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3th Grade Homework

Third grade social studies often emphasizes and teaches students about communities, both local and in the wider world, as well as citizenship, leaders and governments, and economic systems in different communities. As students learn, think about, and compare these aspects of different communities, they both learn more about the world around them as well as improve on their analysis, writing, and reading skills. Third graders have the ability to understand the greater communities beyond their own, as well as question and analyze the facts they learn, making social studies an ideal outlet for them to develop their critical thinking skills. Consult your child’s teacher to find out which specific communities and which specific aspects of the community will be covered.

In order to build social studies skills, your 3rd grader:

  • Learns about global and historical communities.
  • Learns about the connection between a culture and its environment.
  • Studies and uses maps to gain a deeper understanding of geography and how geography affects a community.
  • Learns about basic financial needs, such as how different communities support and sustain themselves.
  • Learns about how different communities govern themselves and their leaders.
  • Compares both the similarities and differences between different cultures with an emphasis on accepting and understanding why these differences exist.
  • Uses graphic organizers and charts to make comparisons between cultures and communities. 
  • Uses different media such as literature, art, writing, film, and museum visits to deepen her understanding of concepts and portray what she has learned.
  • Discusses American holidays and important days and events as they approach.

Social Studies Activities

  • Keep Up with Current Events: Read local newspapers, magazines, and websites with your child. Look at the pictures and talk about important events or news. Even if your child doesn’t read the articles, you can summarize the subjects for them. Magazines made just for kids, such as Scholastic News, are also great resources for learning current events.
  • Learn about Your Local Government: Visit your town hall and learn about your local leaders. Your child can write a letter or email to local government leaders. It is sometimes even possible to meet with them.
  • Form a Family Government: Assign different roles to family members, vote on family decisions or rules, or hold meetings to discuss decisions and issues that come up in the family.
  • Pick a Place: Have your child pick a place on the map she would like to learn about. Use the internet and/or books to learn more about the place and its community. Or ask someone you know who lives in a different place to send you pictures of and facts about that place. Then work together with your child to create a collage or magazine about that place using text and art.
  • Find a Pen-Pal: If you know of another child who lives somewhere else, coordinate with a parent to set your children up as pen-pals, using technology (under your supervision) when possible. Your child can use email, letters, and phone- and video calling to communicate. Have the children send pictures of their communities to each other.
  • Find the Historical Figures You Know: You and your child can talk with and interview an older family member or friend about an important or historical moment he/she experienced. This can be filmed or recorded, or you can even put together a poster or book of what you learned together.
  • Map It Out: When visiting a new place, look at a map and show your child your planned route and important locations on the map. When you are given a map somewhere (such as in an amusement park, department store, zoo, or museum), help your child read the map and let her lead the way. 
I am not sure how you like homework, but I was starting to despise it more and more as the years went on.

When I first began teaching, I assigned it dutifully every night, graded it all day and into the evening, only to have to do it all over again the next day. No Homework Days were more of a relief for me than for the kids, I think!

After getting settled into third grade, I have found myself assigning homework less and less. I feel that if it isn't purposeful, then why burden the parents and my students with it? The majority of my kids have massive amounts of after-school activities and to be honest, I have way less on my plate and all I want to do after a busy day at school is come home and relax. Shouldn't my 8 and 9 year olds be afforded that opportunity as well?

Ok, so that being my opinion, I still wanted a way to have kids and parents come together and work on "school stuff" in the evening. Parents are strong teachers and I wanted them to play an important and purposeful role in their child's learning.

Of course, I referred back to my favorite Whole Brain Teaching and came across their solution to my exact problem {sigh, I love them!} and it is called The Universal Homework Model, or as I have named it in my class, Star Homework.

I was inspired by Allison from A Whole Brain Teacher (and former WBT intern) and her version of UHM Homework:

If you have about 45 minutes, this professional development video from Chris Biffle, the founder of WBT, goes into great depth about the entire Universal Homework Model:


I have adjusted UHM to fit my needs and I am happy to say that both the kids and I are all much happier for it compared to our old system!

What is Star Homework?
Star Homework is a weekly bookmark that gets sent home with three activities for the kids to practice each night. Each activity earns them one star.
Click to enlarge
What does a student do to earn a star?
Simple, meaningful things that will benefit them in the long run and not cause any undue stress in the short run.
  1. Read for 20+ minutes= 1 Star
  2. Practice Xtra Math for 1+ round= 1 Star
  3. Practice Spelling Words & Independent Words= 1 Star
See? Simple and easy, and items that parents can help out with that won't make them or their kids want to tear their hair out :)

What happens the next day? Do they turn anything in?
At the very end of our Morning Meeting routine, I will have the students grab their bookmarks and tell me how many stars they earned, from 0-3. Any student who has 2 or 3 stars gets a short cheer from us :)

I tally all of these stars up on our Weekly Star Homework Graph and then the kids put their bookmarks back in their backpacks to complete that night.
Class rewards for a job well-done!
On Friday, we count up all of the stars we have earned for the week and, if they all did 2 or more stars for most of the days, then there is a high likelihood that there will be extra Free Choice minutes tacked on to Friday Choice Time!

We also will look to see if we met or beat the previous week's total. If we did, it's Sticker Time! My kids this year LOVE stickers, so this is a super fun, very easy, and inexpensive treat.

Class motivation during the week?
On Wednesday-ish, I will remind my class where we need to be by Friday to meet/exceed our goal and/or get extra choice time and I will ask if there are any volunteers who would be willing to be 3-Star Kids for the rest of the week to help us out. If they raise their hand, I will put their name on the board and we all cheer them and thank them for leading by example. It's a great motivator to get all of the kids willing to do more, which I'll take any day of the week!

What about Thursday's Response to Text homework?
Our spelling quizzes are on Thursday and kids don't get their new words until Friday, so on Thursday, I have included the option of writing a response to the book they have been reading all week. This can look like any of the following:
  • a summary of what they have read
  • questions, predictions, inferences, connections, etc.
  • a letter to me about the book
  • a letter to the author
  • comparing themselves to the character and writing about what they would have done in the story
  • writing a sequel/prequel
  • or anything else that suits the child's fancy! 
This Response to Text should be no longer than a page, but a bit longer than a few sentences. As long as there is substance, I am not too strict on length.It must be neatly written and turned in on Friday to receive a star. If it is messy, not substantive, or clearly not worth a star, then the child does not get one- Chris Biffle explains it so well in the video above- I am not doing that child any favors by accepting and rewarding messy, sloppy work with no effort put into it. It may feel crummy to tell them no, but it will motivate them to do better next week :)

So far this system is working out very well. Have any of you tried this type of homework plan?

**UPDATE** I have a new post with Star Homework downloads and personalized options. Check it out HERE!