First Grade Curriculum
First grade is a time of much exploration. As we daily participate in Daily Five, each child explores fiction and nonfiction text at his/her level. Writers Workshop becomes an exploration of applying the sounds and letters of phonics to the written language. Because we are aware children go through stages of spelling and it is our desire to have fluent writers, we encourage students to stretch out words and write the sounds they hear if they do not yet know the conventional spelling of a word. This is called invented spelling. We then transition from invented spelling to conventional spelling by learning Spelling Concepts that the students apply in all of their writing, rather than studying for a test with a list of words. First grade students participate each day in Mathematics Workshop, a time when guidelines are given but children are able to perform in the workshop at his/her own level. Through our workshops in the “Three R’s” of first grade, we are able to differentiate learning, based on the child’s needs and level. Our assessment in these areas consists of observation, anecdotal records, as well as benchmarks. Letter grades are not given for a subject area. Rather, indicators attributed to work in the subject are marked either G – Above average, S – Satisfactory, and N – Needs Improvement.
Our themes in first grade are an integration of Social Studies and Science. Because our primary focus is language arts and mathematics, the themes are not as numerous or as in depth as at other grade levels. In planning our themes we looked through the conceptual lens of Similarities and Differences. For example, our study's first theme revolves around the understanding: People have the same basic needs. These needs are met in different ways. We ask the essential question: How does a classroom function as a community? In order to understand this theme, the students must understand we are alike and we are different. They must understand the give and take in creating a community that meets the needs of everyone within that community. Our themes consist of activities which we do in class, discovery, speakers, and field trips. In each theme, we always ask the questions of What is similar and What is different.
A Community of Learners
It is our goal in first grade to teach the children to function as a learning community following the Responsive Classroom ideology. To be successful in collaborative learning, they need to know how to talk to each other about their own ideas and how to respond to the ideas of their classmates. Learning when to talk, when not to talk, and what to talk about are huge tasks for first graders, and their teachers.
We will continually model and practice our desired behaviors. When students make mistakes in their behavior, we believe that natural consequences are the best teachers. If you aren’t playing a game correctly, you may sit out a round and then try again. If you are pushing to get to the front of the water fountain line, you go to the end of the line. Often, “taking a break” will allow students to gain the self control necessary to function well with our group. We believe that logical consequences are to be relevant, realistic, and respectful. Our motto will be “if you break it, you fix it”- that becomes tricky with the feelings of others, but first graders are ready to think about how that might happen and make their own plans for trying to mend feeling s that they might hurt.
There might be times that we need to report to you a behavior or incident that we see at school. Please know that we understand that we are working with young children, and young children often make mistakes. Our purpose in dealing with any misbehavior is to help the child learn. We believe in dealing with things now, in a protected environment with adults to guide them. We would never want to miss a chance for them to learn valuable lessons in getting along with others.