First-graders are eager and ready to explore new challenges. They enjoy a variety of academic subjects and specialty teachers. The students continue to develop intellectual curiosity and learning through experience. In First Grade, we use a wide variety of teaching methods to explore each subject fully. Students learn to work independently, with a partner, and in small cooperative groups. Teacher-directed discussions are augmented by project-based activities, role playing, the use of games, and other activities that elicit students’ creativity and personal investment in their learning. Field trips relevant to our curriculum have included the Meyerhoff, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and various museums in the Baltimore area.
Language Arts: Reading and Literature
Reading is taught primarily through a literature-based program, which integrates phonics, listening, writing, spelling and thinking skills. A wide variety of additional literature is incorporated into the program. Independent reading is encouraged. We integrate literature in the study of topics. Units studied have included Amelia Bedelia, Dr. Seuss, Clifford The Big Red Dog, China, Mexico and Kenya. (Texts: Treasury of Literature, Harcourt Brace; Time For Kids ,Time, Inc.; plus a variety of resources and other literature selected by the instructor).
Reading and language skills taught include word attack, comprehension, expressive oral reading, phonics, study skills, grammar and spelling. Reading and language skills are reinforced through the use of textbooks, games, hands-on materials and teacher-made materials.
Language Arts: Writing
Creative writing is encouraged, and children write in journals at least four times a week. The children write stories in groups individually and as a class. The children write and publish their own stories and/or books about once a month.
Language Arts: Spelling
Writing and spelling work together. Writing encourages correct spelling. The program supports developmental spelling by building on invented spelling, reinforcing phonics, and incorporating sight and high frequency words. (Text: Everyday Spelling, Scott Foresman)
Language Arts: Handwriting
The D'Nealian method of handwriting is taught. Children learn lower case and upper case letters with the proper strokes, spacing, pencil grips and posture.
Stressed are: number facts to 20, place value to 100, symbols (+,-, =, < and >), addition and subtraction of two digit numbers, 3 or more addends, simple fractions, calendar graphing, time, money, measurement and geometry. Emphasis is on problem solving and logical thinking. Manipulatives are used to explore math concepts and to create a greater sense of numbers, and a comfort level for math. (Text: Mathematics, Scott Foresman)
The interaction between human culture and geographical factors shapes the first graders’ social studies program. There is emphasis placed on our family and the community at large. Students develop geography, map and globe skills as they study continents, oceans and countries. Concentration is on China, Mexico and Kenya. Study of these countries is integrated into our Reading and language arts program. (Text: I Know a Place, Houghton Mifflin; Core Knowledge, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., plus a variety of resources and other literature selected by the instructor)
Students begin to explore more complex art instruction and projects. They study the beginnings of how to shade, use watercolors, draw the face, and to do simple weaving. The elements of art emphasized are line, color mixing, and the use of foreground, middle ground, and background. Famous artists are incorporated into lessons on technique or media. Multicultural art is often created to reinforce social studies work. Emphasis is on project completion, individual expression and following directions.
Students become more familiar with navigation tools, sending their work to the printer, opening new pages, and exiting programs. They begin to type simple sentences in different programs, using the Shift key to capitalize letters and the space bar to properly space between words. Students work with a variety of programs that reinforce their language arts and math skills, and page design is emphasized as students work to make their computer-created designs match their intended results.
Students begin to understand that fiction books are shelved by author while non-fiction materials are shelved by subject. While encouraging a life-long love of reading, students learn to select books appropriate for their personal reading levels and to select books that meet personal interests. As a class, we examine a variety of illustration styles and continue to learn about a variety of authors and illustrators. First graders also participate in the Chessie Reading Program, a program designed to encourage them to read beginning chapter books.
Students continue to explore basic music elements such as pitch, tempo and basic rhythmic patterns, and are introduced to basic music notation. Students learn to sing by repetition and hand cues, and they are exposed to basic two-part and round singing. They learn to play a variety of percussion instruments. They study the four major instrument groups and are exposed to different music genres through a composer of the month and multicultural music. Cross-curricular approaches are integrated into music lessons in cooperation with the homeroom teachers. Exposure to performance opportunities occurs in class and during the December Holiday Program and Assembly Programs.
The physical education program expands on the skills introduced to the Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten student. Locomotor and non-locomotor skills are reviewed and practiced through the use of varied activities. The fundamental skills of throwing, catching, dribbling, and bouncing balls are introduced. Students participate in movement exploration, group organization patterns, and rhythm activities. Sportsmanship, cooperation, and safety are emphasized. Students start to learn how their muscles work.
Science includes a hands-on approach to life science, physical science, earth science and the human body, stressing the five senses, body parts and functions. The sun, the moon and earth in relationship to each other will be explored, as well as weather and weathering. Class experiments and exploration will include use of the nature trail, pier, and the schoolyard habitat.
Areas of vocabulary and basic conversational phrases previously presented are reviewed and expanded. We also introduce vocabulary for clothes, transportation, sports, and health. Students do activities, songs, games, and pictures with vocabulary of family, weather, days, body, animals, colors, food, house – rooms and parts, school items, table setting, and lots more!
We learn about some customs and holidays of some Spanish-speaking countries and compare them to our own. They learn an appreciation of language, people, and the cultural similarities and differences of Mexico, Spain and other countries, including their own, through books, discussions, and visitors. We make alphabet “libros pequeños” (little books) and learn a word for each letter. We begin our first Spanish notebook, which we use for many activities during the year and bring home at the end of the year.