Developmental Description - First Grade
First Grade is an exciting time in the life of young children as they begin to make great strides in social and academic areas. First Grade children have a growing sense of independence in both of these areas with considerable variation in development among children. Teachers work closely with each child to help him/her reach individual and classroom goals.
Throughout the year children work on initiating and sustaining cooperative play. They are learning to take turns, to negotiate, and to peacefully resolve social conflicts independent of a teacher. Observing the use of "choice time" is an interesting study in first grade. Many children begin the year choosing to paint or to build with blocks during their free time. As they progress through the year, children begin to choose activities with more of an academic focus, such as writing stories, creating math projects, or reading books. The boundaries between work and play fade as children gain confidence in their academic abilities. In their play, as well as their work, children begin to sustain an activity for longer periods of time.
The academic life of a First Grade child is a fascinating combination of dramatic changes and subtle growth. They are developing a sense of academic responsibility and are becoming more articulate about their expanding depth of knowledge. They are, also, refining their work by adding careful details to make projects substantial and intriguing. They can return to interrupted activities with renewed investment in thoughtfully completing their work. Children pursue academic interests as a whole class, in small groups and on an individual basis.
First Graders are immersed in the process of becoming independent readers. The stories written by children or dictated to teachers are more complex and detailed. Children still use developmental spelling, but also begin to use conventional spelling, particularly when writing high frequency words. Children make progress in understanding mathematical concepts and develop their skills in problem solving.
By the end of the school year, first grade children have pursued a wide range of activities and are more confident in their abilities as thinkers and learners.
First Grade Language Arts
Reading is part of a continuum that begins with the earliest life experiences of discriminating between visual and auditory patterns. As children grow and mature they are exposed to and introduced to the graphic representations of these patterns, in the form of print, in numerous ways. One of the most important is being read to by caring adults. This process continues at school with children looking at books, reading to themselves, and sharing experiences that include being read to by teachers, teacher led reading groups, and partner reading. All of these experiences work in concert to lay a foundation for success in learning to read and for enriching students' understanding of the value of reading. Our goal is to foster in children a love of reading, along with an interest in books and their infinite variety.
We present children with a wide variety of reading materials and reading opportunities. Over the course of the year children become more aware of the different goals and purposes for reading. Our range of reading materials exposes students to new topics and types of literature and this variety affords them many opportunities to follow their own natural interests. Children enter their first grade year with an already wide range of reading skills. In our reading instruction, we assess each student's skills and work to build on and to extend them throughout the year.
Many materials are used in reading instruction
- non-fiction books fiction books
- trade books environmental print
- computer books written by the child
- games books written by the classroom
- thematic units workbooks
- Reading groups are formed for various reasons such as similar or mixed reading levels, learning profiles, and special interests or topics.
- Children use a variety of reading materials so that they can develop a depth of knowledge about different subjects.
The appreciation of reading is visible in every classroom. We encourage literacy and foster the natural enthusiasm and interest that children bring to this learning process. Teachers also share their own interests and enthusiasm about reading and books. Reading is connected and intertwined amongst all curriculum areas. Children are taught reading skills in large groups, small reading groups and individually. Reading instruction is teacher directed as well as child selected. A primary objective of reading instruction is to give success to each child.
- Children are involved in teacher directed reading activities that seek to meet the individual needs of each student.
- Children have opportunities to select their own reading materials.
- Children dictate, write, illustrate and read their own stories and drawings.
- Classroom read-alouds create shared experiences.
- Children bring home books from classrooms that are at appropriate reading levels.
- Children are able to pursue their individual and group interests.
- Children have a weekly library checkout when all library books are available. In addition to this planned time, the library is open for children to use during the day. Children are encouraged to browse through the library as well as use it as a resource for specific information or projects.
- A large variety of reading materials are available for the children in the homerooms, such as magazines, books and newspaper articles.
We introduce children to a variety of reading strategies to use in their reading. Students are presented with an array of strategies and then are encouraged to use them flexibly. When children have a medley of tools at their disposal, they are better able to approach reading, and other tasks, with a greater sense of comfort and confidence.
- Children are encouraged to use the following strategies to decode unknown words:
- picture clues syntax
- sentence structure context clues
- sight word vocabulary decoding/phonics
- Children are encouraged to use multiple strategies in their reading.
- Children are encouraged to make predictions about stories that they are reading.
- Children continue to develop their knowledge of consonant letter sounds, blends and digraphs.
- Children work on short vowel sounds throughout the year and are introduced to some of the long vowel patterns
- Children practice these skills by reading phonetically correct words.
- Children practice blends sounds and word "chunks" together.
- Teachers provide a variety of reading materials that are designed to help children practice these various skills.
We help children develop a solid understanding of what they have read. Repetition and practice enable students to read with fluency and expression. Teachers often provide books which have a controlled vocabulary of words previously learned by the children. When students read books that consist of words they already know, they are then better able to switch their focus from decoding unknown words to comprehending the text. Re-reading stories is another way to concentrate on comprehension. Helping students use background information and prior knowledge prepares them for putting their reading into context. Self-correcting is an important sign of reading for comprehension and meaning.
- Discussion of stories helps children to understand the meaning behind the action or events of a story.
- Children are made aware of the implicit and explicit action and events of a story.
- Children retell and summarize stories.
The first grade writing curriculum is highly individualized to meet the needs of the wide range of developmental levels among our students. Writing is viewed as a form of communication. Students are encouraged to write frequently and as independently as they are able. Students write in different genres, in both fiction and non-fiction. In the process of writing, students generate topics, research when appropriate, record, reread, revise/edit, publish or share with others. This process becomes more refined as students move through the Lower School. Teachers support students as they write and instruct students individually and in groups. Some beginning students develop their writing skills by dictating stories. The connection between reading and writing is highlighted. Students learn to reread as they write and learn to view published literature as a model for writing. The understandings gained as students write support the process of learning to read. We look at students' independent writing to determine what concepts are being transferred and what concepts need focused instruction. Samples of students' written work are reviewed periodically throughout the school year and teachers analyze these samples to assess individual progress.
Students learn to write using developmental spelling in kindergarten. We continue to encourage this in first grade, but gradually introduce conventional spelling as well. This instruction is done through phonics activities and through "word banks" that include high-frequency words. Students are encouraged to use phonetic/developmental and conventional spelling in their independent writing. Students gradually progress from writing single words to phrases and eventually begin to write complete sentences (first grade or beyond).
- Beginning capitalization and basic punctuation (periods, questions marks, exclamation points) are introduced and modeled. Students gradually begin to incorporate these into their independent writing.
- Purposeful, motivated practice is provided through the many writing experiences built into the students' day.
- Periodic work samples and grade-level spelling inventories are reviewed to assess individual student progress throughout the year.
In general, most beginning first graders write using upper case letters and unlined paper. Students are taught handwriting using the D'Nealian alphabet (upper and lower case letters) and various types of lined paper. Gradually this knowledge becomes internalized and is transferred to their independent writing.
- writing for a variety of purposes
- personal writing (notes, lists, lunch invitations, etc.)
- writing on self-selected topics
- writing on teacher-assigned topics
- writing on topics integrated into science, social studies, and math curriculum
- writing both fiction and nonfiction
- writing in response to literature
- teacher modeled writing (students dictate/teacher writes on chart)
- teacher supported writing (students write/teacher models and instructs)
- teacher supported editing/revising/publishing or sharing
- revising/editing with peer collaboration
- "word study" instruction (dictated words/sentences)
Explode the Code phonics workbooks
- print-rich classroom environment
- word games ("hangman", rhyming, etc.)
- worksheets for penmanship, phonics, literature study groups
- grade level spelling inventories (November, March, June/optional)
Characteristics observed in writing
- enthusiasm for writing
- independence when writing
- use of writing to communicate
- length and development of text
- beginning use of complete sentences
- skill in use of phonetic/developmental spelling
- conventional spelling of high-frequency words highlighted in classroom
- increasing use of conventional spelling
- comfort in combining phonetic/conventional spelling
- representation of consonants and consonant combinations
- representation of short vowel sounds and vowel combinations (long vowels, etc.)
- ability to reread written text
- use of spaces between words
- care in letter formation
- upper and lower case letter usage
- beginning capitalization and punctuation
Our goal is to create an environment in which children have the opportunity, and feel safe, to share ideas, events and important things through speaking and listening to one another. We further hope that children leaving first grade are able to follow verbal instructions given to a group and are able to follow through on them. This would include recognizing and expressing their own questions and/or comments, in an appropriate manner, as they occur throughout an activity.
- In first grade a strong sense of community is built among the children and their teachers. An important part of this is meeting time. Meetings are used to discuss the upcoming day's schedule, to problem solve, to share experiences and to plan class activities. Children learn to express ideas and opinions, and to listen to other points of view.
- Teachers read aloud to their classes each day. Children are encouraged to think about the story through discussion of plot, character, setting and motivation. Children are also encouraged to ask questions if they are not familiar with a word. Children discuss the word meaning and their own background knowledge and experience regarding the new word, or an event in the story. Children listen to the ideas of others to make connections and learn new vocabulary.
- Children listen to books on tape at listening centers. This may be for enjoyment or to help them become familiar with a book they may encounter in formal reading instruction.
- Children are given an informal opportunity to share things that which is special to them. They may share information about a special event, project, or object as classmates listen and respond with questions and comments.
- Children have the opportunity to read stories they have written themselves. This gives them the opportunity to take risks in sharing their own work, and to speak in front of the whole group. Further, it gives listeners an opportunity to respond to their peers work. Children learn what it means to be a good listener or audience member.
- Children improve their abilities to understand and follow through on oral directions.
- Children listen to stories told in the library once a week. Stories are told by experienced story tellers/librarians.
Shared Activities and Experiences
In order to support our integrated approach to the teaching of language arts, we use common elements in our first grade classrooms. Common activities for first graders vary from year to year and may include guest appearances by speakers, authors, illustrators and grade level field trips. Emergent curriculum from special events, such as joint author studies and joint curricular activities, also encourages teacher collaboration. In general, common materials and shared experiences contribute to the construction of a common body of knowledge and skills is integral to a successful first grade language arts program.
Other activities and experiences include:
- classroom lending library of leveled books
- classrooms rich with environmental print
- use of phonics workbooks, such as Explode the Code
- common reading and spelling assessment tools
- common library story times
First Grade Math
I. Numbers, Numeration, and Place Value
Skills and Goals
- working on counting 1-100 and beyond beginning at any number; working on counting backwards 100-1; working on reading and writing numerals 0-100 and beyond
- working on counting by like numbers (twos, fives, tens, hundreds) forward and backward
- working on the application of ordinal counting
- working on recognizing, locating, and placing numbers in sequences and patterns
- working on learning significant personal numbers (address, phone number, birth date)
- working on odd/even numbers
- exposure to counting by like numbers beginning at any number (21, 31, 41)
- exposure to place value
- exposure to fractions, equal parts (1/2,1/4)
- patterns number line
- fractions 100+ number grid
- equal parts base 10 blocks
- half counters
- fourth (quarter) calendar
Skills and Goals
- working on addition and subtraction of numbers through such things as story problems, objects, number lines, and calculators
- working on generating story problems, algorithms, and choosing appropriate computational operations
- working on mental calculations (addition and subtraction) and estimation - approximation
- working with money: identifying penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, one dollar bill, five dollar bill, ten dollar bill, and the exchange values
- exposure to relational signs <,>,=
- exposure to decimal fractions (.50, .25) notating money
- exposure to missing term problems
- exposure to intuitive multiplication and division
- addition coins (real)
- subtraction bills (realistic)
- plus/minus calculators
- decimal point estimation probability
- twice as much
- relational signs <,>,=
- exchange value
Skills and Goals
- working on spatial concepts with geometric manipulatives
- working on identifying and reproducing basic two-dimensional figures
- exposure to the identification of basic three-dimensional geometric figures
- exposure to symmetry
- square cylinder
- rectangle pyramid
- triangle cone
- trapezoid prism
- hexagon geometric solids
- parallelogram templates
- polygon pattern blocks
- cube geoboards
- sphere Multilinks
Skills and Goals
- working on measuring with standard and non-standard units
- linear measure
- mass (weight)
- working on recording information using appropriate symbols for measure in both the U.S. and metric systems
- working on approximation of linear measures (inches, centimeters, feet)
- working on associating significant time periods within the context of a whole day
- working on calendar activities including the names and sequence of the months and days of the week and numerical date notation
- hour hand meter sticks
- minute hand ruler/straightedge
- second hand tape measures
- hour bath scale (lbs, kgm)
- half hour spring scale
- minute pan balance
- A.M/P.M. thermometers
- inch/centimeter analog clock
- foot digital
- yard/meter sticks
V. Collecting, Organizing, and Recording Data
Skills and Goals
- working with tally marks, graphs, charts, and tables
- working with calculators and computers
- monitor calculators
- keyboard computer
- disk drive software
- disk disks
Supplementary Classroom Materials
- playing cards
- Multilink cubes
- Cuisinaire rods
Kindergarten and First Grade
Kindergarten and first grade students have a thirty minute period every morning when they are encouraged to come to the library in small groups - two's and three's - from their classrooms to browse and borrow books. The primary goal at this age is for them to explore the library and enjoy books.
Apart from giving great pleasure, oral storytelling has the following curricular goals:
- to enhance imagination and visualization
- to strengthen appreciation of rhythm and pattern of language
- to develop memory and recall of sequence
- to reinforce logic
- to increase vocabulary
- to enhance speaking skills
- to enhance listening skills
- to enhance writing skills
- to enhance reading skills
- to enhance critical/creative thinking and problem-solving skills
- validates student's feelings
- provides a mirror of life's experiences
- helps students understand their cultural heritage and those of others
These curricular goals apply equally to kindergarten, first and second grades.
These curricular goals are based on goals listed by Pamela J. Cooper and Rives Collins in Chapter 2 of Look What happened to frog:
- storytelling in education
Visual Arts Department
First Grade Art - First graders are supported in developing their growing sense of self-confidence and self-esteem as young artists. A willingness to take chances with new materials and challenging projects help to reinforce this unfolding process. "Mistakes" are not taken as errors, but as a way of looking at the working process in a new way.
Activities and Projects in first, second and third grade follow a similar format. Painting and drawing skills are routinely improved upon throughout the year; projects are both abstract and descriptive in nature. We do a great deal of work with patterns, color, shapes and size. Paper is divided into a grid pattern using pencil and ruler and color is applied using various printing blocks alternating the pattern within the grid structure. Larger 3D sculptures are fabricated out of cardboard and painted with non-chromatic primaries. Children love to work with clay; they learn to make a pinch pot or a simple animal sculpture. We work to improve fine motor skills and lengthen their ability to attend while on task. Students are able to work more independently by the end of the school year.
Lower School Physical Education
Activities for first and second grades include:
- Fundamental movement I, II, III, manipulatives I, II (nets), III,
- rhythms I, II, gymnastics, tennis, batting
Lower School Music Curriculum
Grades K - 4
We use the Orff Philosophy as a springboard for our work in general music classes throughout the lower and middle schools. Aspects of Kodaly and Dalcroze Methods are also used in addition to our own creativity as musicians and educators ourselves. All work in music is done with a critical ear - children learn to listen, observe and evaluate their work as they become musically sensitive.
Children are exposed to a wide variety of musical styles and genres in the classroom and in the school community. They are given much latitude in creative expression through speech, song, dance and play. They in essence become explorers and creators - making the music their own. Good literature, such as poetry and folksong is at the heart of our curriculum.
- explore enunciation, inflection, pulse, strong beat - weak beat , rhythmic patterns, vocal timbre and expression through poetry, nursery rhymes, and chants. Individual group activities re used.
- sing independently and in groups with proper breath support, balanced posture, on pitch and in rhythm.
- sing with appropriate expression
- sing from memory a varied repertoire of songs.
- sing ostinati, partner songs and rounds.
- Movement and Dance
- respond freely and informally to beat and tempo
- respond to simple rhythm patterns
- respond to, imitate and recognize longer and shorter duration of tones
- movement through singing games, play parties and folk dances traditional and student created.
- perform musically on instruments - on pitch, in rhythm, maintaining a steady beat.
- perform on instruments with good technique.
- perform simple melodies, ostinati and bordun patterns on Orff instruments and non-pitched percussion instruments (NPI) to accompany singing, dancing and movement.
- echo short rhythms and melodic patterns
- Reading and Notating Music
- read and their corresponding rests in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 3/8, 6/8, and 2/2 time signatures.
- use solfege in movable Do to learn to read and sing notation of simple songs.
- use Kodaly syllables to read rhythmic notation.
- In third grade traditional counting/notation systems are used.
- identify and discuss the following aspects of music:
mood, tempo, form, timbre, melodic direction, melodic and rhythmic motifs, harmony and dynamics
- explore music of various composers, styles and cultures.
- educating students on concert etiquette
- identify the sounds of a variety of instruments, including orchestra and band instruments, instruments of various cultures, children's and adult voices.
- History, Culture and Related Arts
- understand the history of songs
- relating them to culture, geography and the arts
- Evaluating Music and Performances