Sometimes, when I see apostrophes used to make plurals, I wonder where those writers were in third grade when most of us were learning to add -s or -es to make plurals. Most of what we need to know to punctuate correctly was taught in the early grades. At least it was in the past.
I came across a wonderful old textbook recently. It's a third-grade English book that belonged to my husband's grandmother, who taught school in New Jersey. The book's copyright dates are 1944 and 1948, and it pictures lovely, smiling people in 1940s clothing. The lessons are straightforward, but you can see that the writers strove to make them relevant and interesting to children. Though the book was published almost two decades before I was in third grade, I recognized the style of the illustrations. The kids in the book could be cousins of Dick, Jane and Sally in the books I read as an elementary pupil.
There are lessons on reading, speaking and writing in complete sentences using proper punctuation and capitalization. The book also focuses on choosing the right verb in number and tense -- is, are; was, were; come, came. Among the writing exercises are lessons on writing and addressing letters.
The most remarkable parts of the book, though, are the lessons in manners. Throughout the book, the writers emphasize polite, thoughtful behavior. Children are urged to take turns in conversation, to write thank-you notes, to put I last, to take good care of their books and be quiet in the library and to appreciate the people who help them.
The book proves what I always thought: We did learn almost everything we needed to know about English in the third grade. But, more important, we learned what we needed to know to live in a civil, democratic society.