Third graders are roly-poly and rambunctious, and best of all, curious as all get out. 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 third grade. While it by no means covers every possible topic, we hope this list of gems will inspire you. Plus, 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 through.
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
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 third grade involves a lot of reading! Here are our favorite third grade books.
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! Here are our favorite creative teacher introduction ideas.
9. Start 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. Here are even more team-building games and activities.
10. Send home a classroom brochure
Third grade teacher Kendall R. shares, “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.”
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?), an interesting class question (What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?), sharing good news/bad news, and the Word of the Day. Here is a big list of morning meeting questions to take you through the year.
13. Plan an end-of-the-day check
Third grade teacher Natalie E. shares, “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.”
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 third grade means building SEL skills. Use these SEL read-alouds to talk about everything from kindness to courage to trying your best.
16. Teach growth mindset
Third graders can be perfectionists. Help them get in the mindset to try, grow, and change with these growth mindset activities.
17. Use the walls for anchor charts instead of premade posters
You can check out our top third grade anchor charts for inspiration here.
Ideas for Language Arts
18. Incorporate daily writing prompts
We’ve gathered a big list of third grade writing prompts that you can download and use to have your third graders practice their writing skills.
19. 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.
20. Have students write a letter to their future selves
Christina, a third-grade teacher on Long Island, describes a letter-writing assignment she’s given her 8-year-old students every year since she began teaching over 20 years ago.
21. 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 phonics activities.
22. Try a vocabulary activity. Or 15!
Use RAFTs, try Vocabulary Jeopardy, and more with these vocabulary activities.
23. Start students in literature circles
Third graders are ready to start discussing what they read in their own groups. Learn more about literature circles and how you can implement them in your class. Check out this list of books that are ideal for third grade literature circles.
24. Stock the shelves with graphic novels
Third grade is often the year that students discover Dogman, Captain Underpants, and other graphic novel characters. Inspire a love of storytelling in all its forms with our favorite graphic novels.
Ideas for Math
25. 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. Check out these fun activities for math facts practice.
26. 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 third grade.
27. Get graphing
Third graders are learning how to represent data in lots of ways. As you work through science projects, incorporate graphing in all its forms—pie, bar, line, dot. Check out this graphing lesson that you can use throughout the year.
28. Watch videos
It’s much more fun to teach multiplication and division when you’re watching a video. Check out this list of our favorite multiplication and division videos on YouTube.
29. Start math talk routines
Third graders benefit from hearing you talk through your thinking. Use a math talk routine, like this one from The Routty Math Teacher.
30. Teach the dreaded word problem
Try these word problem activities and strategies.
31. Play math games
Math doesn’t have to be boring! Make it fun with one of our third grade math games.
32. Use spare LEGO bricks
LEGO bricks aren’t just for building—you can use them for math too. Here are some of our favorite ideas for using LEGO bricks to teach math concepts.
Ideas for Science
33. Get hands-on with science
Science is the perfect subject for kids to get down and dirty. Try these third grade science projects for inspiration.
34. 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.
35. Teach the plant life cycle
The plant life cycle always makes 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 seeds themselves.
36. Teach electricity
It’s electrifyingly good fun! Shock them with these electricity science experiments!
37. Explore animal habitats
Ready to explore animal habitats around the world, from rain forests 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
38. 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).
39. Have students insert themselves into history
After reading biographies, have students create presentations that put themselves in history, like this idea from a third grade blogger.
40. Learn about heroes
41. Use online learning
There are some amazing websites out there for teaching social studies lessons. Check out our favorite social studies websites.
Ideas for Classroom Organization
42. Use an uncommon organizing method for the Common Core
Here’s an idea from Teaching in OZ. Create separately labeled folders for each standard, then file activities that align with each standard in the appropriate folders. Genius!
43. Put classroom-wide homework checks in place
Third grade might be the first time students have homework, so help them get organized and stay organized with a planner. And build good organization habits with a classroom routine to help students stay on top of their planners each morning and afternoon. Here are our favorite academic planners for students.
44. Try out new exit tickets
Know exactly what students have learned and where they need to go next with creative exit tickets.
45. Avoid nameless homework
Here’s an idea from Life Between Summers. When students highlight their names before handing in work, you’ll never receive a nameless paper again!
46. Organize your command central
Who can think straight when their workspace is utter chaos? Check out these hacks for keeping your teacher desk organized.
47. Get your classroom library in order
Make sure your third graders have easy access to loads of reading materials. These book bins will help you organize your fiction, nonfiction, biographies, graphic novels, and more.
48. Take good care of your anchor charts
Anchor charts are such an amazing resource for teaching third grade. When you create one that is truly a work of art, you want to make sure you keep it. Here are some awesome ways to organize and store your anchor charts.
Ideas for Classroom Management
49. 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.
50. Get the wiggles out
Even grown-ups can’t sit still and listen all day! Get your kids up and moving with these third grade brain breaks.
51. Invest time in teaching third grade students procedures and jobs
“Model and practice your classroom procedures,” recommends third grade teacher Pam W. “You’ll love how independent third graders can be!”
Third grade teacher Kristi H. adds, “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.”
Here’s a big list of unique classroom jobs to try.
52. Anticipate that third graders will call out
Here’s an idea that third grade teacher Jessica H. shared: “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.’”
53. 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,” says third grade teacher Kristi H.
54. Teach friendship skills
Third graders love their friends and always want more. Use these friendship videos to teach your third graders how to be a good friend, and how to get through sticky friend situations.
55. Have a policy for school supplies (we’re looking at you, mechanical pencils)
Third grade teacher Tefi C. shares, “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.”
56. Invest in fidgets
If you have students who fiddle with just about anything (and teaching third 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. Plus, check out more of our favorite fidget toy ideas.
57. 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 third grade blogger.
58. Model, model, and model some more
“Modeling and practice for sure,” says third grade teacher Cathy T. 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.
59. 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.
60. Build positive relationships with parents
61. Make sure you’re supporting your students with disabilities
It’s likely that some of your third graders will have accommodations or modifications that you’re in charge of. One way to make sure you’re providing students with their accommodations is to make a note of which accommodations they need by their name on a discussion or participation tracker. This will help you feel confident that you’re helping each student access learning, and it will allow you to contribute insights at the IEP meeting.
62. Work smarter, not harder
Why sweat it trying to reinvent the wheel? Check out these brilliant teacher hacks for everything from monitoring voice levels and color-coding your organizer to repurposing a spice rack for teaching supplies.
63. Stay inspired
The past few years in teaching have been tumultuous, to stay the least. We could all use a few words of encouragement. Bookmark this roundup of inspiring quotes about teaching to pull out on those days when you need to be reminded of just how important the work you do is.
What are your top tips for teaching third grade? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out this guide to the third grade classroom.