The Grammar School
First Grade Curriculum
The goal of first grade is for students to become successful, motivated, life-long learners. It is our belief that children learn best by doing. First graders build skills and confidence through active learning individually, in small groups, and through shared activities. The class works together to create an atmosphere that is a friendly and safe place to learn throughout the year.
The typical day for first graders begins with our morning meeting. This very important start to the day includes a good morning song, reading the morning message, math and calendar skills, and sharing. Following the meeting, students engage in language arts activities. The rest of the day’s schedule includes math, music, art, physical skills development, French, social studies, or science. First graders also enjoy a midmorning snack and recess, with another recess following lunch.
Reading and Language Arts
The first grade Imagine It! reading program provides a strong foundation in phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Students work daily at literacy centers in order to practice skills learned. Centers include ABCs, reading, writing, word work, listening, grammar, and poetry. In the Writer’s Workshop writing program, children use their own experiences to write stories and poems in their journals. Through peer and teacher conferencing, students learn to revise and edit their work before publishing the final draft. In class, students share original stories from the “author’s chair.” Invented spelling is encouraged, with correction introduced as spelling skills are taught and new words are learned.
With the Common Core Curriculum Standards as a guide, we use the Everyday Mathematics program to teach key concepts. We work with a wide variety of manipulatives such as pattern blocks, tens blocks, Unifix cubes, coins, counters, rulers, and scales to explore the concepts that are essential for establishing a strong foundation in math. We also develop mathematical skills through active exploration and problem solving. Activities include:
- studying patterns
- classifying, weighing, and measuring objects
- reading the temperature
- telling time to the half hour
- counting pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters
- dividing wholes into parts or fractions
- using a calendar
- learning addition and subtraction facts through ten using strategies and games
- using a calculator
- working with geometric shapes
- exploring place value
In January and February, first graders study the human body. Each child makes a life-size paper model of his or her body, adding body parts as they are studied. We conduct investigative experiments with our senses for hands-on activities and enjoy a visit from a community health worker. First graders then explore a unit called Secret Formulas. The scientific method is introduced and used by students. They create cola, paste, and ice cream after they have investigated the properties of a good product. This provides a lot of hands-on learning, to the delight of the students. In the late spring, we join the second grade for an oceanography unit. We investigate human impact on the ocean and its inhabitants. We also learn about ocean names and locations, the marine food chain, and toothed and baleen whales. The class goes on a whale watch toward the end of this unit.
First graders begin the year with a mapmaking unit in which they take a detailed look at their surroundings. Age-appropriate maps of their bedrooms, classroom, playground, town centers, and routes to school are some of the maps they create using observational skills. Our culminating project begins with a field trip to downtown Putney to “take notes” on Main Street. Students work as a group to make a 3D map using these notes.
Beginning in October, the first graders participate in a school wide study of South Africa. We explore what life is like for a typical seven year-old South African and discuss the similarities and differences between them and seven year-olds in the United States. Grades K-6 experience the cooking, dance, art, and music of South Africa in multi-age groups. Guest speakers present at our All School Meeting, as well.
The social curriculum at TGS is designed to complement the academic curriculum and help maintain a healthy social and learning environment. We define a healthy school community as a place where people have a sense of belonging, where adults and students extend and receive respect in their relationships with each other, and where people feel both a sense of support and personal challenge to help them learn and grow as human beings. The first grade curriculum focuses on team building, basic social interactions with peers and adults, understanding and expressing emotions, appreciating diversity, accepting differences, and communicating effectively. In class we use games, art, drama, books, and discussions.
In first grade, art is integrated in the classroom as part of the everyday learning experience. Students express themselves creatively through a variety of media, and gain an awareness of self and environment through the process. Students explore different aspects of visual perception such as texture, line, color, and form.
First graders build on their growing knowledge of materials and develop facility with scissors and squeeze bottles as tools for art-making, in addition to tempera paint, craypas, and pencils, working in more complex collage-making, printmaking, and sculpture. Basic color theory is introduced as students become more adept at mixing their own secondary colors, and emphasis is placed on experimentation and acceptance of and delight in the unexpected. Different approaches are studied through art historical movements such as Modernism, Expressionism, and contemporary illustration. The social curriculum of materials and space sharing is continued in first grade, as well as an introduction to the care of art materials.
First graders focus on moving to and playing a steady beat, creating and playing high and low patterns, identifying classroom and orchestral instruments, and learning to recognize and play in AB form. Instrumentally, they continue reading, composing, and playing rhythms on the Orff xylophones and other classroom instruments. Creative movement based on Dalcroze Eurythmics, singing games, beginning international folk dances, modern dance, physical warm-ups, improvisation, and theater games are all part of first grade music.
The K-3 Chorus meets weekly and focuses on folk and contemporary songs, singing games, creative movement, dancing, and drama activities, with performances at the K-4 Winter Concert and K-6 Spring Concert.
First grade French builds upon vocabulary acquired in kindergarten, such as numbers, colors, body descriptions, foods, the alphabet, and classroom words. Through drawing, coloring, movement, miming, games, and songs, we learn vocabulary for the house, the town, clothing, classroom activities, and objects. The book What Do They Do? provides simple “reading” tasks, as do French children’s books. Class meets twice a week.
First graders meet in the library two periods a week. They choose books, practice listening skills, and do various activities designed to familiarize them with the library. First graders are introduced to different types of literature. They also learn the difference between fiction and nonfiction and how to identify the title and author of a book. As part of the Red Clover Award program, they practice evaluating literary material by text, illustration, and information.
The computer program in first grade is designed to familiarize students with the computer and keyboard. Students work once a week in the computer lab to create their own art designs using the programs Kid Pix and Inspiration.
Physical Skills Development
First graders work on developing the components of physical fitness, cardiovascular conditioning, endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Through a wide variety of activities, students learn a common vocabulary and practice the rules of sportsmanship, listening skills, and cooperation. During the year we work on setting and achieving goals. Tag games, soccer, cross country skiing, dance, dodge ball, and relay races are some of the activities the first graders do in PSD.