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Language Arts

The First-Grade language arts program presents the students with many opportunities to develop their emerging reading, writing, listening, speaking, and handwriting skills. The reading program emphasizes the direct teaching of phonics skills, other decoding strategies, and comprehension skills within a literature-rich environment.

First Grade stories incorporate selections from both nonfiction and fiction. Students learn the characteristics of both nonfiction and fiction and how to categorize each story by genre. Nonfiction stories include information about everyday people, famous people from American History, life today and in the past, and topics relating to science. Fiction selections include realist fiction, fantasy, folktales, and fables.

Fables are used as a tool to teach reading, provide opportunities for dramatic interpretations, and open conversations about values and morals. In addition, poems, rhymes, chants, and predictable stories reinforce language and motivate the students to want to read. Reading groups are skill-based and focus on word recognition strategies, fluency and comprehension. The students’ comprehension is evaluated during group discussions and follow-up activities that also help to further develop reading and writing skills. Students are encouraged to write about topics relevant to their lives, often using their weekly spelling words.

Mathematics (Kindergarten – Grade 4)

Our students learn to see math in everyday life and we constantly encourage our students to visualize numbers and look for mathematical patterns. At every grade level we learn that math is not an isolated subject. Students see patterns and geometric shapes in our gardening class, or bridge social studies and math by creating shops in class where items can be purchased reinforcing addition, subtraction, money sense, community, goods and service.

Students begin exploring numbers and mathematical ideas with concrete materials, progress to pictorial representations, and finally, reason abstractly with symbols. Our classes are structured so that they use a variety of manipulative materials, age-appropriate technology, and games to construct their own meanings for key mathematical concepts. We use flexible groupings and differentiate instruction so that each child feels competent and challenged. We recognize that enduring learning takes time and practice. Students master the basic number facts through the use of efficient strategies


In the First Grade children learn math concepts through manipulatives, pictures, and application.Students begin the year with a focus on addition facts and operations up to the number 20. Students discuss the part-part-whole concept, understanding that a number sentence contains parts that make up the whole. To help First graders with their addition facts, we introduce various strategies, such as using the number line, creating number bonds, and using manipulatives such as a math balance and connecting cubes. Students begin to decompose the 100 block as multiples of 10.Application of skip counting and repeated addition of 2, 5, 10 up to 100, counting forward and counting back, number line mastery, and doubles and near doubles concepts help students develop their understanding of basic addition and subtraction. These applications also help students learn to recognize and describe simple repeating and growing patterns to develop their algebraic sense. Students read a clock, work with two-dimensional figures, and use nonstandard units to measure. They also develop their understanding of statistics by organizing and interpreting data.


Students are introduced to general science topics in units:

  1. Life Science—Students learn what it means for something to be alive and what living things need to survive. They learn about plants, their parts, and the basic function of each part. Students explore the animal world by leaning about each of the five main animal groups and their life cycles. Finally, the concept of interconnectedness in the natural world is stressed. The children learn about food chains and food webs; they consider predator/prey relationships and begin to develop the understanding that change in one part of the natural world affects many other parts.
  2. Physical Science—Students learn about the three states of matter, their properties, and how they can be changed (freezing, melting, evaporating). Mixtures and solutions are introduced and explored. This unit also deals with energy—light, heat, sound, and electricity. Students learn about motion and force. They learn about gravity and friction and how they affect the movement of objects. The explore magnetism.
  3. Earth Science—Students learn about the surface of the Earth including landforms and bodies of water, and an introduction to rocks and soils. Students learn about natural resources, some ways we use them, and that some resources can be used up while others cannot. Again, the notions of interconnectedness and interdependence are stressed people can and should use the Earth’s resources wisely and responsibly. They learn about weather, climate, and the water cycle. How to stay safe in severe weather is also discussed.

Social Studies

The First Grade engages in a yearlong family study. Students read books about different cultures and family structures and write stories about their own families. Each student has a family story, and their family members are invited to come to school to share a family tradition, either new or old. Students bring in show-and-tell objects that might include pictures, keepsakes, or food to enhance their stories. These family narratives offer a chance for students to explore and celebrate their differences and learn about traits or characteristics that make them unique and will culminate with a family tree project.

In the second half of the year, students build upon their family study with an interdisciplinary Flat Stanley project. Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown is a story about a boy who gets flattened one night and is able to perform unusual feats, such as mailing himself to a friend’s house in California. Each student then creates a large flat version of him/herself that gets mailed along with a letter to a relative anywhere in the country or world. This study allows students to learn more about other children’s families and cultures, nationally and globally. They learn geography and about maps in the process.


First grade students will explore the wonderful world of percussion. Students will traverse musical concepts such as rhythm, tempo and fundamental beats to facilitate an environment conducive to learning how to play as an ensemble, as well as how to create their own beats. Percussion is an element in music that has its roots in all styles of music throughout history and the world. Students will learn how these roots in different cultures help shape and influence music to this day.