3rd Grade

Language Arts

In third grade, we focus on learning a variety of writing techniques within multiple guided writing cycles. Our guided writing cycles include a fictional narrative, a digital biography, an endangered animal essay, and a personal narrative. Teachers include mini lessons on grammar and the writing process before students practice independently. The goal of the third grade’s language arts program is for the students to enjoy writing and see its real-world application.


The goal of the Summit School of Ahwatukee literature program is to develop a love of reading, as they become lifelong readers who read for a variety of purposes and to develop strategic readers who are able to employ a variety of techniques to understand what they are reading.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee elementary math program is based on Math Expressions by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

This program offers students a broad background in math concepts, reinforced through a significant amount of dynamic, hands-on, interactive activities.

Children in first through sixth grades are pre-assessed before each new unit of study and are placed, for that unit, in either the grade-level or accelerated paced group. With ability grouping, hands-on learning, and small class sizes, our students successfully learn and retain math concepts at advanced levels.

Math Expressions is distinguished by a number of features which include:

Real-life Applications Throughout each unit, real-world situations are incorporated. Numbers, skills, and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to contexts that are relevant to everyday lives. The curriculum also provides numerous suggestions for incorporating math into daily classroom routines and other subject areas.

Problem Solving A variety of problem-solving approaches are emphasized to allow students to investigate and understand mathematical concepts. Problems are formulated through everyday situations and are solved by interpreting results and applying learned strategies. As a result, confidence is acquired in using mathematics meaningfully.

Balanced Instruction Each lesson includes time for whole-group instruction as well as small group, partner, or individual activities. These activities balance teacher-directed instruction with more opportunities for open-ended, hands-on explorations, long-term projects, and ongoing practice.

Multiple Methods for Basic Skills Practice Numerous methods for basic skills practice and review are provided. Summit emphasizes learning through a wide variety of math games, written and choral fact drills, mental math, math boxes (daily sets of review problems), homework, and timed tests.

Emphasis on Communication Throughout the curriculum, students are encouraged to explain and discuss their mathematical thinking in their own words. Opportunities to verbalize their thoughts and strategies give children the chance to clarify their reasoning and gain insights from others.

Home / School Partnerships For grades first to third, daily home learning provides opportunities for family members to participate in students’ mathematical learning. Take-home packets are provided for most lessons in grades four to six.

Social Studies

Social studies is taught based on developmentally appropriate themes for grade three. Students enjoy learning about inventions, explorers, government/Ellis Island immigration, and the environment, while creating their own projects, maps, games, and experiments. We also explore these themes through music, drama, art, and field trips. In third grade, we have two amazing culminating events: Invention Convention (in the fall) and Environmental Carnival (in the early spring).

Art - Named Best in the United States

The Summit School of Ahwatukee art curriculum is based on the Vitruvius Program. This art, architecture and design program enables students to use their creative intelligence to express ideas and concepts in tangible forms. As students engage in work based on real and imagined projects, they deepen critical thinking, narrative problem solving, spatial reasoning, and visual perception.

Design and architecture projects bring an important dimension of thinking to the program. The students learn to find reasons for their work outside of artistic self-expression, becoming divergent thinkers, and gaining a foundation for understanding a changing world.

By studying works from history and the present, students understand how art and design have made significant contributions in the shaping of culture. Students see that their creative work is part of a continuum with other artists, architects, and designers. Critiques develop the ability to observe, discriminate, compare, and contrast creative works. Students learn how to use critical language to interpret work and explain their understanding of its purposes.

The Vitruvius Program curriculum was developed with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

In 2011, this exceptional program was named the best art and architecture school curriculum in the United States, by the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) and winner of the National School award. Summit represented the United States in the UIA Golden Cubes International Competition in Tokyo.

In 2009 Phoenix Magazine recognized the Vitruvius Program as one of the top five education programs in Metro-Phoenix.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art invited the Vitruvius Program at Summit School to create two different exhibitions for their young@art Gallery.

The first exhibit, Bridges: Connecting Earth to Sky, displayed from October 2010 to January 2011, and included architecture and design work from each Summit student in kindergarten through sixth grade. The second exhibit, Cycles From Fields to Cities, displayed from February through April 2013, also includes student works from Finland, France, Russia and Sweden, features designs from third and fifth grade Summit students. The architectural project was co-created by Summit art instructor Kathleen Kupper. This project asks children from many countries to think reflectively about the current state of their city’s design, and challenges them to share how they would reconstruct and reconfigure old and new elements. Artworks range from architectural models and drawings to animations.


Music is an important cornerstone of the liberal arts program at Summit School of Ahwatukee. Students have the opportunity to play instruments, sing, and compose. The music department also orchestrates the Winter concert for the school.

The music curriculum involves participation in hands-on musical explorations that incorporate thinking musically, creatively, and critically. Students develop a comprehensive, basic foundation of musical understandings, skills, and experiences that will enable them to choose and pursue enriching musical experiences beyond elementary school.

Musical experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national (MENC) standards will include:

Performing: Singing, Playing Instruments, Improvising

Creating: Composing, Arranging, Improvising

Listening: Listening, Analyzing, Describing music, Evaluating music and music performances, Responding to music through Movement

Musical Context: Understanding music in relation to history and culture, Understanding relationships between music and other arts and disciplines outside the arts

Experiences will be structured as whole-class, small group, and individualized activities. Concepts explored will include: • Tone Color (timbre) • Duration (rhythm) • Musical Controls (volume, tempo, articulation) • Pitch (melody, harmony)


Spanish language experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national foreign language standards include:

Communication: Respond to simple commands, perform short plays, poems, and songs, and express and react to a variety of feelings.

Culture: Participate in age-appropriate cultural activities and recognize how the target language and its culture add to the richness of our own cultural diversity.

Connections: Discuss topics in other school subjects in the target language (e.g. math: “más-menos”, science: “los planetas”, etc.) and present reports in the target language orally and/or in writing on topics being studied in other classes.

Comparisons: Make basic comparisons between the celebrations of the target culture and their own culture (e.g. Halloween and “EL Día de los Muertos”) and compare and contrast a variety of art forms (e.g. music, dance, visual arts, and drama) with their own culture through oral and/or written descriptions and/or performances.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee science program is taught in a state of art science laboratory facility with science stations, microscopes and an abundance of hands-on learning materials; all necessary tools to make science engaging and fun.

Hands-on, experiment-based science begins in our kindergarten science class and continues through Chemistry and Physics in eighth grade.

Elementary students visit the science lab twice per week. Students’ analytical skills and critical thinking soar through experiential learning, as they develop a love of science.

The third grade science curriculum incorporates the following themes: Measurement in Standard and Metric systems including: distance, mass, volume, and temperature; Light & Sound: reflection, refraction, absorption of light, and vibration, pitch and rate of sound; Earth: the earth’s layers, types of rocks and fossils; Plants & Ecosystems.


Besides strengthening basic computer skills, third graders work on more classroom integrated projects during the year. These include the creation of brochures in Publisher, PowerPoint slide shows with special effects and narration, and videos created using PhotoStory. Students learn more about Internet safety, research skills, and improve their word processing abilities.

Physical Education

Elementary Physical Education and Wellness at Summit follows closely with the Dynamic Physical Education Curriculum, created By Dr. Robert Pangrazi of Arizona State University, which is widely recognized throughout the world. The program has four distinct sections to each class: an instant/introductory activity followed by a fitness component and a sport and/or motor lesson that is then followed by a game. Other nationally-recognized components include AAHPERD’s Physical Best curriculum, the Cooper Institute’s Fitnessgram / Activitygram, and Project Adventure.

Thematic Learning

Thematic learning is an educational strength of Summit School. Throughout the year, each grade delves into many different topics of study that are reinforced through reading, writing, math, social studies, and whenever possible, include related projects within art, technology, music, library, Spanish, science, and even PE. Many of these projects have special “culminating events” allowing students to enhance public speaking skills as they present many facets of the project in group or individual presentations for parents and the school community. The following is an example of one of last year’s thematic projects in third grade:


(Inventions presented by third grade teachers Cathy Reardon & Ashley Burbach. Enhanced learning provided by art instructors Kathleen & Selene Kupper and technology teacher Gail Soderquist.)

Brainstorming life’s problems, designing inventions that solve the problem and producing creative advertisements to sell the newly invented product may sound like corporate America; but at Summit School of Ahwatukee it is a job for third graders.

Thematic studies, focusing on experiential learning, are a significant component of a Summit education. Teachers delve into themes that may be incorporated into math, reading, writing, spatial learning, art, science, technology and other classes, giving meaning, depth and a visual component to the learning, allowing students to understand and utilize the concepts, versus rote memorization.

The invention theme begins by catching children’s interest through the magic of books about inventors and inventions, giving students background information on what others have done before. Discussions begin on ‘then and now’ and how inventions have changed our lives. This translates into an understanding that most inventions are borne from a problem or something that needs to be solved in people’s lives.

Next students are taught the skill of research: finding important information in a text, highlighting that information, and putting it in their own words. Teachers model the process, and then have students choose an existing invention, read a short text about it, and paraphrase the information into a paragraph, with an illustration. Knowledge in hand, children learn about timelines by proudly hanging their invention narratives on a rope, spanning their classroom.

To help spark creativity and comprehend the invention process, classes will also creating their own sport; combine items to come up with new creations that might do something new; and rate inventions from most to least important.

Now that students have a visual of the process, the class begins brainstorming life problems that they could solve with an invention they will soon design. The teachers’ model the thinking strategies by choosing one of the problems and having the students help come up with a tool or method that could help solve it. Now, each student chooses a problem they wish to solve, creating a plan sheet for their invention.

“Besides creativity and problem solving, our students are learning to see problems as something to be overcome, rather than as something about which to complain,” explains Cathy Reardon, the third grade Summit teacher who brought this project to life five years ago. “Students are learning about how inventions have changed life as we know it, even in their parent’s lifetime, and how things work.”

Materials are needed for the construction phase to begin. Parents join in on the fun at “take-apart day” working side by side with their children, completely dismantling appliances to see the inner workings. Every tiny piece is saved, and the pile of materials grows as students bring in recyclable materials from home. With plans and materials in hand these creative nine year olds begin to create a model of their new invention.

“I enjoy seeing the kids’ creativity, says Ashley Burbach, third grade teacher. “ I also love hearing student says, “Have you ever had this much fun in school?”; “Come look at what I found! I never knew all of this was inside a phone!” There is so much hidden learning in this unit!”

Advertising is essential to launch this new product, thus each child makes an ad for television, or designs a brochure, poster, or other creative sales idea. Students’ must also apply for a patent, which in this world is always granted. The patent application is used as the lead in to the next thematic unit, on government.

Other classes expand the invention theme. In the technology lab, instructor Gail Soderquist guides students in the design of a brochure on a famous inventor. Art teachers Kathleen and Selene Kupper feed students spatial and problem solving abilities with real life, original design projects involving transportation, architecture, and renewal energy. Students learn to research and identify problems and transform their design solutions into three-dimensional models and photographic portfolios that can be used to promote their ideas.

“The Invention Convention” is the culminating event to this month long endeavor. Inventions models, advertisements, and patents are on display; and family and friends are invited to the product launch in the school’s multi-purpose room. In an expo type fashion, the parents rotate around and hear students sell their product through the advertisement they created; asking questions of their student’s, who they may one day find featured in a national magazine!

Get to Know - 3rd Grade Faculty

Cathy Reardon

Third Grade Teacher

Cathy Reardon has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona, and a Masters in Elementary Education from Chapman University. She has enjoyed teaching in grades one, two and three since 1995. Mrs. Reardon joined Summit School of Ahwatukee in 2002, teaching second grade for her first four years, then moving to third grade where she happily greets her students each day. Mrs. Reardon’s passion for teaching and learning is evident as she continues her own learning through workshops and reading books.

 Recent workshops she has enjoyed have focused on instruction in writing and math.

Samantha Arce

Third Grade Teacher

Molly Danforth

Math Specialist, Kindergarten through Fifth Grade

Molly Danforth has over twenty years of teaching first through third grades. She has also earned the prestigious National Board Certification. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Gonzaga University, and a Masters in Education in 1997 from Northern Arizona University.  To expand her teaching skills Ms. Danforth has taken additional training in Cognitively Guided Instruction, Intel Math, as well as several other math courses, and has earned a Reading Endorsement in 2002 from Arizona State University. Ms. Danforth joined Summit in 2007 as a 2nd grade teacher and now serves as Summit’s Kindergarten – 5th grade math specialist, using her expertise to enhance classroom math instruction and assessments, and further Summit’s teachers’ professional development in mathematics.