Curriculum Reviews

Our 3rd Grade Curriculum Picks

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3rd Grade Picks Pinterest

Reading

All About Reading – As I’ve shared with you before, my kids are dyslexic, so reading instruction is a very big deal at our house. Last winter, we were halfway through the 2nd level of All About Reading (AAR), but I felt like I needed to reach out for help because reading work was frustrating for all of us every day. That help that I sought out, brain training through the PACE program, has increased my kids’ phonemic awareness by leaps and bounds, so I believe that reading instruction in 3rd grade will go much more smoothly for that reason alone.

I’ve also learned where I went wrong with AAR. My super smart kids were tricking me with the flashcards. They were memorizing a mental picture of the flashcards rather than really learning automaticity in reading the word. This time around, I’m going to put very little stock in how many flashcards have been “mastered” when I’m considering whether to move on to a new lesson. I’ll also use a tick mark system with the flashcards. The kids will need to earn 4 tick marks on each card to get it moved into the mastered section. I’ll call it first, second, third and home bases to help increase motivation and interest in getting all of those tick marks.

Probably the biggest mistake I was making with AAR is that I wasn’t emphasizing fluency enough. Now, if my kids can’t easily run through a lesson’s fluency sheet, I know that they need more practice. If it takes us a month to get to that point with a lesson, I’m okay with that. Otherwise, we’ll be back to where we were, with me dragging them along.

I’ve agonized over choosing a reading program to take on when we’re finished with the PACE program, but I keep coming back to AAR. Barton and Toe by Toe are too boring. Other programs require completing expensive training to use the program. In the end, I believe AAR is still the best fit. I just need to change my level of patience.

Knowing that my kids may need weeks to master a lesson, I know that I’ll need to supplement the lessons, and I’ll likely need to throw in some additional readers to help develop that all-important goal of fluency. One resource I’m planning to use is…

Explode the Code – I’ll use the Explode the Code workbooks to provide extra practice as my kids work through the concepts in All About Reading. Certainly, the lessons in the two programs won’t go in the same order, but the table of contents in the workbooks will help me line things up.

Reading Team – Reading to shelter pets at our local Humane Society was a huge hit last year and went a long way for morale, so we’ll continue with the Reading Team volunteer program there this year. Read more about our experience with Reading Team here.

kittens

Spelling

Spelling You See – I love everything about Spelling You See: the copywork, the color-coded chunking, the repeated practice, and the dictation. It’s structured without being smothering, and it’s a pleasure to work away at it each day.

Grammar

While reading is still such a struggle, it would be silly and detrimental to pile on with rigorous grammar instruction. Instead, we’ll work on some basics in a couple of ways.

Mad LibsMad Libs are a fun addition to morning time, and kids don’t even care that they’re learning the parts of speech as they play. You can find more information about using Mad Libs in your homeschool here.

Copywork – I love copywork for helping kids develop writing fluency, but it also helps kids learn about writing conventions and sentence craft as they copy the work of master writers. After we’ve read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, we’ll use precepts from 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts, as well as beautiful sentences from other literature that we read together.

Science

Steve Spangler Science Club STEMlab Subscription – Hands-on experiments and activities are so important for elementary-aged kids. Unfortunately, I’m not the best at having the patience to round up ALL of the miscellaneous things we need to make those activities happen or at preparing ahead of time. This subscription box makes science practically open and go, which means that science is more likely to happen at our house. I read the instruction cards and pull what I need out of the box. The only thing I add are books from the library.

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Opening up our sound-themed box from Steve Spangler Science Club

Maker Club – My kids want to join a maker club or class, but the only problem with that is… there isn’t one around us to join. There’s only one solution here – I have to run the maker club. This summer I’ll be transforming a corner of our basement into a fab lab, with hopes that one day we’ll add some more advanced components like green screen and circuits. We’ve invited a few little friends to join us… Wish me luck!

Art

Artistic Pursuits – I like how each lesson in the Artistic Pursuits curriculum incorporates art history and art appreciation. My kids have been itching for more instruction in technique, so I’m really looking forward to a new line that Artistic Pursuits is debuting for this year that adds a DVD instruction element. I’m eagerly awaiting the copy I’ll have the pleasure of reviewing for Home School Life Magazine. I’ll be sure to post a few photos when I receive it.

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Some of our recent clay creations from Artistic Pursuits lessons

History

I’m in the thick of it right now with curating all of the resources I want to use as we learn about American History from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War. There are probably a hundred items on my lists right now. This summer I’ll share all of those resources with you and craft a post about how to DIY your own history curriculum. In the meantime, here are a few of the most important resources I’ll be using.

History Pockets (Revolutionary War, Moving West, Civil War) – I don’t completely follow the instructions for these books in that I don’t try to create the “pockets” to collect all of the activities. Rather, I pick and choose the activities that I think are most important or that will most appeal to my children.

 

 

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One of our History Pockets activities from the Pilgrims book

 

Interactive 3-D Maps: American History – My kids had a blast putting these maps together last year, and we’ll continue through the book this year.

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The Roanoke Map from 3-D Interactive Maps. The little ship sails across the ocean!

History Odyssey Timeline and Sticker Pack – I’ve decided that we need a timeline to help the kids get a better idea of the span of time that we’re studying, of where the figures and events in the story of humanity fit in with each other. The History Odyssey Timeline can fit into a notebook, but it can be spread out in sections to display on the wall, too. I like that flexibility. I also like the stickers (sold separately) that can be applied to the timeline as we go.

Math

Shiller – We’ve been using Shiller for the last couple of years, and this year we’ll be finishing up Kit 1 and the Fractions Kit. I love its multi-sensory Montessori approach, and its emphasis on manipulatives instead of endless worksheets has been a great fit for my kids.

Games – Nothing has helped my kids gain fact fluency as well as playing math-centric games. Two of our favorites are Sleeping Queens and 4-Way Countdown. I’ve got faith that this is the year that we really get rolling with Clumsy Thief in the Candy Shop, too.

Multiplication and Division Machines – We’re going to need lots of practice to get our multiplication and division facts memorized. These “machines” from Learning Resources offer a visual and kinesthetic way to help drill those facts.

Times Tales – Another tool we’ll use to master multiplication facts is the Times Tales DVD. It helps kids memorize with a visual narrative format. I’ve heard so many parents say that Times Tales is the thing that finally worked for their kids, so I’m hoping it will work some magic at our house, too.

Geography

Daily Geography – We used Daily Geography with success for the first half of second grade, but halfway through the year, my kids were weary of answering just two questions every morning. This year we’ll squeeze the whole week’s worth of questions into one Geography day.

JUMP GEO – I backed this kickstarter campaign in hopes that it will reach its goal and become a reality. It’s a twister-like game that helps kids learn the location of the states.
Update: The Kickstarter campaign didn’t fully fund, but have no fear. Sign up for updates on their website (jumpgeo.com) to get in on the launch (and to nab the early bird deal). 

JumpGeo

Handwriting

Copywork (see description under Grammar)

Zaner-Bloser Cursive – While we’ll primarily be using copywork to address handwriting this year, we do need to finish up the uppercase cursive letter pages in our Zaner-Bloser 2C book. If you haven’t started with cursive yet, here’s the link to the 3rd grade Zaner-Bloser cursive book:

Writing

Blank Books – No matter how many of these I buy at the beginning of the school year, our supply is always depleted by mid to late fall. My kids LOVE filling these up with their story ideas. I make sure to replenish their supply in their stockings at Christmas.

ELA Makerspace – Our STEAM makerspace will be in the basement, but I’m also planning to add some ELA, or English Language Arts, makerspace components to our schooling space. I’ll be sure to post some ELA maker projects this year.

Blank Comic Books – This year my daughter discovered and fell in love with Garfield, so I know that this twist on blank books is going to be loads of fun for her.

 

Do you have a 2nd grader? You can find my 2nd grade picks here.

Or maybe you have a 1st grader? You can read about what we used in 1st grade here.

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