What Is It About Third Grade?
I vaguely remember 3rd grade. We learned cursive. We read The Talking Eggs. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Olsen and she was a little scary and a lot no-nonsense but I liked her. I was living my best life, wearing crimped side ponytails, playing four square during recess and watching Reading Rainbow on PBS. Looking back, I had no idea that third grade was any different from the year before, or the year after. In fact, up until a recent conversation with Mrs. Wright at Island Prep, I still didn’t know that experts consider third grade to be an immensely important year in a child’s education and development.
I know, right! Third grade? Who knew?
Well, Mrs. Wright knew, but she teaches third grade so she doesn’t count. But it got me wondering… what am I missing about third grade?
Long story short, third grade is the beginning of when children stop learning to read, and start reading in order to learn. This is the year that children are expected to start using books to gather information and facts. If a child isn’t reading fluently by third grade, they may start to fall behind academically, as they aren’t able to comprehend what they are reading, nor keep up with the volume of reading necessary. Furthermore, as this article explains, a child who is struggling with reading in third grade may become frustrated and avoid reading, which further exacerbates the problem.
Reading progression in third grade is taken so seriously that many states, Florida included, have passed regulations that require a child to be held back in they aren’t reading at grade level by the end of the school year. This determination is largely made by a child’s performance on the FSA standardized test, which is administered in the public school system.
Now, I know this all sounds very dire and panic-inducing, but hopefully you know by now that if you’re looking for doom and gloom, I am not your girl. (Remember my last post was about JOY!) Let’s take some deep breaths and read on.
So, how does Island Prep handle third grade progression and assessment?
Island Prep utilizes a variety of metrics, including standardized testing, to assist in the students’ assessments. The difference is, the tests aren’t the be-all, end-all decision-maker for whether or not a child progresses.
I spoke with one mom who’s son was reading at a second grade level at the end of third grade. Instead of holding him back, the school looked at the child as a whole and saw how well he was performing in other areas. They were able to have him work with a reading specialist, he progressed with his class, and he is now reading exactly on track at a 4th grade level.
For some students things click later. I am glad that Island Prep teachers evaluate the whole child when deciding whether to promote them or not.Mother of a 4th Grade Student at Island Prep
It’s important to remember that each child is unique and has individual strengths and weaknesses. My oldest daughter is a huge bookworm, loves school, and absolutely can’t get her hands on enough books. My middle daughter, on the other hand, could not be more tight-lipped about school or learning. We had our parent/teacher conference and sat there wide-eyed listening to the teacher tell us how she is doing, because we honestly had no idea. She says she hates reading and Lord help you if you try to get her to practice a sight word or two. But you know what? They are each surrounded by a community of educators and administrators who accept and support their individual quirks and work with them right where they are. And that’s what matters.
So, are we all going to hold each others hands and confidently guide our children through third grade? You bet we are!
BUT… what do we do with children who refuse to read or say they hate it? Can we change their minds just a little? (Asking for a friend, of course…) Be sure to come back here next week because that is exactly what we’ll be exploring in the next post. See you then!
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