The Core Knowledge Sequence is a detailed outline of specific content and skills to be taught in language arts, history, geography, and science. It was created by E.D. Hirsch and the Core Knowledge Foundation in 1988. If you’ve ever seen those books in bookstores called What Your Third Grader Needs To Know, that’s Core Knowledge.

Core Knowledge represents an effort to describe and state the specific core of shared knowledge that all children should learn, and that speakers and writers assume their audience knows. It provides a solid foundation on which to build instruction. State standards typically describe what students should be able to do, but not what students should know. The Core Knowledge Sequence describes what students should know and complements state standards by offering a concrete curriculum to guide teaching and learning, but also goes above and beyond what the state standards require. Instead of spending hours researching and planning what to teach, Core Knowledge teachers are freed to think more creatively about how to teach. They know what children have learned in previous grades and what they will need in succeeding grades. They can avoid useless repetition. They are less likely to be confronted by big gaps in what students have learned.

ALA has been using Core Knowledge since our first Gilbert Campus opened in 2009, but we used it mainly for science and history because a solid language arts program tied to Core Knowledge didn’t yet exist. In 2015, a publisher created an entire language arts curriculum based on Core Knowledge called Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA). Finally, materials were available that brought everything together into thematic units, or a series of lessons that integrate subjects across all of the curriculum, including reading, social studies, science, and language arts, and ties them all together into the main theme of the unit.

Language arts is so important in third grade! Students have fully transitioned from “learning to read” to the more advanced skills involved in “reading to learn,” and CKLA facilitates this transition so well by providing content-based read-alouds together with instruction and practice in decoding while also providing explicit instruction in writing, grammar, spelling, and morphology.

Our domain-based units in third grade are the following (they will not necessarily be in this order)

Unit 1: Classic Tales: The Wind in the Willows
Unit 2: Classification of Animals
Unit 3: The Human Body: Systems and Senses
Unit 4: The Ancient Roman Civilization
Unit 5: Light and Sound
Unit 6: The Viking Age
Unit 7: Astronomy: Our Solar System and Beyond
Unit 8: Native Americans: Regions and Cultures
Unit 9: European Exploration of North America
Unit 10: Colonial America
Unit 11: Ecology

The thing I LOVE so much about this curriculum is how the reading materials coincide with what we are learning about in history and science. For example, when we are learning about astronomy in science, all of our reading and vocabulary materials we use for language arts are about astronomy. When we learn about the Roman Empire in history, all of our language arts reading materials are about the Roman Empire. And so on. I can’t even tell you how wonderful this is as a teacher. It makes teaching more fun for me and learning more fun for my students. I can be creative and teach it in my own style.