Grade Three

Developmental Picture of the Child

In Grade Three the children go through a natural process of profound neurological and psychological shifts, coming to experience a new sense of self. In Waldorf education we recognize this stage of self-discovery as the “nine-year change.”
New capacities for thinking and judgment are emerging. The young child’s experience of the unity of all things matures into an awareness of a distinctly separate inner life. They are excited about the wonderful world they see with new eyes, but an accompanying uncertainty about their abilities and wistfulness for the security of the past creates inner turmoil. Strong opinions can lead them to being critical of everything and trying out their new independence through defiance.

“Waldorf education enables young people to be in love with the world as the world should be loved.”

Marjorie Spock
Teaching as a Lively Art

How the Curriculum Meets the Grade Three Student

The stories curriculum covers ancient Hebrew stories which serves as an appropriate metaphor for the child’s inner experience. The children understand on an imaginative level what it is to leave paradise, step into the real world, and begin to stand on their own feet. The stories of Noah, Moses, David, and others speak of great individual trials, and provide students with strong role models who show courage and perseverance.

Practical experiences like building, farming, and gardening ground the children in their home surroundings and are often accompanied by stories of the First Nations and stories about the life of the pioneers. Through this story material, students engage with foundational language arts work including writing, grammar skills, and independent reading.

Pedagogical Overview
Grade Three is ruled by emotions through and through, but also brings to the students many opportunities to overcome their fears, to gain confidence, and to put their foot firmly on the earth. New friendships form and are broken and formed again. There is a lot of space to compromise, to recognize one’s boundaries, and with that to learn respect for the boundaries of the other.

Grade Three children have lost some of the breezy confidence as they gradually awaken to the realization that the magical time of earlier childhood is coming to an end. They are excited about the rich wonderful world they see with new eyes, but an accompanying uncertainty about their abilities and wistfulness for the security of the past creates inner turmoil. They may try out their new independence through defiance. This inner soul mood is met with the stories of the Hebrew people, beginning with Adam and Eve being driven from Paradise. The stories of Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, and many others speak of great individual trials, always supported by divine order and guidance.

Creation stories from a variety of traditions, grounding hands-on activities, and learning about various ways of living of people around the world help the students to find their standpoint, teaching them self-trust and responsibility for their own decisions; these stories also accompany them on the path of acquiring knowledge through hard work, preparing the ground for the upcoming years of learning.

Through the lens of the stories told by Indigenous people (first of all, Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabek), the children are introduced to the concept of stewardship of the land and the human role in the weaving of the web of life in collaboration with all other living beings. They learn about building shelters in diverse landscapes, finding and preparing food, and making clothes out of materials that nature provides.

Practical activities such as food preparation, gardening and farming, crafting and building stay on the list of favourites all year round and help to anchor the students in the physical world. This allows them to experience themselves as capable human beings and provides opportunities to apply their skills to practical purposes (e.g. weighing or measuring volume for baking, measuring boards for building, or helping each other when two hands are just not enough). When the whole group is given opportunities to work together on such activities, the feeling of separateness is transformed into responsibility for the whole and the value of the community.

Nature studies gain a more central role: Through the lens of Indigenous People’s teachings as well as during the farming block, the children learn about the reciprocal relationship between the environment and human beings. They learn to witness and appreciate the fragile balance of growing and decaying forces in nature and recognize opportunities to become caring and responsible stewards of our landscape.

Morning Exercises
Rhythmical movement activities, as well as recorder practice, singing, and choral recitation at the beginning of the lesson, continue to provide an opportunity for the class to come together as a group, tune-up for the day, and co-regulate. Crossing movement patterns – often a key part of folk dances and clapping games – serve to strengthen the integration of the brain hemispheres.
Language Arts
In Grade Three, students cover all commonly used spelling patterns, leaving exceptions for future years, when we will be able to connect them to their etymology. They continue to write about the material covered in their morning lesson blocks, beginning to make their own sentences or following the teacher’s guidance.

By the end of the year, they move from less structured to more restricted forms of composition, and the students work on expressiveness through enriching vocabulary and extending sentences, using their knowledge of parts of speech. In handwriting, the emphasis continues to be on effectiveness (legible writing, writing endurance) and cursive writing.

Grammar is formally introduced this year; it provides another grounding experience for the students in order to awaken their awareness of the structures inherent in our language (and our thinking). The children acquaint themselves with parts of speech and begin to look at the structure of a sentence as well as the different roles of punctuation and capitalization.

In addition to reading the teacher’s writing on the board, the students strengthen their reading skills specifically in reading circles or the whole group, using class readers, as well as through Reader’s Theatre.

Class Play
The focus of this year’s class play is on clear speech and confident stage presence. The students work very devotedly on these skills and often perform beyond the most optimistic expectations. In the end, everybody is able to go beyond the individual challenge they face, whether it is stage fright, perfectionism, or initial disappointment with an assigned role. The children learn to work as a team, support each other, and experience what they can accomplish together.

The big topics of the Grade Three year are vertical addition and subtraction; the four processes and times tables continue to be worked with in mental math as well as written math problems.

Measurement, a topic which more obviously bridges practical life and arithmetic skills is approached through stories and hands-on activities, such as using the human body to provide units of linear measurement (as was historically the case), before moving on to the standard measurements used today. Mental math continues to play an important part in our morning exercises, focusing on strengthening number sense, estimating results, developing flexibility of thinking, and becoming comfortable with using a variety of strategies.

Secondary Languages
In Grade Three, the main goal of teaching French is for the students to slowly transition from an experience of immersion to a more conscious understanding and use of the language. The class is still conducted primarily in French, but the students become more actively involved through oral work and individual participation. The children review and expand on vocabulary from the topics of the body, clothing, the weather, animals, and nature. This year’s topics include weekdays and months, the classroom, the market, everyday activities, and meals. Most of the active speaking in Grade Three is based on the imitation of phrases, verses, songs, stories, and dialogues, illustrated through gestures and drawing. The children may have the opportunity to perform a little play for the school community.
Visual Arts
Many of the themes for painting lessons come from the content of the Main Lessons. Students explore the colours of creation through Creation stories and they paint dwellings and landscapes from different lands when they journey around the world. In drawing, the children learn new techniques as they continue to illustrate their main lesson books. Drawings that are guided by the children’s own feelings rather than by teacher instruction become more important.

Form Drawing
Letting the children complete the final half of a symmetrical form is a way for them to develop their inner perceptions, to make perfect something as yet incomplete. The students practise drawings around a vertical central axis mirroring curves and straight lines, drawings with a horizontal axis, running and rhythmical forms, as well as drawings around a diagonal axis. By drawing the lemniscate, they experience a pleasing and harmonious rhythm that comes about in the flow of the movement. When practised, the drawings can bring calm and order while also being stimulating.

Practical Arts
Practical Arts class is a highlight of Grade Three. Around their ninth year, the children more than ever need to ground themselves with hands-on activities. Through these, they gain confidence and self-esteem and anchor themselves into the earthly world. During the course of the year we cook, spin, weave, sew, measure, and build. The students learn to share and take turns, delegate and take on parts of work, and work overall as a team. Everybody increases their stamina for physical work and discovers in themself perseverance and will which they were not aware of before. By the end of the year, the class accomplishes a building project they all can be proud of.

In Grade Three, the main focus is on a meaningful connection to the practical world. The emphasis is put on the functionality and beauty of the product as a measure of the quality of good work, leading to satisfaction with producing a harmonious piece of work. The projects are targeted to support the continuous growth of will, perseverance, thinking, spatial perception, and aesthetic feeling.

The children work on a fitted hat using a stockinette stitch. Some children make a scarf, as a simplified version of the project, to give them an opportunity to take their project to a successful completion. After making a gauge piece, the students calculate the proper number of stitches to use for the size of each hat. With often 70+ stitches in a row, the children are truly encouraged to grow in stamina and perseverance. They reinforce skills learned in previous years and are guided to follow a written pattern to shape the hat. Some children add a second project – typically a crochet seat pad, ora potholder. For the crochet project, the students learn a double crochet stitch and new shaping techniques to form a square. The technique encourages attention to detail, coupled with an increasing sense of responsibility for the results. The students continue growing their soulful sensibility to colour.

The focus of Crafts in the lower grades is on teaching basic skills to the level at which the children will apply them naturally. Most of the projects are short, and the techniques are repetitive. Building on the skills developed in Grades One and Two, the Grade Three Crafts curriculum provides opportunities for the students to further refine their fine motor skills, the ability to follow instructions, spatial and colour perception, sequential thinking, and delayed gratification. Most of the projects are inspired by nature, seasonal festivals, work with natural fibres, paper, and work with clay. The students further develop their cutting, sewing, weaving, and decorating skills.

Last year, the students were able to settle down on a piece of land and understand the concept of taking care of a specific area. The relationship with the land that started to form in Grade Two further develops this year through stories, activities, and field trips. Like the farmers of long ago, the students sow grains and plant vegetables (often the Three Sisters). Their crops may face difficult weather conditions, but planting different types of crops will safeguard a harvest. This is a valuable experience for Grade Three students.

Musical Arts
The music curriculum in Grade Three includes singing, recorder, and musical notation. Ukulele may also be introduced. In singing, the focus is still on singing in unison, but in the second half of the year, foundations for singing in parts are laid through simple rounds and ostinato songs. On the recorder, students solidify and expand the work on fingering, breathing, and tone which was started in Grades One and Two. The children are now comfortable with songs in different keys (C, G, and F major), and we even venture into the second octave of the recorder. In the Winter term, the students may acquaint themselves with ukuleles, playing simple chords (C, G, F) and songs based on them. The students are introduced to musical notation.
Through structured games, the capacities of patience, listening, proprioception, and a sense of boundaries, fairness, and sportsmanship continue to develop. This class focuses on the joy of play and its benefits, particularly related to working with a large group of peers. Games class makes children aware of their bodies in space and gives them the opportunity to develop their gross and fine motor skills. Resilience, cooperation, spatial awareness, teamwork, and the joy of childhood are just a few gems we polish along the way.