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First Grade

When students move from kindergarten to first grade they bring with them a growing sense of familiarity with and confidence in the routines of the primary school. Wearing uniforms, playing on the large playground, and lunch in the Dining Room, among many other experiences that are a first in Kindergarten, are now comfortable places where first grade students can exercise their growing bodies, intellects, and characters. Grade 1 students and families can look forward to:

* Explorations of self and family
* Learning to discuss history as students begin to solidify the concept of “long ago” by using timelines
* In-depth study of fairy tales

* Brainstorming and building a model town from the ground up.
* Increasing independence with homework, daily assignments, tasks at school, and organization of materials
* Many celebrations of lost teeth

These experiences and more make Grade 1 a year that is marked by pivotal learning and development. Six- and seven-year-olds undergo significant physical, cognitive, and social-emotional change. It is during Grade 1 that most children begin to organize concepts symbolically and systematically and as such we work with each child and his/her family to foster the resultant eagerness, inquisitiveness, imagination, determination, and creativity towards new learning. Six- and seven-year-olds are:

* Industrious and enthusiastic workers.
* Growing independent work skills.
* Learning to “think in their heads” and so, as they develop these inner-thinking skills, a quiet hum in the learning environment can often be heard as children coach themselves through tasks.
* Developing a more logical approach to the world.
* More accepting of multiple points of view.
* Increasingly attentive to the quality of presentation of their work.
* Lovers of being read to.
* Very caring and sensitive.
* Better able to describe feelings and solutions for problems, though still in need of adult support to sort them out.

At the end of each week, families receive a newsletter, also posted on this page here, describing in words and pictures highlights from the week and forecasting the learning and activities that lie ahead. We encourage families to contact us early and often with questions.

At Tuxedo Park School we have high standards for excellence in three key categories: learning (acquiring knowledge and skills), doing(communicating and acting on learning), and caring (working alongside and with others to improve own learning and that of classmates). We look forward to communicating and celebrating the breadth and depth of learning, doing, and caring your child will enjoy in Grade 1 this year!

English Language Arts

The goal of the first grade English language arts program is to create a learning environment which will enable each child to grow in all aspects of language use and appreciation. Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are integrated within a richly literate environment appropriate to the interests of the child. Above all, we strive to foster in each child a genuine love of reading and writing in several genres.

Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are all interactive processes which focus on the construction and comprehension of meaning. Current and classic research and theories are taken into account when designing and adapting curriculum. The work of Lucy Calkins and Donald Graves influence our writing process, and the work of Gay Su Pinnell, Irene C. Fountas, Sharon Taberski, Marie Clay, Donald R. Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Shane Templeton, and Francine Johnston are evident in our reading program.

Resources, Texts, and Materials: 
Northeast Foundation for Children Responsive Classroom Program
Words Their Way, Bear et al
Phonics Lessons, Fountas and Pinnell
Handwriting Without Tears, Grade 1
Guided Reading, Pinnell and Fountas 
Word Matters, Pinnell and Fountas
Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum, Lucy Calkins
On Solid Ground Strategies for Teaching Reading K-3, Sharon Taberski

Read-aloud books:
A variety of classic chapter books
Selected fairy tales (both classic and retold)

Fiction and non-fiction picture books


Reading to, with, and by children occurs throughout the day in different subject areas. Quality new and traditional picture books, poetry, non-fiction, and novels, such as Charlotte’s Web, are the core of our program. Read aloud sessions are a time for developing comprehension skills for all students, regardless of their reading ability. As students’ auditory comprehension is higher than their reading comprehension, chapter books and well written picture books read aloud provide excellent opportunities to examine characters, main ideas, settings, as well as the problem and solution of a story. Throughout the year we gather, share, and learn to record information as a group while reading together. Children practice active listening skills as one child’s comments lead to another child’s discoveries and connections. Children practice taking note of special character information and using it to make predictions about upcoming story events and character responses to different situations. Class charts are used to model lists and graphic organizers as ways to record and compare story information. Students also practice making text-to-self connections as they listen. “What would you have done?” is always a favorite question and allows students to connect their life experience and knowledge with the story.

Teachers assess each student’s reading level in a one-on-one session three times per year--at the start of school, mid-year, and at the end of the year. These Benchmark Assessments guide teachers in helping children to stock their book bins with “just right” (independent) reading level books that they will feel confident in reading on their own. The information gathered also helps the teachers select more difficult texts to use for instructional reading lessons.

Shared reading allows children the opportunity to read “chorally” with the teacher as a model of good reading habits. We use class messages, Big Books, poems, songs, and rhythmic chants written on large chart paper and on the SMARTBoard. As they join in, the children recognize sight words and participate in trying out the strategies and voices of a good reader with the teacher as a model. Even though they may not be able to figure out each word, picture cues and predictable patterns assist the class in reading as a group. Reading material often highlights language structures in words or spelling patterns emphasized by the phonics and spelling program. The group reading allows children to see and practice different strategies with teacher guidance. They move from seeing strategies modeled to guided practice and then to trying them in their own reading. Children continue to practice these strategies as they read independently and complete word work activities.

Guided reading enables the teacher to work with a small group or an individual child while talking, thinking, and reading through a text. This is instructional time for developing the attitudes, understandings, and strategies which are necessary for independent reading. The support provided in a guided reading lesson is an opportunity for the student to work through text on a more difficult or instructional level with teacher support. For early readers, the emphasis is on decoding and basic comprehension skills. As texts grow more complex, the purpose is to develop comprehension and fluency. This is a time for children at a similar reading level to participate in story discussions that are meant to stretch their ideas and help them to begin to make text-to-self connections and predictions. At the same time, they experience the connection of thoughtful literature discussion with peers.

Independent reading is possible and important for children at all levels. The classroom library is organized in levels so children can successfully choose and read independent level books on their own. As children progress through the year, they work from book bin collections appropriate to their independent reading levels. Daily independent reading of all kinds of text is an integral part of the program. Each child has a book bin with books to read in class. These books are used for homework as well. Children take these books at their own independent reading level to read as part of homework each night to parents. Daily practice in school and at home is one of the crucial pieces that helps the children to become fluent and thoughtful readers. The time spent reading is the most important part of learning to read with comprehension and fluency. As the year progresses, students learn to make written responses to books in their reading logs.


Children compose in their writing folders throughout the week. Telling a story orally to a writing partner often precedes writing it down. The writing process in first grade includes oral sharing with writing partners, drafting, limited revising, and editing with the teacher for “publication” or typing. This includes some of the work that is displayed, work that is assembled into yearly writing anthologies, and work that is published in the school’s literary magazine, The Pinecone. Students keep any drafts in progress in a writing folder. Completed work is stored in chronological order at the end of each month so students and teachers have access to it when assembling their anthologies at the close of the year.

Mini-lessons on various aspects of the writing process usually precede each writing session. Weekly ideas for topics are developed through whole class discussion, or based on a short story. A lesson might begin with a story by a featured author so that the children can use him or her as a role model for their own writing. Sometimes the children are asked to notice specific details employed by an author to try in their own writing. Other lessons start with the teacher modeling a specific skill while writing in front of the children and thinking aloud as they go. The students see and participate in the writing process as it is being used. Shared writing is used for writing, editing, and spelling purposes. Using chart paper or the SMARTBoard, the children and the teacher work together to list topics for writing, practice editing, and write group stories. Children often continue work on a piece from one class to the next before “finishing” it.  

While students write, the teacher confers with individuals to discuss current work and help with different aspects of the piece they are writing. Children are encouraged to extend their thinking or check the mechanics of their work depending on their developmental stage. 

During the course of the year, the expectation is that each child will extend the length of his or her independently written pieces to include more information and detail. For example, a child starting the year at three sentences should be able to consistently write five sentences about a single topic by the end of the year. When a teacher sits down to edit with a child, they read his or her current piece and select one aspect of it to focus on each time. An editing conference for one child might focus on the proper use of end punctuation while another child might talk with a teacher and answer questions about adding more information to make a story longer or more interesting. 

As the year progresses, the standards and expectations for spelling and grammar in children’s writing grow from phonetic spelling based on what a child hears while breaking down a word to include more conventional spellings such as sight words and familiar content words. In addition, students begin to apply the grammar rules they have learned. Each child has a personal spelling dictionary in his or her desk. There are lists of commonly used words and space to add words. 

Through genre and author study, the children examine different aspects of poetry, non-fiction, and personal narrative. The information gained from reading and re-reading a variety of material is then applied by the students in their own writing.

Listening and Speaking

Children love to share their experiences orally, and, as they do, the teacher guides them to do so more effectively. The day is structured to provide opportunities for all children to be acknowledged and to have different types of verbal participation. Children have chances to lead activities; share opinions, writing, and objects of interest; answer questions; and ask their own. Morning meetings provide a time for the class to greet each other, share news, plan the day, discuss problems, and play games to practice listening skills and to help develop self control. Lessons and discussions provide further opportunities each day. Respectful listening skills are modeled and reinforced by the teacher and often appear in classroom rules generated by the children. Purposeful class discussion, poetry recitation, and dramatization of literature occur regularly. We emphasize taking turns and listening to others. It is a goal for the children to not only value the information provided by their teachers, but also the input of their peers. Children engage in public speaking when they participate in group science presentations, parent presentations after the Culture Study performance, and in the class performance.


The explicit study of phonics is an integral part of learning to read and write. Different aspects of phonics pervade student work, and they are reinforced through shared reading, word games, word sorts, word lists, and small group activities. Whenever possible the class takes time to note phonics rules being applied in the print that is used daily, such as in Morning Messages, classroom charts, poetry, and songs. The children use letter tiles and dry erase slates to practice making words that follow a specific rule, often using the SMARTBoard to sort words containing similar phonics rules. Each child completes an individual phonics assessment at the start of the year to determine which workbook is appropriate for them. Independent phonics practice includes a variety of activities, including written work, word sorts, hunting for words in texts, matching games, card games, and word work activities where children make new words based on a spelling pattern.  

Phonics lessons connect with the spelling program. The class studies word families and examines the way that they are put together. Students complete a “making words” activity to make larger words out of smaller words to build and reinforce their knowledge. To complete this task, students apply their knowledge of word structure to make simple or more complex words out of the same “rhyme” or chunk. As the activity progresses, students are encouraged to apply different beginnings and endings to make a larger variety of more complex words out of the initial three letter chunk. Students learn sight words to increase automatic recall and fluency as readers and writers. The children also learn to look for words that do not follow typical phonics rules. They learn strategies to apply when dealing with these “rule breakers.” A “Word Wall” of sight words and lists of word families or topic-related words serve as resources for spelling. 

The class uses bi-weekly spelling lists to practice. The week begins with a word preview and ends with an assessment. Students work with six “core words” that match a current phonics focus and add four or more “challenge words” from a mixed level list to provide a spelling challenge or sight word practice. Spelling practice includes work in a spelling workbook, practice with ABC order, and sorting activities. At the conclusion of a unit, the children put the correctly spelled words into their proper places in a writing passage supplied by the teacher. This tests spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

Handwriting emphasizes correct posture, pencil grip, and manuscript letter formations as part of a sequenced phonological program.


First grade students use the Primary Mathematics series developed by Singapore Math. This program relies upon a concrete, pictorial, and abstract approach. Students first work with a concrete experience, often using tangible materials to practice new skills and further develop previous ones. Students are then exposed to a pictorial representation of the mathematical concept they are learning. Once students understand the concept, more abstract numbers, notations, symbols and word problems are introduced.

The first grade program emphasizes the communication of mathematical ideas. Students are encouraged to be conscious of the strategies they use to solve problems and are asked to share these strategies with their peers. With a teacher’s guidance, students are led to select the most efficient and accurate strategy for solving a task. This prevents rote learning by the student and allows them to understand the why behind the procedure they are performing.

Students devote the first part of school to exploring, understanding, manipulating and discussing numbers up to 10. They learn to think of numbers within a number bond format. This means they think of a whole number and how it is made up of parts. For example, students learn that 9 is made from 4 and 5, 6 and 3, 7 and 2, 8 and 1, and 9 and 0. The number bond format helps students understand how a number (whole) is made up of a combination of numbers (the parts). The students take part in a series of activities to allow them to internalize their understanding of the basic facts up to 10 and beyond.  

As students begin to understand number bonds and the part-whole concept, they move on to understanding the inverse relationship of addition and subtraction through number stories. They use various experiences and pictures to help them create number stories. Through number story activities, students begin to understand addition as a missing part or whole, putting together, and counting on. They use this knowledge to solve and create simple addition stories. They also explore subtraction as a missing part, taking away and counting back. Addition and subtraction are taught in conjunction so the students understand the inverse relationship between the two operations. Addition stories with missing parts help students to make further connections between addition and subtraction.

Next, students learn how to count, read and write numbers within 20. Two-digit numbers within 20 are represented with manipulatives as 1 ten and additional ones and twenty as being 2 tens. As they explore two digit numbers, they are introduced to strategies for adding digits with a sum over 10 such as “Make 10.” For example, when adding 6+7, they are encouraged to think of 6 as two parts, 3 and 3. By adding one 3 to 7, they make a 10 and add the remaining 3 to make 13. When adding a two digit and one digit number, the student learns to decompose the two digit number into their tens and ones, i.e. 12 as a 10 and 2. Students then combine the ones and add the ten. For example, when solving 12 + 4 =, students would think of it as: 2 + 4 = 6 + 10 = 16. Students are also introduced to subtraction strategies where they decompose tens and one. 

Number words become an important part of students' mathematical vocabulary. Students learn to read and spell them for easy decoding and inclusion in written problem solving.

In the second half of the year students use repeated addition and arrays to solve multiplication problems within 40. They use sharing and grouping experiences to understand division and begin to relate division to multiplication. Students also explore money, time, fractions and geometry in the second half of first grade. They identify and know the value of coins and dollars. They count combinations of coins and bills and use the cent and dollar sign correctly. They learn about the parts of an analog clock and learn to tell time to the half-hour. In the fraction unit they recognize and name halves and fourths. Finally in their geometry unit they identify, describe and categorize 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes.

Social Studies

The social studies program is strongly tied to literature and the first hand experience of the child. We begin the year by setting up a classroom community of learners. With guidance from the teacher, children generate the rules for their room. Classroom rules are then compared to family rules. Children at this age learn best when they begin with what they know and expand upon that with new information. The family is the main focus during the early part of the fall. By looking at their own families, children develop a definition of what a family is. The children use their own experience and information gained from literature to broaden their knowledge of families. We examine similarities and differences in families, contributions of different family members, and changes in families over time. The children use literature to compare their lives with examples of family life around the world.

In addition, children learn that all people have important needs and wants. Everyone needs food, clothing, shelter, and love to survive. As we look at different aspects of our own families, we use a combination of non-fiction and historical fiction to compare the differences between our lives today with life in the past.

Once the children have a clear definition of what a family is and the importance of people’s roles within a family, we use the information to begin to examine history. Using simple timelines to help make the difference between past and present more concrete, students begin with the experience of the pilgrim families that colonized Massachusetts. The children look at the motivations behind the exploration, life on The Mayflower and at the early stages of the colony. The children examine the great differences between the pilgrims’ lives back then and their own lives today. Students use historical fiction and other resources to see what their daily roles would have been had they lived at that time.

During November and December the children participate in the interdisciplinary Cultural Study that involves all the co-curricular teachers and culminates with a concert and class celebration. Each year, the class studies a different country. Recent countries have included:

  • Mexico;
  • Australia;
  • Italy.

The Culture Study incorporates the information that the children have learned about families as they make comparisons between family life in city and rural areas in another country and their own lives. During this time students engage in a variety of activities and practice many skills such as:

  • completing maps;
  • learning about geographical features;
  • recording non-fiction information;
  • discriminating between fiction and non-fiction as well as fact and opinion;
  • looking at climate, native animals and vegetation; 
  • discovering places of interest; 
  • learning vocabulary in the native language; 
  • looking at cultural celebrations and national holidays; 
  • listening to native folklore.

Winter social studies begins with lessons about map skills. Students take time to look at the different purposes of maps. Children learn how to read and draw simple maps. They apply this information as they begin to study communities. The class revisits the idea needs and wants and learns about goods and services. Students work cooperatively to plan, design, and build a community of their own. A series of town meetings foster practice with active listening, as students share ideas about layout for an effective community. The units culminates with a mapping project to depict the completed town. 

In spring the class studies the changes in communication through time. The inquiry begins by developing a class definition of what communication is and what types of communication people use. Whether it is language or the devices used to share information, communication is constantly evolving. Throughout history people have developed spoken and written languages and created inventions or tools that allow them to share information. The class gradually builds a timeline showing these changes and developments starting long, long ago and working forward to the many options available to us today. The children experiment with some of the languages and tools used over time.

Geography is tied into the curriculum whenever possible. Children have a natural curiosity about maps. We begin with identifying the state and town that each child is from. We move next to the world map as we chart the pilgrim journey. We begin with a look at the countries of North America and then return to the world map as we learn about a new land during the Culture Study. As the year progresses, the children begin reading simple community maps and making some of their own. Throughout the year, literature, holidays, and travel lead us to our large wall maps, to the globe, and to online sources for interactive maps and video as we investigate different locations. Continents, oceans, and directions (north, south, east, and west) are introduced and reinforced throughout the year. The children compare different land features. During our Culture Study, the children create a large wall map of their country. During the community study, the class designs and constructs a 3D model of their own town.

Fiction, non-fiction, biography, historical fiction, and multicultural literature provide essential information throughout the program.

Literature for First Grade Social Studies (partial list):
Charlie Needs a Cloak, DiPaola
Sarah Morton's Day, Waters
Samuel Eaton's Day, Waters
The Story of Ruby Bridges, Coles
Three Young Pilgrims, Harness
Uncle Jed's Barbershop, Mitchell
Pioneer Girl, Anderson
Maps and Globes, Knowlton
As the Crow Flies, Hartman
Where Do I Live?, Chesanow
Coming to America, Maestro
Brothers and Sisters, Senisi
All About Things People Do, Rice
Follow the Dream, Sis 


Throughout  first grade, students observe changes in organisms and watch interactions within ecosystems. Once they observe changes, the goal of their inquiry is to discover what causes these changes. This theme of change can be seen in the topics explored throughout the year. The students make observations and predictions, take measurements, and show cause and effect. They begin by asking how many seasons there are, why they occur, and what the characteristics of each are. For the fall, students make predictions about temperature, precipitation, wind, and light. This leads seamlessly into a study of how animals change with the seasons. Students study migrations, hibernation, and changing coats. This is linked to how different plants change or do not change with the seasons as well. As seasons change, these topics are further discussed, observed and measured at the appropriate times throughout the rest of the school year.

Physical states of matter and the behavior of atoms are the central themes for the next unit of study. Students discover characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases, addressing each state’s characteristic physical properties. The students learn to use tools to measure each, using the proper SI units and discovering how matter can change from one state to another. They also begin to explore engineering as they design and build insulated structures to prevent ice from melting, and then test their designs. Predicting, observing, explaining cause and effect, and drawing conclusions are important science process skills in this unit.

Students then transition to an emphasis on life science. This unit centers around differentiating between living and nonliving matter. While comparing and contrasting oceans, forests, and deserts, students research and explore a variety of habitats and biomes.

Following spring break, the students embark on an in-depth study of birds and their habitats. As a class, students research bird anatomy and adaptations. Then each student researches a bird of his or choice and its habitat, sharing discoveries at the class science celebration.

The year concludes with a look back at the changes they have observed throughout the year, paying particular attention to the seasons, animals and plants, and how they themselves have changed. 


The first grade French program builds upon the language learned in Kindergarten. Children participate in activities that enhance the skills of listening, comprehension, and producing simple responses. They begin each class with greetings, expressions of well being, the date, and a discussion of the weather in French. Through literature, poetry, rhymes, music, and games, the teacher models appropriate pronunciation and inspires the children to listen and respond individually and as a group. As a precursor to reading French, students also practice word recognition, and they learn to identify cognates. In the spring, the class embarks on a project related to their science curriculum. During this time, they hear and discuss stories, learn the thematic vocabulary, and perform songs for the topic in French. 


First grade students mix shades and tints both to understand how to create pastels and darker color shades and as a way to reinforce their knowledge of their primary and secondary colors. First grade students have many opportunities for drawing as an observational skill and as part of the imaginative process. Students explore the concept of three dimensions through creating pop-up illustrations, working with clay and papier-mache. Many of their art projects are interdisciplinary. Examples of past connections include:

  • making masks during Mardi Gras in collaboration with the French curriculum;
  • creating paper and crafting a book;
  • visiting the Storm King Art Center to view geometric shapes as an extension of math class. 


First grade students build on Kindergarten music concepts. They begin to name rhythmic and melodic elements through the means of rhythm names and solfege. First graders are presented with the elements: ta, ti-ti, rest, sol, mi, la, and 2-beat meter. First graders also begin notating music on the 5-line staff. Dalcroze Eurythmics are used as a movement component, allowing students to not only count rhythms and pat beat, but feel the meter and rhythms in their bodies. 

Vocal development continues to be the major focus, as students continue to learn to match pitch, sing in tune, and explore a wide vocal range while singing. The students continue to learn music history through storytelling. The music teacher tells stories of composers and musicians in ten-minute installments at the end of each class. Once the students are acquainted with the individual composers, they are more eager to listen to and learn about their music. When appropriate, students learn music that is connected to the social studies curriculum, providing an interdisciplinary unit. 

Physical Education

The first grade program builds on the basic movement skills learned in Kindergarten. Students develop more difficult locomotor skills, which include galloping, sliding, leaping, and skipping. Concepts such as speed, levels, time, force, and space are then introduced. Students continue to move safely and efficiently through space both in indoor and outdoor environments during play. They learn proper rolling techniques and identify and use a variety of relationships with objects, such as over/under, beside, alongside, and through. Their manipulative skills incorporate throwing and catching of balls of various sizes with the hands. Other manipulative skills include bouncing and catching with two hands, striking skills using hand or implement, and kicking a stationary ball with a dominant foot. Health related fitness concepts such as strength, flexibility, and "heart healthy" are used to introduce personal fitness awareness. Cooperation continues to be a focus with positive ways to respond to conflicts.