During first grade, strong foundations for academic/intellectual and social learning continue to be built. Students learn to balance their own needs and wishes with the interests of the classroom community. These skills and habits of mind support our students’ growth as lifelong learners. Learning happens by doing. Students are given the chance to explore and play with language, concepts, quantities, and materials.
Social and Emotional Learning
For students to be successful in the classroom and beyond, developing both academic skills and social competencies is vital. The ideas and philosophies of two research-based programs Responsive Classroom and The Zones of Regulation are incorporated into our curriculum. People learn best when they are in an environment that feels safe. From the first day of the school year, a comfortable environment is fostered. Partnering with families also ensures each child’s success. We begin each day with a Morning Meeting during which we greet each other and get to know about each other’s strengths, interests, and aspirations. We collaborate to establish classroom rules that will enable each of us to attain our goals.
Each year a new group will form. Children build new relationships while sustaining already established ones. The students learn to work productively and collaboratively with their peers. The expectation is established that each of us will contribute to building and maintaining a warm and safe classroom environment for all.
Language Arts is the cornerstone for all learning. The classroom is rich in opportunities for students to develop skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students continue the journey to becoming lifelong lovers of the written and spoken word. Learning to read and write are intricately connected and build upon each other as children develop their ability to decode texts, express their ideas effectively both orally and through writing. At Friends School Haverford, students learn to use their language skills in the context of self-expression and connecting meaningfully with others. Children happily develop mastery of the language arts in a classroom community that promotes confidence and kindness.
The reading and writing skills students develop are vital in communicating with others and sharing ideas. Through the use of Fundations, a multisensory structured language program, students develop their ability to identify and represent sounds, learn common spelling patterns, and increase their sight word vocabulary. Children develop their confidence in sharing their ideas with others. They practice using a clear, strong voice when addressing a group. They also become aware of what it means to be a good listener and develop the ability to be active listeners.
During our daily Guided Reading sessions, students work in differentiated groups to build their metacognitive skills (awareness of one’s own thought processes and learning strategies). The growth of voracious readers is vigorously promoted. Children are asked such questions as, “What does your brain do when you read? How does it feel to read with understanding? How can we make personal connections to the text?” The behaviors of good readers and writers are studied as teachers lean on current reading research and best practices. Students incorporate these behaviors as they work independently and in small groups. As the year progresses, students develop greater accuracy and fluency, expand their vocabulary, and strengthen their comprehension skills.
Like reading, writing is also meaningfully incorporated into all aspects of the school day. Students learn about and create pieces in a wide variety of genres from memoir to nonfiction to poetry. Children are encouraged to write about things that are important to them, their learning, and the world around them. Published authors are studied for the crafting techniques they use. These mentor writers and mentor texts are used to inspire students and help them to further develop their writing craft.
Students are guided through the writing process as they plan, revise, and edit their pieces.Organization, spelling, and grammatical awareness are taught in the context of student writing, as when they learn to appropriately use upper and lower case letters. Every day, students are writing in meaningful ways that encourage them to discover their writers’ voices and see exciting cross-curricular connections.
The mathematics program builds a core understanding of numbers, shapes, and patterns. The skills students develop, and the knowledge they gain, form the basis for all subsequent mathematical thinking. Students learn about measurement, time, money, place value, and more generally the relationships among numbers. The Math in Focus curriculum provides students with many hands-on learning opportunities that make learning mathematics meaningful, engaging, and empowering.
During our daily math classes, students experiment, explore, and test their own understanding. Teacher-directed instruction is supplemented with ample time for students to work in small groups, pairs, or individually. This approach, along with our small class sizes and deep understanding of the math curriculum, allow us to both support and extend student learning. Students leave first grade with a strong foundational understanding of mathematical concepts, operations, and relations. They have the skill to carry out procedures flexibly, accurately, and efficiently.
Students understand and apply key math skills in a variety of situations, solve problems using many different strategies, and communicate their solutions and methods for solving problems effectively both verbally and in writing.
The Social Studies curriculum is designed to help students acquire information, develop critical thinking skills, construct new knowledge, and participate and collaborate with others. Early in the year, we concentrate on building a warm, safe, and intentional community that allows the children to think for themselves, work with sustained effort, and treat others with empathy and integrity.
It is important for students to learn about the world and realize they can be positive agents of change. In first grade, students spend a great deal of time exploring different areas of the world and celebrating the similarities and differences between cultures, traditions, and perspectives. This growing understanding of people and places near and far helps them to develop their critical thinking skills and begin to ask important questions about equity, voice, and advocacy.
Inquiry-based, the science curriculum incorporates independent student work and cooperative group experiences. Students engage in research and investigations. The curriculum builds on content and skills learned in earlier years. What is learned in science class is related to students’ own experiences and the wider world. Students develop an awareness of science-based careers and an understanding of the ways in which science is relevant to their lives.