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First grade is an exciting developmental year, which provides students with a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Homerooms typically have eighteen students along with a lead teacher and a full-time assistant. This allows small group and one-on-one interaction on a regular basis to best meet the needs of each child. Along with the focus on academics, we also recognize the importance of learning through play. Learning is presented through actively engaged lessons and activities.

Adaptive expertise is the foundation of all learning where children are encouraged to be curious, creative, willing to take risks while being reflective about their learning. Communication of one's thinking and respectful collaboration with others is part of each day’s learning. Through this process, students learn more about themselves and their own abilities, allowing teachers to challenge and enrich by meeting the needs of all students.

Curriculum - click on subject for more information

List of 11 items.

  • Art

    In first grade, students begin working in studios around the art room and learn how to care for the art studio. In addition to learning new techniques and media, students focus on where artists get their ideas and begin thinking about their own lives and what matters to them  Experiences, memories, passions, and the imagination all take center stage in the students’ work. Studios include drawing, painting, collage, paper sculpture, clay, and printmaking.
  • Guidance

    The Lower School years are ones of rapid growth and development. Each new birthday brings tremendous change. Typical challenges and characteristics of children, by age and developmental stage, can be found on the School Counseling webpage along with recommended resources.
  • Language Arts

    The foundation of the first grade language arts program is focused on learning and applying phonetic patterns using the Puzzle Piece Phonics program. Puzzle Piece Phonics is a balanced literacy program with a focus on word study. While phonics instruction is the core of this program, it also focuses on reading with fluency, comprehending text, writing using conventions of the English language, and vocabulary development. This program allows students study focus patterns for one week at a time, learning to encode and decode with each pattern. This takes place through formal instruction, guided practice, as well as independent practice. Students are asked to sort, read, and write words in isolation and in context. Our ultimate goal is for students to reach mastery with weekly patterns, applying them to reading and writing in all content areas. Students learn and practice these skills through cooperative group activities, small group instruction, individual practice, and guided reading groups.

    Guided reading is used to instruct children at an appropriate developmental level. One-on-one, running record assessments are administered multiple times throughout the school year. These benchmark assessments provide teachers with the instructional level of each student. Teachers then form temporary groups of students based on similar reading behaviors including word call, use of reading strategies, comprehension skills, and fluency. Groups remain fluid throughout the year, allowing students to progress at their own pace, processing a variety of increasingly challenging texts over time. Guided reading is research based and provides scaffolded reading instruction, moving students toward confident and independent reading. Additionally, independent reading is strongly encouraged and daily opportunities are provided for children to explore books based upon their own interests.

    First grade students utilize the Handwriting Without Tears program. This easy-to-learn curriculum makes handwriting mastery joyful for students and their teachers.  Research supports the active teaching of handwriting. Recent findings demonstrate that writing by hand improves creative writing skills and fine motor skills.

    Opportunities to develop writing skills are incorporated through journal, responsive, and creative writing activities. More formalized writing is taught using 6+ 1 Traits of Writing. Specifically, students are taught to write through focused lessons surrounding ideas, organization, sentence fluency, word choice, conventions, and voice. Skills are taught and built upon throughout the school year based on the developmental needs of our students. Additionally, students are taught to write in a variety of genres including personal narratives, friendly letters, poetry, “how-to” stories, as well as persuasive pieces.
  • Library

    Students continue to cultivate their reading, listening, discussion, and story retelling skills. They study the components of fiction (character, setting, plot, style, etc.) and of non-fiction (contents, index, etc.). In first grade, students begin learning how to locate resources using the call number system. As a result, they learn how to identify and access materials in every major section of the library. In partnership with the Technology Department, research techniques are also introduced.
  • Math

    Everyday Mathematics is a spiraling math curriculum that provides first graders with early exposure to concepts that they will encounter and build upon in later grades. Students are encouraged to use the basic skills they are taught in a variety of situations; this allows higher order and critical thinking skills to develop as they explore strategies for problem solving. Through using a variety of manipulatives, SMART Board activities, as well as working in small groups, students have the opportunity to share their creative and strategic thinking while feeling safe to take risks among their peers.

    Concepts explored include: counting, relationship of numbers, measurement, time, money, exploring data, geometry, patterns, and basic addition and subtraction. These concepts are practiced throughout the year allowing students to gradually master these skills. Teachers incorporate fun, hands-on activities such as building straw geometric shapes, building base-10 block structures, collecting and analyzing data on student made surveys, as well as a variety of games that are played on a daily basis.
  • Music

    In first grade music, the development of the singing voice continues. The use of solfege games and the playing of Orff and classroom percussion instruments serve to increase the students' awareness and understanding of simple melodic and rhythmic patterns found in varied songs and listening selections. Emphasis is placed on helping each student experience the confidence and enjoyment of producing music vocally and instrumentally. Timbre, dynamics, and other basic musical concepts are studied in more depth. Movement is used to reinforce the concept of musical form. During the course of the school year, students learn to write rhythmic notation and to experience confidence in reading and writing rhythm notation. First grade students perform at Grandparent’s Day, the Lower School Holiday concert, and at the Lower School Music Night.
  • Physical Education

    First grade PE classes experience a vast exposure to sports of all kinds, designed to improve coordination, flexibility and strength with an age appropriate emphasis. In first grade, the primary goal is for students to begin to master basic locomotor and  non‐locomotor skills and concepts. Spatial  awareness will continue to develop. By the end of first grade, students should be able to demonstrate mature form when performing a variety of basic manipulative skills such as kicking, throwing, striking and dribbling.  Students are given the opportunity to participate in activities such as cooperative games, target throwing games, soccer, gymnastics/tumbling, scooters, tee ball, track and field, basketball, running/jogging, tennis, and marshmallow ball throughout the year. In first grade the students are introduced to The Cannon Health and Performance (CHAMP) Test. The assessment includes a variety of health-related physical fitness tests that assess aerobic capacity: muscular strength, muscular endurance, speed, power and flexibility. Scores from these assessments are compared to our overall class averages to determine students’ overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate. Our goal as a Lower School Physical Education Department is for all students to be equipped with appropriate knowledge of varying sports and to develop a lifelong love for fitness.
  • Science

    First graders begin their study of science by sorting, classifying, measuring and understanding the difference between living and nonliving things. Their study turns to baby animals and their unique differences, inside and out. They then transition to a study of human body systems. They conclude with a study of world habitats with their various plants and animals. Students complete a special project on plant germinations and the process of pollination. Lastly, a study of properties of matter (solids, liquids, gases, atoms in motion, magnetism) is explored. First grade is a packed, fun-filled year of science exploration!
  • Social Studies

    First grade focuses on "my community" using the Social Studies Alive! curriculum. Students are active participants, experiencing social studies through innovative teaching practices that include role-playing, creative simulations, dynamic group projects, and writing activities. Some of the topics include: What is a community? What is geography? How do people use the environment? Who provides services in a community? How can I be a good shopper? How can one person make a difference in a community? What does a good citizen do?
  • Spanish

    The most important goal of first-grade Spanish is to make children comfortable with foreign language learning. They sing, play games, and role-play as they learn names of animals, house furniture, classroom objects, foods, clothes, colors, days of the week, and numbers 1 to 25. They are able to use these words in simple statements using “I have, I want, and is. ”They learn nine questions and answers about basic personal information. In first grade, students begin learning about Spanish-speaking countries in South America.
  • Technology

    During the first grade year, students experience coding, robotics, and computational thinking through the use of developmentally appropriate resources. Students use digital resources alongside hands-on learning. They participate in a variety of hands-on maker challenges and creative presentations.

    Technology is integrated into classroom curriculum units to promote information literacy, creative work, and critical thinking. In first grade, students use a graphics program combined with voice recording to express personal learning, and they are introduced to word processing in the context of answering comprehension questions. Students also use quality learning software appropriate to their developmental level in the areas of literacy and reading, and in math and problem solving.

Classroom Teachers

First Grade Teacher
Stuart Coale
First Grade Teaching Assistant

Molly Kennedy
First Grade Teacher
Sally Trufant
First Grade Teaching Assistant

Amy Hall
First Grade Teacher
Bev Kungl
First Grade Teaching Assistant

Co-Curricular Teachers

Jennifer Brooks
Learning Specialist

Jennifer Calvert


Kelvin Drakeford
Physical Education

Krista Johns

Nisa Kalambaheti
Media Specialist

Judy Killam
Physical Education

Debbie McKinsey
Aimée Pfitzner

Kathie Riley

Teresa Schmitt
World Language (Grades 1 - 4)

Kelli Waller
Physical Education

Cannon School

Phone: 704-786-8171 | Fax: 704-788-7779