Saturday, July 12, 2014

You Oughta Know: The Rule of Three

The Three Stooges, three strikes, three blind mice, three sheets to the wind, Three's Company, three ring circus . . . look around patterns of three are everywhere.
One pattern of three You Oughta Know about is The Rule of Three.

The rule of three I'm referring to is often found in children's literature.  In many stories the main character struggles to solve her problem three times before succeeding, failing, or changing her mind about the desired outcome.  This technique encourages readers to become invested in the character's journey.
In my first grade class I break it down by telling my students that often the main character will try three time to get what she wants.  After three tries, she either gets what she wants, doesn't get it, or she changes her mind about what she wants.
Knowing this rule of three is very helpful to students' comprehension levels and writing abilities.  After I teach this rule, my students always look for the pattern in our read alouds.  Whenever they identify the rule of three in a story, their hands will shoot up.  They cannot wait to share their discovery.
Later in the year, I start focusing on the rule of three in our writing.  When I model write, I will write a story with three events and then a resolution.  With my students, I start out fairly simple and just try to get them to tell about three things that happen.  They will progress from there.

A few of my favorite books that are nice examples of the rule of three are:
Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin,

A Mud Pie for Mother by Scott Beck,

Birdie's Big-Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim, and

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Of course many folk tales and fairy tales have the rule of three.  Think about The Three Bears, The Three Pigs, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  There are many, many more examples if you just keep your eye out.
I made a graphic organizer to go along the rule of three.  If you would like to use it with your students, click on the picture for a free copy.

The rule of three is something teachers should know about and use in class.  When students start using it in their own writing or identifying it in stories, without being prompted, you know your kids are thinking and making connections.

Thank you for stopping by and a special thanks to Ms. McClain at Buzzing With Mrs. McClain for including me in her blog hop.  


  1. What a great strategy! I love it and pinned it. Thanks for sharing.
    The ReddishBrown Crayon

  2. What a great idea. I can't wait to share this with my co-workers. I love the book choice ideas, too. Great strategy!

    Renee at The Science School Yard

  3. This is fabulous! Thank you for sharing. I definitely had that "ah-ha" moment - like I should have known that! :P

    Teaching With Hope

  4. Thank you :)
    I love this idea! I had never heard of this. Is that bad?

    Second Grade Sweetie Pies

  5. I like that you teach them about the rule of three. I have read that author's also use the rule of three when writing phrases, etc...three is the max. I also remember an art history professor I had talking about triangular patters in classic art. Pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing. I'm your newest follower!

    Smarticle Particles

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this! I really want to try it in my classroom. I'm always looking for new ideas to enhance my teaching practices.

    Buzzing With Mrs. McClain