Category Archives: Grade 3

Reading and Inquiry

One of my professional goals this year is to effectively implement the resource First Steps into the programme of inquiry.  I think it is a great resource, but, as I discussed in my appraisal meeting the other day, I think it would be easy to pay lip service to reading in a busy programme, and not use the resource to it’s potential.

So, this last few weeks I have tried the following…

At the moment our unit of inquiry is Where We Are in Place and Time, with the central idea: Present civilisations are built upon the experiences of civilisations from the past.

The reading strategies we are focusing on are skimming and scanning, and previously we looked at self-questioning.

As we started a guided inquiry into Ancient Greece, I modelled skimming.  On the smartboard (SB) I had pages taken from a non-fiction text about Ancient Greece.  I looked quickly through the pages, thinking out loud as I went, and looked at the headings to find out what parts of Ancient Greece I could learn about.  Still on the SB then brainstormed the aspects of Ancient Greece.  I then gave the children a brainstorming pages, and a number of books on Ancient Greece.  The books had a wide variety of information, and since I have children with reading ages varying between 5 -12 years, the texts were varied in their difficulty.  The children then practiced skimming through the pages.  Some of the children worked independently, while others went through the process with me in a small group.

At this point, the children highlighted 1-3 aspects they wanted to research further.  (I guided some more or less able children to choose 1 or 3 so as to extend or not overburden them).

My next step was to go back to the SB.  The children helped me brainstorm specific questions I could ask about my chosen aspect (clothing).  We came up with several options, discussing whether they were too big to cover, or too closed to be useful.  Finally we decided my questions would be “What clothing did men and women each wear in Ancient Greece? And how are these the same or different to modern clothing?”

From here, the children brainstormed questions for their own Greek inquiry.  They critiqued each others questions, looking for open ended, specific questions.

This post is getting long now, so I will tell you about how we included scanning… next time. 😉

In the meantime, do you have any thoughts about how you have meaningfully integrated reading, and reading strategies into your classroom?



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Filed under Grade 3, Language, Where we are in place and time

Trans-disciplinary Skills Development

The International Baccalaurate defines the five essential elements of the Primary Years Programme as:

  • knowledge
  • skills
  • concepts
  • attitudes
  • action

Every unit of inquiry addresses those elements, as well as the Learner Profile attributes. When it comes to those, attitudes and skills, meaningful links can be made.

But this post is focusing on transdisciplinary skills development and what this could look like.

In Grade 3 we are focusing on Research and Thinking Skills. The skill I want to write about is the skills to formulate questions, which is essential for so many things, but in this case for research and inquiry.

This is how we are asking and formulating questions:

  • Wallwisher – the students can post questions at all times on the computer OR on the real-life WonderWall (they have been advising each other on how to make the questions “better”)
  • Thinking Aloud Reading Strategies – During shared reading, we stop and share our wondering
  • Stop and Think Reading Strategies (those also address the development of thinking skills esp. comprehension) – Again a strategy where we can formulate questions to help with understanding
  • The Big 6 information and technology skill development approach helped us to formulate our task and to focus on questions we should know answers to as experts in a particular field

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Filed under Grade 3, Language, Learner Profile, PYP, PYP Essential Elements, Skills

Inquiring into Language

As part of our unit of inquiry The Changing Planet (Humans respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the earth) we are also exploring the language focus To explain.

The pre-assessment was a short, written task, where students had to explain their favorite game (after talking about what it means to explain something!). Yesterday the class was using our information literature for the unit of inquiry, not to look at content, but to look further at language.

Equipped with the prompts

– What is the purpose of the text?

– How is it written? (Now I think I should have linked more to the concept FORM here and probably asked What is it like? We did this during the lesson though)

– What words/language are being used?

– What else did you notice?

… the students went off in groups to explore the texts.

The initial plan was to have all of the groups look at all these aspects, but I rectified that during the lesson, as I asked each group to focus on one.

When we got back together, the answers were phenomenal, and provided us with the key features of explanation texts.

Today we will use our findings to self-assess the pre-assessment.

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Filed under Grade 3, Language

Reflections on Maths

Wow, you can tell it is the holidays because I have had time to do two posts in one day. 🙂

Last week, the children put together their final presentations on place value.

The task:  In groups of 3-4 the children were to put together a presentation to explain the aspects of place-value.  These were the lines of inquiry: The base-ten number system; numbers up to 100,000; multiplying and dividing numbers by 10, 100, 1000; rounding to 10, 100 and 1000.

So, the positives:

The children were completely engaged.  They used iPhoto, iMovie, Smartboards, posters, blocks, place-value boards, place-value blocks and so on.  They worked cooperatively and presented their ideas in a variety of ways.

The negatives:

With so much scope on how they could present their learning the children’s focus shifted from presenting their learning to the presentation itself.  As a result, the children did not present full information, even though during lessons they were able to clearly explain and demonstrate conceptual understanding.

Final thoughts:

It is fortunate that I keep detailed formative assessment notes during the unit.  Next time, I will limit the scope of the assessment to help the children focus on the learning instead of the cool ways of presenting it.

Any thoughts to contribute?


Filed under Grade 3, Mathematics


Grade 3 at ISM responded to change today.
As I outlined in my previous post, the class moved from their classroom to the Design & Technology room today (also called the packed lunch room, which, in all honesty, might not have been a smart idea… the smell of food after lunch is a bit yucky!).

In the morning the learners (I don’t like the work students and I don’t think of the kids as “students” in the traditional sense either, so I am trying to use the term learners instead) were greeted by a message on their classroom door saying “Grade Three are in the DT room today”. That message caused confusion, because the room is not well known by its official name, and is usually referred to as the lunch room. However, I did stay in front of the room down the corridor, so I was able to direct those confused minds.

The questions came in right away. Why are we here? What are we doing here? Are we having lunch here? and so on… It was really hard not to say anything. I want to the students to have the experience before I make it explicit.
The chatting was hard to control in the morning, so I used the opportunity to continue talking… but about why we think we are here. There were some interesting thoughts, but I didn’t give a reason in the end. We are just in there.

I didn’t move anything much from the classroom, only pencils, their new reflective journals, and some books. To change their shoes, learners walked back to class. They did this 4 times today. To get materials for Math, they walked back to the classroom. This is in line with what I expected.

The learnerss responded in different ways…. there was confusion and more talk than usual, there was playing around with stuff from the DT room that they had never seen/used before. There was a lot of walking back and forth. Some frustration.

I am curious to see what will happen. It was business as usual though, we continued our normal class life.
At home, the students will tell their parents about today, and then complete some reflection…. I will do the same here.

1) What was different today. How and why?

I think I have already covered that up there!

2) One thing you found challenging in the DT room: I thought it was hard to find good ways to work in a room that is meant for something completely different. I missed my setup in class.

3) One thing you enjoyed in the DT room: I loved the way the students were so intrigued. I think this is a good provocation, so lets hope it will continue to develop…. as we continue to respond and start to adapt.


Filed under Concepts, Grade 3, How the world works, Learner Profile, PYP

Good provocations

Grade 3 at ISM have started their new unit of inquiry, The Changing Planet, on Saturday (we had an Open Day with regular schedule). The central idea is: Humans respond and adapt to the continual changing nature of the Earth, and this is an inquiry into How The World Works.

The big idea we identified is change, and a concept that relate to this well is adaptation.

As a provocation we tried to choose something that was close to the students, something that they could connect with. For my grade, this will be an experience that will require them to respond and hopefully adapt as the week progresses.
Grade 3 will be moving today! It’s a huge change, because we are moving from our well-set up classroom to the D&T room, with different setups and tables…

I am excited to see what will happen, what we will think, how we will respond. The students are going to keep a reflective log on it, and I might do the same on here.

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Filed under Concepts, Grade 3, How the world works, PYP, Unit of Inquiry

Inquiry and Assessment in Maths

Well, it has been very quiet from Southbank for a wee while.  Working in a fantastic school with outstanding colleagues is making me raise my game – which I love, but has come at the expense of some of the other things I love to do.  But here I am…

My partner and I, over the last 6 weeks, have worked very hard to provide the children lots of opportunities to inquire into place value.  Inquiry in maths is an area that is new to me, and if I am honest, I have struggled.  Structuring learning experiences in such as way as to facilitate the children asking their own questions and then inquiring into them is something new and difficult for me.

The steps I have taken on my learning journey have been to provide investigations.  I have given the children a variety of open-ended tasks requiring them to look at the numbers, patterns and changes to these number patterns, and then draw conclusions about what has happened. For example, the children took calculators, place value block, place value boards and their own “tickers” (similar to an odometre made of paper and card), and multiplied a number by 10, 100 and 1000 to see what happened.    As an aside, using the key concept “thinking keys”, particularly form, change and reflection, have been very useful with this unit.  (For more information on the thinking keys check out  Once the children, individually and in small groups, had come up with idea on what they thought had happened, they worked closely in collaborative groups to make a consensus page.  Here they recorded their own thinking and then had to present their findings to their group, possibly even persuading others, and then as a group they had to decided what they would like to present to the class, then finally model and “teach” their theory to the whole class.  This is only one example of the investigations the children have carried out.  Though I am sure this is far from perfect, I have loved watching the children develop their skills, knowledge and conceptual understanding in place value.

So now, the children are working towards their final assessment.  My partner and I agonized over this – we didn’t want a random, meaningless test, but with so much else going on we needed it to be efficient, both in time and content.  What we finally decided was the the children, working in groups of 3, will put together a presentation for the rest of the grade 3 children.  We will film it – which makes their e-portfolio sample easy – and the children in the audience will provide feedback and feed-forward on the mathematical contents of the presentation.

This has been a steep learning curve for me, I can tell you.  What are you doing in maths? How do you think we, as teachers, can facilitate more inquiry in our maths time?


Filed under Concepts, Grade 3, Mathematics