My youngest is currently in the third grade. I don’t remember much about the third grade. After all, it was a long time ago. But I do remember the basics: My teachers’ name was Mrs. Kenny, my bff was Sharon McLaughlin and we had to square-dance with boys in gym class.
My 3rd grade class, c.1981
I also remember that we did not have to craft a book report on a t-shirt, a coffee can, or a cardboard snowman — like my third grader has to do. To be honest, I’m not even sure we had book reports in the third grade, but if we did, we wrote them. Not crafted them.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to explain … Each marking period, every student in my son’s third grade class has to read a book of his/her choosing from the teacher-assigned genre and complete a book report project. Each project has a theme and must include certain information (such as: title/author, characters/settings, problem/solution, etc.). The project theme is the vehicle in which the report is presented.
The first report had to be presented as a poster board. Easy enough. We had an extra piece of poster board and plenty of markers, so this one was a snap.
The second report had to be presented in the shape of a snowman, made from cardboard and decorated with felt, buttons and pipe cleaners. A bit more complicated because cutting circles out of cardboard and getting them to stick together (at least long enough to make it from the house to the bus to the classroom) required some parental assistance, but still not terrible.
The third report had to be depicted on a t-shirt, complete with drawings and other embellishments. This is where the wheels fell off in our house. Finding a plain, white t-shirt was challenging. Finding a second one because my 8-year-old didn’t listen when I told him to put a piece of cardboard between the front and back to prevent the markers from bleeding through to the other side was not only challenging, but also frustrating and annoying. Let’s just say there was some yelling and some crying with this one.
The fourth report hasn’t been assigned yet, but if it’s anything like three years ago when my older son was in this class, it’ll be a coffee can character. That one nearly killed me. I don’t drink coffee, so just finding a coffee can to use was problematic enough to result in some choice words on my part and some tears on my son’s.
Hideous, but happy … and done all by himself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that third graders are assigned book reports. I love that they have to read from four different genres and I love that they have to give oral presentations. What I don’t love is that these reports are more an exercise in arts and crafts than in reading comprehension and writing.
Maybe it’s because I prefer independent work … Despite having finished elementary school years ago, these assignments generally require parental supervision, if not involvement. I feel like I’m the one being graded!
Maybe it’s because I’m not crafty enough … You can clearly see which kids had help from a Pintrest-inspired parent and which did not. I consider myself somewhat creative, but not exactly crafty.
Or maybe it’s because I’m biased … As a freelance writer and the daughter of a former English teacher, I think our school focuses too much on math and not enough on language arts. Making a list of character names and stating the story’s conflict and resolution in a two-sentence paragraph isn’t writing.
Needless to say, I am not enjoying third grade. Between these new “book report” projects and the crazy Singapore math homework that often makes me feel like an uneducated moron, third grade really stinks. Thank goodness it’s almost over … How many more days until summer vacation?