In the third grade year students begin to emerge from the unified, dreamier world of the earlier grades. This brings a dawning realization of the world as separate from oneself and many things become differentiated that were previously experienced in a kind of wholeness. In first grade, the literature study is formed through imitation. In second grade, the children begin to work with their own sentences and words groups, and in third grade, they are becoming creators. They write not only through imitation, but also from their unique inner experiences and perspective. They create stories “in their own image”.
This creative power is encouraged in third grade by using Hebrew culture and story as the literature base. The year begins with the words of creation, “and God said, let there be light.” This marks a new way of perceiving and considering the world, which now will inspire our Language Arts curriculum. The sparse wording of this first part of our first literature block of the year creates space for deep imaginations. Already in the first weeks, we have begun to discuss these stories in a more individualized and philosophical way than we were able to do in previous years. For example, one student said, “I don’t think it was such a bad thing that Adam and Eve were thrown out of Paradise. I’m not unhappy here on earth!” A new ability to understand one’s own experience as separate from the world, yet immersed within it, can begin to be imagined and articulated. “Yeah! And we can still find paradise here in the gardens and the woods!”
While some third graders write prolifically and with excellent spelling, for others the skills of writing and reading are still emergent. Despite these varied levels of written language proficiency, each student participates in these deepening discussions at much the same level. Oscillating between this socially-oriented group work, to more individualized written work (from copying letters and words, to independent creative writing projects), each student develops writing at their own speed, but engages with the content on an elevated level.We work with the Hebrew stories to further develop reading, copying and writing skills begun in previous years. Poems and verses are spoken chorally and individually, developing pronunciation and articulation, while narrative skills are developed in daily oral retelling of the previous day’s story content. Reading is integrated into daily lessons, with paired reading, individual reading, and group reading. The beautiful sentence is a focus of this year: page orientation, color, letter size, and script type are developed as well as punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Editing drafts individually with a teacher and in a group helps develop composition fluidity, and spelling is systematically practiced through word families, similarities, and letter combinations. Parts of speech are consciously named and drawn out of previously unconsciously experienced grammar lessons of first and second grades. This separation and naming of the world and its parts—where students begin to create understanding for themselves—is initiated in our literature study, and practiced throughout the year.