-of-the-day check.
“We have a PMIL end-of-day check. Students say positive things from their day and a minus (if one occurred), an interesting thing from their day, and one thing they learned.” —Natalie E.
14. Establish a culture of kindness.
Print these free, downloadable posters to remind your students that kindness matters most of all.
15. Build your students’ social-emotional skills.
Teaching 3rd grade means building SEL skills. Use these read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
16. Use the walls for anchor charts instead of premade posters.
You can check out our top 3rd grade anchor charts for inspiration here.
Ideas for Language Arts
17. Incorporate daily writing prompts.
We’ve gathered 50 writing prompts that you can download and use to have your third graders practice their writing skills.
18. Insist on full sentences.
Third graders are still forming those academic habits, so when they ask questions, talk about their reading, or explain themselves, make them speak in complete sentences. It’ll pay off in their writing and their thinking.
19. Have students write a letter to their future selves.
Christina, a third-grade teacher on Long Island, describes an assignment she’s given her eight-year-old students every year since she began teaching over 20 years ago.
20. Make phonics fun.
Phonics is the foundation for reading success. Breaking words into their constituent sounds helps kids understand and build their literacy skills, bit by bit. Check out these 20 phonics activities!
21. Try a vocabulary activity. Or 15!
Use RAFTs, try vocabulary Jeopardy, and more with these vocabulary activities.
Ideas for Math
22. Practice math-fact fluency (every day).
Fourth- and fifth-grade teachers will thank you! The better your students are at their math facts, the easier math time will be, particularly when they get into problem solving. We like this penguin multiplication game from 3rd grade blogger Lightbulbs and Laughter.
23. Focus on fractions.
If it’s not math fluency, it’s fractions. The better understanding third graders have of fractions, the better off they’ll be when the quantities get more complicated or the operations get sophisticated. We really love this pool noodle fractions hack for teaching 3rd grade.
24. Watch videos.
It’s much more fun to teach multiplication and division when you’re watching a video!
25. Set up a math routine.
Third graders thrive on predictability. Check out this math routine from The Teaching Channel.
26. Teach the dreaded word problem.
With these word problem activities and strategies.
27. Play math games.
Math doesn’t have to be boring! Make it fun with one of our third grade math games.
28. Use spare LEGO bricks.
LEGO bricks aren’t just for building. You can use them for math too.
Ideas for Science
29. Get hands-on with science.
Science is the perfect subject for kids to get down and dirty. Try these 35 third grade science projects for inspiration.
30. Try daily STEM challenges.
These STEM challenges are designed with your third graders in mind. Try one each day or each week to get their minds thinking outside the box.
31. Teach the plant life cycle!
Plant life cycle is always a fun science unit. You get to talk about growing, planting, and nature. Plus, students love digging in and getting their hands dirty when they plant a seed themselves.
32. Teach electricity.
It’s electrifyingly good fun! Shock them with these science experiments!
33. Explore animal habitats.
Ready to explore animal habitats around the world, from rainforests to deserts and everything in between? These fun activities are just what you’re looking for. Take a walk on the wild side!
Ideas for Social Studies
34. Use current events.
Third graders’ interest in the world is ever-increasing. Capitalize on that by bringing in articles from sites like Tween Tribune or NewsELA. While students read each article, they can track their ideas, reactions, and comments on sticky notes, then use those to write comments about the articles (or post their comments on a large board in your classroom).
35. Have students insert themselves into history.
After reading biographies, have students create presentations that put themselves in history, like this idea from a 3rd grade blogger.
36. Learn about heroes.
Read biographies about famous people in history. Match books to holidays, like Presidents’ Day or Black History Month.
37. Use online learning.
There are some amazing websites out there for teaching social studies lessons. Check out our 50+ favorites.
Ideas for Classroom Organization
38. Use an uncommon organizing method for the Common Core!
Create separately labeled folders for each standard, then file activities that align with each standard in the appropriate folders. Genius!
Source: Teaching in Oz
39. Avoid nameless homework.
Source: Spectacular 2nd Grade
When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a name-free paper again!
Ideas for Classroom Management
40. Create a call -and-response routine.
Use a call-and-response like saying “Class, class, class!” to which students answer “Yes, yes, yes!” Or, to start work, snap your fingers and say “Go!” then students respond by snapping their fingers and saying “ Go!” This call-and-response gets third grade students’ attention and helps them know exactly what to do.
41. Get the wiggles out.
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with awesome third grade brain breaks.
42. Invest time in teaching 3rd grade students procedures and jobs.
“Model and practice your classroom procedures. You’ll love how independent third graders can be!” —Pam W.
“Pick jobs that they can do around the classroom. It will save you time and you will be amazed at how competent third graders can be.” —Kristi H.
43. Anticipate that third graders will call out.
“Put icons on desks as reminders for when students blurt out. That reminds them to raise their hand with a nonverbal warning. If they do blurt out, place a laminated warning on their desk, like a stop sign that says ‘Please stop what you are doing and make better choices.’” —Jessica H.
44. Love a list.
Thought you loved a well-organized to-do list? Your third graders may just have you beat. Stock your room with clipboards and cover your walls with lists to keep your kids organized and as excited about completing each task as you are.
“Lists, clipboards … they love them.” —Kristi H.
45. Have a policy for school supplies (we’re looking at you, mechanical pencils).
“I allowed my third graders to use clickable lead pencils. However, my policy on them was that if I saw them playing with lead or breaking pieces, they were banned from using it for the rest of the year. I only had to ban a handful of students.” —Tefi C.
46. Invest in fidgets.
If you have students who fiddle with just about anything (and teaching 3rd grade, you will), keep their hands occupied with fidget toys so their brains can stay on task. They can be as simple as squishy balls from the party store and maybe, just maybe, it will keep the fidget spinners out of your classroom. Check out more fidget ideas in this roundup post.
47. Talk about emotional bank accounts.
Help third graders understand how their words and actions impact others with an ongoing discussion of emotional bank accounts. We love the anchor chart from this 3rd grade blogger.
48. Model, model, and model some more.
Third graders are increasingly developing their independence, but they still need modeling (and lots of it)! Plan to model, and model again during whole group, then be ready to step in with more modeling during centers or small group work.
“Modeling and practice for sure.” —Cathy T.
49. Have a sense of humor.
Teaching third grade requires a sense of humor, both for yourself and your students. Poetry from Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky hit right at third graders’ funny bones. Or try one of our third grade jokes to start the day.
50. Build positive relationships with parents.
Here are ten tips for making working with parents the easiest part of your job.
What are your top tips for teaching 3rd grade? Come in share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, your guide to the third grade classroom.