First Grade

First Grade Curriculum


First grade students at St. John’s continue to build abstract concepts and skills in the content areas. As they grow physically, social and emotional issues unique to beginning learners are addressed. Teachers and adults rejoice with students as they gain self-confidence in their emerging independence. No longer the youngest students or doing everything for the first time, first grade students are freer to take academic risks and increase their learning potential. First grade is a wonderful time of exploration for students at St. John’s.

Success Traits

First graders get involved with each of the nine Success Traits in many ways. They learn about characters in literature and non-fiction that represent these qualities. They begin to take ownership of their own learning.


The first grade Language Arts curriculum consists of reading, writing, grammar, spelling, listening and speaking.  The students work in these areas on a daily basis and incorporate the skills learned into their everyday lives. The primary materials are provided through Reading Street 6 with significant enhancements from a rich variety of other sources.

Our goals in reading are to develop and expand phonetics, semantics and decoding skills as well as to increase sight vocabulary. Students work in basal, as well as leveled readers that gradually increase core sight and decoding vocabulary. Reading comprehension is developed through independent reading, small group work, and class Read Aloud activities. Teachers choose quality literature to read aloud to the students on a daily basis. Developing a students love of reading and appreciation for literature is essential to first grade instruction. One way this is achieved is through regular story time, which develops listening skills and receptive language skills.

Read Aloud

First grade teachers read aloud to students daily. Listening skills are developed as are comprehension and attention skills.  Students develop language skills and a love of literature. Read Aloud greatly enriches the first grade reading program. First grade Read Aloud Books may include:

Seasons – North Country Night
Holidays – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Biographies – Honest Abe
Humor – Amelia Bedelia
Poetry – Jack Prelutsky Poems
Mysteries – Jigsaw Jones
Favorite Authors – Tomie dePaolo
Humor – Best Joke Book in the World
Values – Ruby the Copycat


Students have ample opportunities to engage in the writing process. The types of writing explored are narratives, expository, persuasive, procedural, and transactional writing. Teachers directly articulate the connections between reading and writing. Students work on broadening their formal writing skills throughout the year. The ease and flow of writing expression is more important at this stage than the struggle to present fully correct spelling and grammar.  Considerable time is focused on the conventions of writing. Students are introduced to the writing process: brainstorm, rough draft, edit, final draft, and publish. Journaling is done throughout the week for student reflection.


Grammar usage and mechanics are taught in isolation, as well as integrated in daily writing. Students have spelling assignments using a spelling list from the Pearson Reading Street Series. The spelling lists focus on the phonetics covered in the reading program. First graders have daily spelling assignments and weekly spelling tests.


First grade students have penmanship practice. They practice writing upper and lower case letters using the DNealian Method. The focus is on legibility, spacing, sizing, and structure. The students are regularly asked to try their best with their developing penmanship on all assignments, especially published work on display.


The first grade mathematics curriculum is based on the Envision Math program. This curriculum is structured to build students foundational skills. Students practice basic skills through daily activities and games. Students collect data through daily routines like attendance and weather reporting. The homework component of this program involves mathematics activities specifically designed for completion at home with parents to reinforce skills taught in class. This program includes hands-on activities using a variety of manipulatives, problem solving based on everyday experiences and situations, and cooperative learning through partner and small group activities. Communications about mathematics through sharing and explaining ideas and insights is an important part of each lesson.

Students in first grade study numeration and counting: reading and writing numbers, counting patterns, and identifying place value, whole numbers and fractions. Teachers challenge students with problem solving, puzzles, brainteasers and mental arithmetic activities. Students explore two and three-dimensional shapes to develop basic skills in geometry. Measurement and reference frames include length, width, weight, temperature, clocks, calendars, time lines, money units and ordinal numbers.


First graders experience science through units that encompass the world around them. Each unit provides an opportunity for the students to create an understanding of different science concepts through exploration, discussion, and literature. The students will develop ways to demonstrate their understanding by compiling books and creating displays.

Living and Nonliving Things: Students will explore how plants and animals grow and change. They will also develop an understanding of what living things need to survive.

Light and Energy: Students identify what causes day and night and seasonal changes. Students also learn how to construct a simple circuit.

Exploring Matter: Students identify matter and investigate the three states of matter; solids, liquids, and gases. Students connect the concept of matter to recycling.

Social Studies

Capitalizing on the ideas taught in Kindergarten, first graders continue to develop their understanding of self within their community. Vocabulary development, discussion, cooperative learning and role-playing are all utilized to teach social studies concepts. Units include:

School Environment: Topics include the classroom environment, children as school workers, working together, helping one another and teamwork, and the importance of having and following school rules. Students use map-making skills to make a map of their classroom.

At Home with Family: This unit focuses on each students role as a family member. Students construct and learn about their family tree, develop concepts about family teamwork, learn how to make good choices as a member of a family, and explore family celebrations. Students compare and contrast families of today with families long ago.

Map Skills: Students learn about the different components of a map and their purposes and utilities, including the compass rose and cardinal directions, and map keys, legends, and symbols. Through map construction, they then learn how to apply these skills.

Living In A Community: Students learn about neighbors, community leaders, and the value of helping others in this unit. Students identify goods, services, and businesses in our local community. Students extend map-reading skills in the unit.

Protecting the Earth: Students identify land and water natural resources. Students discuss how to preserve our natural resources.

Global Education

First graders participate in the development of a World Village relationship. Students utilize an interactive wiki, voice thread tools, and the Skype network to communicate and grow in their knowledge of other cultures. This experience enhances the Social Studies program and International Festival. This year first graders also learn a folk dance from China. During multi-cultural week of the International Festival, students will be involved in a variety of activities as they explore the culture of China, Peru, or the Netherlands.


In first grade Spanish, students review the use of greetings, farewells, introductions, and other common expressions that Latinos use everyday. They respond to teacher commands and questions, and practice pronunciation and writing of the Spanish alphabet. They Identify, name and write basic colors, the calendar, days of the week, seasons, weather, school and classroom objects, areas of a house, family, clothing, food, eating utensils, farm animals, pets, sports, body parts, transportation, places and people that work in the community, opposites, and cardinal numbers.  Students count and write numbers up to 30. They are expected to be able to respond to teacher directions, commands and answer questions using not less than two words. First graders read aloud booklets, reinforcing learned vocabulary through digital resources and through singing and playing. They apply vocabulary about holidays. During International Festival week, they learn about a country and its different languages.


In grades preschool through two, the program Godly Play, helps our students, whatever their background and whatever their learning needs or strengths, to access the stories and their connection to God on their own level.  Godly Play can help make religion a powerful and personally meaningful experience, helping students to recognize God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and His abiding love.

In the Episcopal tradition, the act of wondering or asking questions to explore personal faith, is an act of faith in itself. Therefore, in Godly Play, students are presented a lesson using beautifully made manipulatives and then are asked questions such as “What is the most important part of this story?” or “What part did you like the most?” Then, they are asked, “Is there any part of the story that is about you?” Finally, they answer the question, “Is there any part of this story that we could have done without and still have had all that we needed?” These questions lead to some very thoughtful conversations about the story and the children’s experiences in reference to them.

Godly Play is much like the process of acquiring a language. During the first year or two of learning a language, students are learning and repeating sounds and words (learning story scripts, learning how to build a circle in which to experience the stories and where the teacher supports the students’ wondering, etc.). Then students develop a level of language proficiency and start using those manipulatives to make meaning and deep connections among the lessons.

Preschool through grade two students experience Word of God classes and Feasts in Godly Play, an informal liturgy and breaking of the bread. Each year, students attend the grade three skit, “The Real Story of Christmas, God Gives Us His Son.” Additionally, grade one participates in a Christmas tableau.


In general music in Kindergarten through fourth grade, students explore four key areas of development; music performance, music literacy, music appreciation, and classroom and global connections. Students perform through singing, dancing, and playing of instruments. Students acquire and apply music literacy skills through development of musical vocabulary. Students listen and respond to music from a variety of cultural and historical sources.  Students make connections between music, their world, and the greater global community through their singing, dancing, listening, and playing. Students have many opportunities to connect to and demonstrate the Traits for Success particularly Courage, Persistence, Positive Attitude, and Attentiveness as they study and perform music.

Students in first grade strengthen their singing skills by participating in independent and small group performance both in class and in public. In first grade they play simple chord and rhythmic accompaniments in class and in performance. Students continue to respond to music through movement, class discussion, and visual art. Students identify, label, and use key musical concepts focusing on musical literacy areas of melody, rhythm, form, and timbre.

To demonstrate these skills, each student participates in the three performances annually including the Festival of the Arts. Students also complete performance-based assessments on or above grade level expectation.


First grade students work in a variety of media including pencils, markers, pastels, watercolor, tempera etc. Children complete 2-D and 3-D projects. Curriculum provides the opportunity for children to learn and develop skills in drawing, painting, composition and craft. The main rules of perspective and figure drawing are introduced. First graders create a composition out of construction paper based on their study of Matisse. Each student draws a self-portrait that becomes part of a collage for the yearly St. Johns Auction. Demonstration and step by step explanation of how to complete projects are used to ensure children understand the project and how to complete it. The instruction about safe and proper use of equipment is a part of the lessons.

Physical Education

The first grade Physical Education program is sequential and builds on the skills and activities introduced at the Kindergarten level. Children work to refine basic motor skills and coordination of the major muscle groups. An emphasis is placed on space, pathways and changing direction quickly. Proper form and technique are stressed at the first grade level as the students work on patterns individually and with partners to music. Students are challenged to copy, remember and repeat simple skill actions with control and coordination. Flexibility is introduced as the children learn about the differences between static and dynamic balances. A greater emphasis is placed on kinesthetic awareness as body shapes are defined by symmetrical and asymmetrical postures and weight transfer during activity. Heart rate and the role of exercise continues to be a focus as the children learn about pulse rate and the importance of physical activity for a healthy lifestyle. It is important for everyone to have fun as they learn so they will continue to be active throughout their lives.

Students are encouraged to interact with others in groups of all sizes, as well as to work independently. A greater emphasis is placed on individual effort, cooperation and social awareness as we encourage the students to emulate the traits for success. The children learn many games throughout the year and during holiday times that encourage teamwork, cooperation, following directions and rules and playing safely.

First grade students use a variety of implements to continually improve their fine motor coordination. A variety of balls, juggling scarves, pool noodles, jump ropes and parachutes are utilized to challenge and help the students problem solve and explore their individual talents.

Our first grade students continue to develop their throwing, catching, striking and kicking skills with a greater emphasis on eye-hand and foot-hand coordination utilizing both the right and left sides of the body. The Physical Education staff works with the classroom teachers to integrate activities from the classroom into the gymnasium.  These include, but are not limited to: fire safety, dental health and Native American activities. Multicultural games are introduced to increase the students knowledge of global awareness.

St. John’s students are exposed to and experience a wide variety of activities that encompass shared experiences.  The Physical Education department organizes and supervises school events such as Community Building Week, International Festival, Blue Gold events, Buddy program and Field Days. Students are introduced to the knowledge necessary to lead a long and healthy lifestyle.


During first grade, students will develop an age-appropriate understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations, building on their Kindergarten experiences. By the end of first grade, we expect St. John’s technology students to be able to work independently in all software programs we use throughout the year, including operating the related peripherals, tools and menus. First graders learn to log into our network independently. They are also expected to be able to compose short, written sentences using the keyboard and be able to access Web information via hyperlinks. This year they begin to listen to recorded information and select responses based on that input. Their experience includes the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards for Students) categories of creativity, communication and collaboration, and finally basic research and information fluency.


Students in first grade are taught that libraries are organized in a specific way and then use this knowledge to locate books of personal interest. Weekly library classes for students in first grade consist of a Read Aloud time using age-appropriate classic picture and early reader chapter books followed by an opportunity for book selection. Children are assisted in finding and checking out books from the picture book area and from the non-fiction sections of the library. Attentiveness and organization are traits emphasized at this level.

Community Service

The first grade participates in an annual Rock-a-Thon to raise money for a variety of organizations that have included The Red Cross and the USO to deliver care packages to our troops. Students earn money by rocking in rocking chairs during the event. The first grade also holds an annual bazaar to raise money for a variety of charities.

Field Trips

Students in the first grade enjoy three or four field trips each year. Students have the opportunity to visit a living history museum to experience a day in the life of pilgrim and Wampanoag children. First grade also makes an annual trip to the recycling center and local businesses to learn about recycling. A favorite trip for the first grade is to go to the Brookside Nature Center to learn about apples. They also enjoy visiting the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore to complement a unit of study on dental health.