The first grade classroom is child-centered, allowing for a great deal of student activity. Here you will find children actively involved in reading books in small groups or with partners, writing in journals, using math manipulatives, and discussing story problems. Instruction is integrated with authentic reading and writing experiences so that students learn how to use literacy strategies and have opportunities to apply what they are learning. First graders experience important transitions, make remarkable discoveries, and acquire new skills. During the year, they learn how to read, write stories, add, subtract, and develop their problem solving skills. Skills introduced in earlier years are nurtured to new levels of achievement as students grow in confidence and maturity. Inquisitive minds are encouraged to seek solutions and develop skills through hands-on experiences with a richly integrated and varied curriculum.
For their social development, first grade class meetings are used several days a week to facilitate discussions on various topics including conflict resolution, inclusion/exclusion, problem solving, sportsmanship, and the core values. These discussions provide the children a forum to present questions or concerns and model open and effective communication.
Building upon the strong foundation of the kindergarten program, in first grade the goal is for each child to become an independent reader: one who reads joyfully and for pleasure as well as for specific information. Themes continue to be the foundation upon which most of the day's lessons and activities are built. As the children grow in their decoding abilities, the focus broadens to include an emphasis on fluency, expression, comprehension, and analysis. The "center" approach to teaching and learning continues to provide the students opportunities to work in small, adult-guided groups, whether it be to read a book, work on phonics skills, write, or create a project that ties into the theme.
Through Writer's Workshop and a variety of creative writing activities, the children have many opportunities to practice using written language. At the beginning of the year, many children may use inventive spelling to tell their stories, but as the year progresses they begin to apply the conventional spelling skills they have learned. Handwriting skills are reinforced along with proper spacing and punctuation. During the course of the year, the children move from writing a few simple sentences to writing paragraphs. They learn to edit their own work. As the year draws to a close, they write poems and present poetry to their parents and classmates at a special "Poetry Festival."
In math, students use a variety of concrete materials and first-grade life situations as they learn to think mathematically and to apply math concepts to everyday situations. Students develop and solve addition, subtraction, and real-life problems, learn to recognize and use money, construct geometric shapes, classify different sets of data, and notice visual and numerical patterning. First grade students learn about linear measurement and time, solve number stories, use fractions, and place value. They learn proper number formation and skip counting using different patterns. Children are frequently paired to play various math games, and math is seen as something we "do." Games and manipulatives continue to provide the children opportunities for hands-on practice and reinforcement of all skills.
First grade students will conduct experiments, engage in long-term projects, and use the scientific method to explore various topics, including earth and its place in the universe, seasonal changes, and patterns in the sky. They study plant and animal cycles in depth with the help of the GSLS Garden Program. They construct “inventions” that explain forces and energy, light and sound waves, and resources of our planet.
First graders spend time learning about various cultures, past and present. They begin to understand basic geography and map skills, government and citizenship, as well as economics. They are able to relate and compare themselves to their neighborhood and also to the world at large. The goal of the first grade social studies curriculum is to instill an understanding of how communities function successfully when members work together cooperatively. Students begin by looking at their class and then their school to examine how larger communities function.
First graders spend a lot of time outside of their classroom for various learning activities. Our School Garden Program augments various learning experiences of our classroom throughout the year. In October at a working farm in Petaluma, we go for a hayride, dig for potatoes, pick a pumpkin, milk a cow, and eat homemade ice cream. We make trips to Novato Public Library and do Easter Egg Hunt at a local park. One of the highlights of our Outdoor Education in the Spring is the annual trip to Duxbury Reef Tide Pools in Bolinas where we explore the flora and fauna of the beautiful northern California coastlines.