Dear Third Grade Families,

Happy February! We are moving right along in third grade as we finish some exciting units of study and look ahead to some upcoming challenges. In reading, we are concluding our character study book clubs by discussing the lessons our characters have learned across the series and how our characters have changed. In writing, we are excited to be publishing our literary essays, and we are tackling comparing two texts in a single literary essay. In math, we continue to practice our multiplication fast facts, but we are also launching a new division unit that explores the many strategies for division and reasons for using them. In social studies, we’ve concluded our study of New Orleans and are now excitedly studying Brazil by rotating through centers and making observations and inferences. We’ve been busy!

As you know, the New York State tests are coming up. The dates for the tests are:

ELA (English Language Arts) Test: Tuesday, March 28 – Thursday, March 30

Math Test: Tuesday, May 2 – Thursday, May 4.

We wanted to let you know how we are preparing the third graders for their first foray into taking state tests. We often field questions about how parents can support their third graders at home, and this blog post will hopefully provide some guidance for that.

Test Preparation In-School

This week, we gave students their first experience with taking the state ELA test by administering a practice test under conditions similar to the actual testing experience. This answered a lot of the kids’ questions about what taking the test will look and feel like, and the students agreed after it was finished that it was challenging, sometimes boring, but not as intimidating as they had expected it to be. We are now analyzing the data we collected through the practice test to determine the students’ individual strengths and areas for growth, and we’ll let you know all about that at parent teacher conferences in March. We’ll be administering the practice math assessment during the week of February 6th to collect similar data for the state math test.

We’ll be beginning our in-class preparations for the ELA test soon. Based on the data we collect, we will involve the third graders in daily work to tackle specific test taking skills and learning standards to help them feel prepared and confident for the real test in March. Students will learn what types of questions to expect, how best to closely read a passage and plan their responses, and how to analyze responses to ensure they meet all the criteria expected of a solid answer. Students will also meet in small groups and partnerships to target their individualized learning needs.

Our class is using the Finish Line New York ELA books as a resource for practicing and building skills. These books will stay in the classroom for the most part, but students will sometimes bring home sections torn from the book to complete for homework or worksheets and other photocopied practice pages. We’ll be using the Finish Line math books similarly, but those won’t be used until much closer to the math test in May.

At home you can support your child by:


  • Reducing stress around the test.
  • Ensuring that they do homework assignments thoughtfully.
  • Helping them come up with a special “mantra” to say to themselves during the test if they feel overwhelmed, tired, etc.
  • Not overwhelming children with “extra” work.
  • Make sure they get good sleep and eat a healthy breakfast on testing days.


We understand this can be a stressful time for third graders (and parents) who have never experienced state tests before.  Please keep in mind that our biggest goal is to support the students in feeling prepared, relaxed, and confident, not anxious or overwhelmed. It’s a new learning experience for them, but it shouldn’t be an upsetting one!


Laura and Kevin