A collaborative web of support can
help students thrive as they meet
the new challenges of 3rd grade.
Kelsey Augst Felton
parents typically see this as just another surroundings, and routines. Although
and Patrick Akos
school year. Even education research
says little about the central shift that
they eagerly take on tasks where they
can be successful, they are sensitive to
At the beginning of each school year, elementary schools are filled with students excited about using that new backpack, happens between 2nd and 3rd grade. counseling tells us that the transition into 3rd grade provides a window of
criticism and shy away from risks (Arm-
Our experience in elementary school strong, 2007; Santrock, 2008).
Concurrently, the school context in
3rd grade shifts. At a time when stu-
opportunity during which schools need dents’ competence and confidence are
getting their favorite teacher, or seeing
to take both responsive and proactive
just emerging, the academic and social
their friends again. Most students look
measures to keep students on track for
demands increase exponentially. The
forward to starting the school year fresh, success.
curriculum moves away from basic
and they confidently expect to do well.
New 3rd grade students, however, tend Developmental and
reading instruction; students are now
expected to read independently to
to have a different attitude. Over and
learn core content in the subject areas.
over we hear, “I can’t believe I’ll have to Developmentally, most 3rd grade stu-
Students are also expected to write in
take the end-of-grade tests this year!”
Siblings, older students, and even
dents look forward to enjoying more
independence, acting and feeling more
a formalized format, develop strategies
to solve multistep problems, and take
teachers have been telling these students grown up, and making more friends.
standardized tests. These are all dra-
for many years about the realities of 3rd Their brain development has advanced matic changes in the career of a student.
grade and the pressure of standardized
to the point where they can begin
testing. Although most students express to learn the formal rules of reading,
excitement about beginning 3rd grade,
writing, and math. Yet these 7- and
they are also acutely aware that they will 8-year-olds still tend to feel anxiety
face greater challenges. Meanwhile, their when separated from familiar people,
Most important, these tasks are inter-
related; the abilities to read indepen-
dently and solve multistep problems are
important for success in standardized
testing. In addition, teachers expect stu-