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Instructional Unit Samples - 3rd Grade

Over the fall/winter of 2013-14, the content specialists in the Standards and Instructional Support office worked with educators across the state of Colorado to build instructional units based on select curriculum overview samples. Teams of teachers authored units for each grade and content area of the Colorado Academic Standards.

Below, are sample instructional units for 3rd grade mathematics, reading, writing, and communicating, science, social studies, comprehensive health, visual arts, drama/theatre, dance, and music. The units include learning experiences, teacher and student resources, assessment ideas, and differentiation options.

As examples, these units are intended to provide support for teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students. Click here to view additional 3rd grade curriculum overview samples and write your own instructional units using the Colorado based template.

Comprehensive Health

Unit Title: Communication Works for Everyone (Del Norte School District)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit addresses positive communication skills as it relates to personal needs, boundaries, and pro-social behavior in order to establish healthy relationships.  Through the examination of effective communication skills students will investigate the importance of positive decision-making in order to enhance elements of healthy relationships such as advocacy, cooperation, consideration and respect.  Across the unit students will explore boundary setting, verbal and non-verbal communication strategies and definitions/attributes of sportsmanship.




Unit Title: Movements Inspired by Famous Choreographers (Adams-Arapahoe School District and Colorado Ballet) 

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit will explore movement inspired by famous choreographers.   Across the unit students will focus on Hip Hop, Bollywood, and Contemporary styles of dance and will compare and contrast dance works created in each style. Students will be able to articulate the importance of choreography and explore improvisation to create original movement. The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to prepare an audition piece inspired by famous choreographers for the class.  



Drama and Theatre Arts

Unit Title: Page to Stage Story Adaptation (Academy 20 School District and Frontier Academy)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit explores the ways that theatre can be used to share folk tales.  Across the unit, students will explore the ways plays can be used to tell a story in a meaningful way and express the story’s essential elements including plot and character traits. Students will explore the rehearsal process used to prepare the ensemble for performance.  Students are coached to collaborate to develop a quality artistic product, think critically about their artistic choices, and perform a variety of fables while exploring basic technical elements of a production. This unit culminates in a dramatic folktale performance for their peers.




Unit Title: Multiply, Divide & Conquer (Plateau Valley School District) 

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit focuses on an introduction to multiplication and division concepts.  The students begin with exploring items that come in equal groups and the connections between how equal groups, repeated addition, and skip counting relate to multiplication.  Students explore multiplication and find factors in a geometric context through the construction of rectangular arrays and use these skills to problem solve.  Students then use arrays and number strings to demonstrate their understanding of the Associative and Distributive properties of multiplication.  The culmination of this unit explores patterns in the multiplication chart in order to build fluency of multiplication facts by the end of third grade.




Unit Title: Music All Around Us (Boulder Valley School District and Metro State University of Denver)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: In this unit, students will compare and contrast music of diverse cultures, using the musical concepts of dynamics (loudness and quietness of music), tempo (speed of music), articulation (way music is played) and form (structure and patterns in the music). Students will explore the role and traditions of the music within the culture, and the origins of (cultural) forms of music. They will also examine how music in a culture has changed/transformed or stayed consistent over time. The culminating project will include a group performance of (community-based) culturally diverse music and individual or small group original projects such as artwork, a song, an instrument, descriptive writing, drama or dance.


Unit Title: Let's Make Musical Sounds (Adams-Arapahoe School District, Pueblo County School District, Boulder Valley School District, Thompson School District, and Metro State University of Denver)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit explores the different ways we make music. In this unit, students will investigate various instruments and how/why they work. Students will also analyze effective communication through music. Using familiar songs throughout, the unit will have students investigating musical structures and ways to modify traditional or well-known arrangements. The unit culminates in a student performance demonstrating student understanding of the structure and function of music through performance, using appropriate musical terminology.



Physical Education

Unit Title: Fitness (Mesa County Valley School District)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit encompasses a variety of topics related to heart health.  The focus is on introducing the students to personal goal setting, pacing, the F.I.T.T. principle, lifestyle habits and their effects on the heart, and cardiovascular fitness.  Through heart healthy activities, students will learn lifelong skills such as anatomy of the heart, finding their heart rate, and developing a fitness plan.  This unit culminates with students designing a workout to demonstrate in front of a small group of peers.



Reading, Writing, and Communicating

Unit Title: What Would Happen If...? (Garfield RE-2 School District)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: In this unit, students will study how cause and effect relationships are present in different types of texts in order to understand the relationships between concepts, ideas, and actions.  Students will use cause and effect vocabulary to explain causal relationships.  In addition, students will study texts that explore and explain the cause and effect issues of animal relocation (moose, lynx and wolves), and use discussion and writing to demonstrate their understanding of these relationships.  This unit culminates in students producing either a text that explains cause-effect relationships or in a problem-solution persuasive piece. 




Unit Title: Earth Materials and Rock Cycles (Holyoke School District and Julesburg School District)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit focuses on the factors that cause continual change of the Earth surface and the features that can change suddenly because of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, or slowly because of weathering and erosion.  Some of Earth’s resources include minerals, rocks (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic), and soil.  The unit includes the rock cycle and how rocks transform due to the effects of changes in pressure and temperature. . Beginning with the layers of the Earth, across the unit students investigate physical features of the Earth’s surface, different types of rocks, components and the formation of soil, minerals, resources, and weathering.  The unit culminates in a performance assessment that asks students to captures images of Colorado landscapes that document how the earth is continually changing (Glaciers, landslides, floods, earthquakes, river formation, holes in rocks, cliffs, canyons, rocky mountains, plains, sand dunes, etc.).



Social Studies

Unit Title: Pieces of the Puzzle-What Can You Learn from Each Other? (Cherry Creek School District)

                   Includes Personal Financial Literacy

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF) | Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit includes and emphasis on Personal Financial Literacy. Students are introduced to the concept of the interdependent relationship between producers and consumers and their impact on the economic success of a community.  Students will explore how a local economy functions, including the roles of producers, consumers, businesses, and the local government.  In addition, students will identify ways in which taxes are collected and distributed within the community to provide infrastructure, goods, and services to support the people of the community.  Students will also identify different sources of income and the opportunities those provide when making choices about spending money (entrepreneurial, philanthropic, etc.). The unit culminates with students proposing a business plan that includes background information about the business, a marketing plan, and the impact it will have on the economic success of the community.


Unit Title: State Your Claim: How Do We Gather and Use Evidence to Support A Decision? (University of Colorado at Boulder pre-service elementary teachers)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This unit centers on personal and community-based economic decision-making. It begins with a focus on students’ individual economic decisions and moves into considerations of the ways in which communities negotiate conflict around economic issues; considering how diverse perspectives contribute to the discussion and resolution of financial decisions.  During the 6-8 weeks of the unit, students will examine their own financial planning/choices, respond to primary and secondary sources related to a specific (past) economic decision within their community, and examine the ways in which diverse perspectives in the community make their voices heard during the decision making process.  The learning experiences build to a performance assessment that asks students to take a position on a particular proposal with distinct economic ramifications, present that position/perspective to a mock city council, and work with their fellow community members to reach consensus about how best to work together for the betterment of the community.



Visual Arts

Unit Title: Architecture (Adams-Arapahoe School District and Colorado State University)

Instructional Unit (Word or PDF)     Unit Storyboard

Unit Description: This is a third grade art unit focusing on Architecture. It explores shapes and forms in architecture and encourages students to think critically about the connections between architecture and the human experience (safety, practicality, aesthetics) as well as architecture and environment. Students will begin by identifying the expressive features—such as space, line, shape and form—found in architecture and use them to create a collage. Then students synthesize the information they know about architecture to create a specialized home reflecting the specialized needs of a specific community or individual; both in a 2D sketch and a finalized 3D model.  Students will reflect upon their learning in a class presentation of the model home and a letter describing the new home’s specialized features.


For content specific questions, please contact the appropriate content specialist listed here.