Why 3rd Grade Plays a Critical Role in Your Child’s Long-Term Success

When you think of “transition” years, the first year of middle school and freshman year of high school may come to mind (and make your heart flutter a little).

But 3rd grade is a milestone year too!

Why is 3rd grade so important?

1) The focus shifts from learning to read, to reading to learn

So far in school, your child has spent a lot of time “decoding words” — sounding out words that are unfamiliar.

It takes a lot of brainpower for a child to figure out what a word actually says.

But in 3rd grade, teachers expect kids to decode words automatically.

Students have to quickly comprehend what they’re reading.

And reading comprehension is integrated into every subject — even things like math tests!

“If kids are still trying to decode words in 3rd grade, they don’t have enough brainpower left to comprehend what’s being read,” explains Ronda Arking, Director of Language Arts at Sylvan.

“Your child has to read text over and over again to understand it.”

This can place a big burden on kids for schoolwork and for taking tests.

Homework can take a lot longer and be more of a struggle because your child isn’t caught up to where he or she needs to be.

It’s important to make sure your child’s reading skills are on track.

2) 3rd grade gives you a peek into the future

It’s possible to predict (with surprising accuracy) which kids are going to struggle through the rest of their school careers and even drop out of high school based on their reading ability in 3rd grade.

A study shared through the American Educational Research Association says:

A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is 4x less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.

3) A pivotal year for writing is 3rd grade

The writing requirements in 3rd grade often catch parents off guard.

Kids are expected to write a lot more — including multi-paragraph essays.

The irony is, in many teachers don’t have enough time during the school day to teach the strategic writing process in detail.

The result?

Writing struggles can really become apparent in 3rd grade!

There’s a relationship between your child’s ability to read and his (or her) ability to write.

Children can’t write beyond the ability that they have for reading. This means that if kids are struggling with reading, then they will certainly struggle with writing multi-paragraph essays.

But even if your child IS a strong reader, your child may not have gotten the writing instruction he or she needs.

You may need to take proactive steps to supplement what’s being done in school.

4) In 3rd grade math, the focus changes to “automatic recall”

In 1st and 2nd grade, kids are encouraged to use their fingers and other counting strategies to add and multiply numbers.

But by 3rd grade, these calculations need to be automatic.

If kids are still using counting strategies to add and multiply single-digit numbers, they don’t have enough brainpower left over to solve complex problems.

If you child doesn’t know 2+2 is 4, he or she is not going to be able to solve 52+72.

“Think about learning to drive a car,” explains Judy Brown, Director of Mathematic Programs at Sylvan.

“You adjusted the seat, adjusted your mirrors, looked around, rechecked your mirrors. There were lots of things you did before you even started the car. And when you started driving, you were concentrating on everything you did.

“Now when you get in the car, it’s like being on autopilot. All of these things are automatic to you.

“Math facts have to become as automatic for children as driving is for us.”

 

Tips to help your child with the 3rd grade transition:

  • Practice math facts to strengthen your child’s memory any time you’re with your child, from car rides, to waiting at the doctor’s office. Your child should be able to automatically add single-digit numbers with sums up to 20 and multiply single-digit numbers by memory.
  • Make it fun. Look for “math fact” game apps for your smart phone, use flash cards or play board games that involve adding dice.
  • Encourage your child to read every day. If you have been reading to your child, change roles and have your child read to you.
  • Encourage your child to keep a daily journal. It can be as short and simple as answering: “What’s the best thing that happened to me today?” Journaling is a great way for kids to build confidence with writing.
  • Set a good example and model the behaviors you want from your teen. For example, turn off your electronic devices during dinner or family time, or whenever you’re trying to connect. Read a book or write a note or journal entry.
  • Make sure your child’s skills are on track. Don’t wait for parent-teacher conferences or report cards to discover your child has some skill gaps. It’s much easier to stay on pace with class, rather than chasing after the class to catch up. Request an assessment from your school, or get Sylvan’s insightful Academic Checkup. You’ll learn exactly how your child’s skills compare to national norms and where to focus your energy.
  • Explore supplemental resources to strengthen skills. Your options range from online skill-building games, to tutoring. Sylvan offers a variety of math, reading and writing programs to help children dramatically improve their skills and confidence. We love helping kids go from, “I hate writing,” to, “Maybe I’ll be a writer some day!” Reach out to your local Sylvan center here.
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