To make the transition into first grade from kindergarten, the children begin with familiar materials. Their first project is Reverse Weaving. By “unweaving” a piece of burlap sacking and then reweaving the missing strings with wool yarn and felt, they develop an understanding of how woven fabric is constructed, each individual piece relying on one another for cohesive strength. In this way, the theme of First Grade Handcrafts curriculum underscores the classroom exploration of community.
The first major project that the class undertakes is creating quilt squares, which is introduced by reading a piece of children’s literature that highlights the project and underscores the Virtues. Beginning with paper quilt squares and moving on to fabric, the students build on the understanding that many parts can come together to create a beautiful whole. Each experience highlights the idea that the nature of the material, colors, patterns, and shapes impact the outcome of one’s design. They continue to develop their fine motor skills by tracing, cutting, sewing and finally quilting their pieces together with French knots.
The first grade students prepare for knitting by choosing a yarn color for their project, rolling it from skein to ball and casting on stitches. Together the group learns the knitting rhyme. First as a big group and then one on one, everyone learned to knit. Some work slowly with diligence making even, deliberate stitches, while others knit with exuberance, dropping and adding stitches as they go. The intent behind the project is not to produce a perfectly knitted object, but to develop an ease with the technique and to enjoy the process.
In order to supplement the knitting process, and to prepare for our spring woodworking project, the students craft knitting needles. Each child sharpens, sands, waxes and polishes the dowels and affix colorful tops to finish them off. The woodworking project for first grade centers on one method of assembling (gluing and nailing) pieces in order to create a purposeful object. Each child builds a wooden trug to carry their knitting work. They finalize their pieces by sanding, and adding a personalized name plate. The first grade students explore a wide range of skills, which will give them the flexibility to approach the variety of project work to come.
First graders develop an appreciation for language as a unique means of expressing, relating, sharing, and connecting with others. In order to keep the language arts curriculum alive and responsive to children, teachers utilize methods that accommodate various learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile). Children participate in both guided and independent reading and are encouraged to read both fiction and non-fiction. The Willow School strives to help children appreciate that reading can be both informative and pleasurable. As comprehension skills improve, focus shifts to components of literature, such as plot, setting, character development, and predicting and drawing inferences. Children learn the rules of sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, and grammar in writing workshop. Each child produces word of the week entries, journal entries, short stories, research projects, poetry, and book reports. Children begin to learn the important skill of editing their work.
In first grade, the focus of library instruction is to continue to help children further develop their understanding of the library as an organized system of information as well as help emerging readers strengthen their reading skills. Students begin to locate books independently and have time for silent reading/viewing each at the end of each class. Additional opportunities for practicing reading skills are provided through activities such as readers theater. Exposure to different authors and genres fosters a love of reading, while the sharing of stories supports an understanding of and connection to the virtues. Award-winning books are discussed and shared with students.
The core math program for the first grade is Singapore Math. Students learn though instruction, hands-on activities, and problem solving. Key math concepts are introduced and built upon to reinforce various mathematical ideas and practices. Topics covered include addition and subtraction up to 100, ordinal numbers and position, measurement, graphs, the calendar and time, rudimentary multiplication and division, and currency. In addition to Singapore Math, the first grade uses Pearson’s Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. Math skills are reinforced through games, activities, mathematical discussions, and finding solutions to practical mathematical problems. Montessori materials are also used in the first grade classroom.
In first grade, students begin to learn music notation. They learn the staff, and beginning solfège (so/mi, la/so/mi). In rhythm, they learn quarter notes and eighth notes, and the quarter note rest. They use this knowledge to learn two-part music on the Orff instruments, and to sight-sing new music. They acquire a repertoire of folk songs, singing games, and movement games from a variety of different cultures. On the instruments, they begin to develop basic skills needed to play in an ensemble: beginning and ending together, playing on the beat, and listening to one another while playing.
First graders study plants, animals, anatomy, and matter. Beginning with the exploration of plants and plant growth, students practice scientific drawing and establish the parameters for long-term investigations about change. This is a springboard for considering all plants as organisms. To help establish the interconnection between humans and the plant kingdom, the students experience roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds both as food and as part of the plant’s structure. Students also explore the process of photosynthesis and the water cycle. As fall moves into winter, the class begins an exploration of the basic anatomy of vertebrates, winter habitats, animal adaptations, and the strategies animals use to survive the cold winter months. The characteristics of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians are studied, observed, and recorded. A project based on the life cycle of the Painted Lady butterfly vividly demonstrates the concept of metamorphosis. The question “What is Matter?” is the driving theme in the physical sciences. Students discover that what happens in the world on a molecular level is just as important as what happens on a visual level. Atoms, elements, and compounds are described. Students expand their understanding of these terms through activities like dissolving solids into liquids and experimenting with the physical properties and characteristics of balls and what effects the way balls bounce.
In first grade, students explore the concept of community through looking at their classroom, school, and town communities. Essential questions in this investigation include: “Who are the people in the community? What makes a successful community? What responsibilities do community members have?” To answer these questions, the children generate, sort, and categorize rules and guidelines for their classroom. They also explore the logical consequences of being a part of a community and recognize that self-reliance and personal responsibility are virtues essential to a communal way of life. They research the roles of the members of The Willow School community, the procedures in place at the school, and the school’s physical environment. The children learn to conduct surveys and interviews, and to compile, organize, and evaluate their research. During the study of the town community, children come to recognize that all people have similar basic needs and wants and that these needs and wants are met and fulfilled by different individuals, industries, and institutions within the community. They also learn that the will of the people influences the type of community that results. As a final project, the children assume the roles of various community members and construct a town in the school’s woods.
The first grade curriculum focuses on exploring the elements of art, and fostering confidence in one’s own artwork while also learning to appreciate the work of others. Emphasis is placed on respect for the unique ideas and perspectives each individual has to offer. Students spend time working with the artistic elements of line, shape, form, texture, and color by viewing and discussing works of art from cultural and master artists. The students apply their knowledge and skills through a series of creative projects that include individuality dot drawings, imagination dot creations, 2D line designs, 3D line constructions, geometric shape dwellings, watercolor story places, acrylic mountain scapes, and clay sculpted “wild things”. Each project is designed to enhance students’ artistic skills, craftsmanship, and understanding of concepts, while encouraging each student to develop his or her unique artistic voice.
In grade one, students practice and build on the foundational skills they learned in kindergarten. Students continue to practice and improve their locomotor skills, jumping, hopping, galloping, sliding, walking, running, leaping, and skipping with more confidence. They learn about movement qualities, particularly space and time. They’re improving hand–eye coordination and reaction time make the manipulation of objects easier, but they must practice basic manipulative skills to improve their technique. First-grade students also learn to share, take turns, and work with others.