First grade employs the Balanced Literacy approach to reading instruction, building on skills developed in Kindergarten. Students are formally assessed two to three times per year, and they continue to read at their independent reading level. Students read independently while teachers confer with individual students to assess unique skills and points for growth. They also read instructional level texts in guided reading groups to raise the level of reading for the whole class. Guided reading groups are formed throughout the year so that partners and small groups can read identical books and work on varied lessons ranging from letter/sound patterns to plot, character development, and structure. Students practice making inferences and predictions as students read. Class discussions reinforce these critical thinking skills about character or plot development. Fluent readers focus on comprehension and making connections. Students continue to practice handwriting using a multi-sensory approach, and they begin to engage in word study, which offers differentiated instruction and integrates phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction in a close study of words to learn more about the regularities and conventions of spelling.
In Writer’s Workshop, students continue to produce a wide range of genre writing, from fiction to nonfiction to poetry. Students also learn an introduction to research and report writing. Sample lessons can include writing strategies and skills, literary elements, genre studies, and text features. Students continue to practice the various stages of the writing process: collecting ideas, drafting, editing, publishing, and sharing. Several publishing parties offer opportunities for students to share their work with peers and older student buddies. Grammar lessons focus on helping students communicate their ideas clearly and accurately with the mechanics of sentence structure.
In first grade, students build on their understanding of number relationships and mathematical vocabulary. They do more work with place value, and they learn addition and subtraction facts up to twenty. They also learn the concept of regrouping for the addition and subtraction of double-digit numbers. Students practice ordering numbers and estimating. They analyze and create graphs, and identify and sort attributes of solid figures. In their work with money, students learn to recognize the value of different coins, to practice counting money with addition and subtraction, and to make change. Students learn to tell time to fifteen-minute intervals and can calculate elapsed time. Various problem-solving strategies are integrated into each lesson. In measurement, students learn non-standard units of measurement and then focus on inches and feet. In geometry, children learn the qualities of polygons. Children practice the concepts in the classroom through direct instruction, math stations, games, oral activities, drawing and diagramming, and physical movement. Throughout the curriculum there are opportunities for problem solving.
The Science program promotes intellectual curiosity by involving students in hands-on, experiential learning. The program centers on the implementation of the scientific method. Students study the basic concepts of life, earth, and physical sciences through classroom activities and field trips, in order to discover, observe, predict, and formulate hypotheses. Students learn to record and analyze data, to collaborate in teams, and to discuss scientific phenomena using technical vocabulary. In first grade, the children study various topics in earth, life, and physical science. Students are provided with opportunities to carefully observe, record data, and ask meaningful questions. Students engage in activities pertaining to the life cycle of plants and frogs, habitats, volcanoes, rocks and minerals, dinosaurs, and the solar system. Students use a science journal to record observations. The students spend time focusing on environmental issues such as pollution, recycling, and reusing natural resources and work in the garden to practice measurement and observation. Science topics are taught by assessing prior knowledge, and by forming hypotheses, investigating, experimenting, and drawing conclusions. Students also introduced to basic coding.
First grade students continue to focus on the social institutions most familiar to our students: self, family, school, and neighborhood. Students consider how to be part of a classroom community and the larger community of the Lower School. Students explore and practice making choices and decisions with respect for individuality, and take personal responsibility for their actions. Relationships with classmates and teachers provide opportunities for social-emotional learning in a safe environment. Children continue to work on skills to resolve conflicts with others who have different needs, ideas, or preferences. Students learn to problem solve and to generate creative solutions. Students learn about continents, bodies of water, and cardinal direction using a compass rose, and map skills such as symbols, compass use, landmarks, and borders. They then study geographic aspects of life in their own neighborhoods and expand their knowledge to an understanding of the United States, its major landforms and major cities. Students make connections to the world today and the world of persons and cultures long ago.