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  • Nursery through Grade 8 | Short Hills, New Jersey

First Grade

First Grade is an exciting year of both cognitive and social growth. Students are introduced to academic skills through a diverse range of experiences providing a balance of both direct teaching and inquiry-based explorations.

Core Curriculum

The First Grade core study of Patterns and rhythm permeates every area of our curriculum. The children learn to identify various patterns in nature (spiral, helix, ripple, explosions, branching, cracking, and fractals) through field trips, art projects, and classroom explorations and experimentation. They use paint, collage, clay, water color, and markers to recreate the patterns they discover. Through our studies we learn that art, music, science, math, reading, and language all rest on a base of pattern recognition. Patterns are all around us! They are predictable, orderly, and reassure us that life is stable. 


Reading in First Grade is comprised of a balanced literacy approach, integrating phonetic decoding skills as well as sight word recognition.  Students learn in a Reading Workshop model, where individual literacy needs are addressed in a variety of whole class, small group, and independent activities.  Students are encouraged to explore a variety of texts closely, both independently, and with the guidance of a teacher. Students select books with a purpose in mind and, participate in individualized activities that deepen their understanding of what they are reading.  These activities provide teachers and students the opportunity to work on a variety of concepts such as figuring out a tricky word, fluency, and reading for meaning.  First Graders are exposed to more sophisticated texts through teacher read aloud and Morning Meeting.

Writing: In First Grade, students are encouraged to examine in depth a small moment that they have experienced in their lives and to expand upon the details of that moment. In addition, they practice other forms of writing such as biographies and nonfiction writing. These units are integrated with our Reading units for a comprehensive understanding of these topics and an introduction to research skills.  Throughout the year, students practice their ability to write poetry. Through listening to published works and emulating those styles in their own writing, or simply sitting in the wetlands and letting their five senses guide them, students learn to use rich description to create imagery using their words.

Library: First graders continue to develop their understanding of genre, exploring the different kinds of fiction highlighted in the library’s selection of  beginning chapter books:   adventure, animal, fantasy, historical, humor, mystery, realistic, scary, and sports.  Through an in-depth study of one author/illustrator (such as Leo Lionni or Ezra Jack Keats), students begin to appreciate the elements of writerly and artistic craft that help to give this author/illustrator’s work its unique style.  First graders compare the experience of reading non-fiction and poetry about animals, and start to develop a researcher’s habits of mind as they use non-fiction as a tool to “fact-check” the information embedded in a poem.  As they become expert in reading a book’s spine label, first graders are given the opportunity to browse the library independently and to learn how the shelving and spine labeling systems correspond with one another.


Patterns in the plant and animal kingdoms occupy the First Graders time in science class.  We start with trees, identifying the vein and edge patterns of leaves. We look for patterns in seeds and fruits.  We then move on to invertebrates (animals without a backbone) and vertebrates (animals whose backbone is arranged in a pattern).  First Graders keep their work (observation sheets, models, drawings, and collaborative work sheets) in a science folder.


Students explore math through sequential math lessons and real-life applications, as well as through our core curriculum of Patterns. First Graders apply their skills and knowledge base to a wide range of activities such as games that reinforce concepts, cooking projects that explore counting and measuring, data collection in their daily routines,( such as counting milk orders ) and exemplars that challenge students to use learned concepts in a problem solving situation.  Skills and language are developed through a range of math resources such as Everyday Math, Marilyn Burns, Exemplars, and The Problem Solver.  Through our study of Patterns, First Graders learn how to name, identify, and continue visual and numerical patterns, including sophisticated patterns such as the Fibonacci sequence.  These skills are easily translated and transferred into their math studies and allow the children to see the interconnectedness of math in the world around them. 


In First Grade French class, the children are immersed in a language-rich environment made comprehensible through the use of body language, visual aids, and abundant repetition in a variety of contexts. A typical lesson will include meaningful and personalized conversations, storytelling, music, movement, and a variety of hands-on activities. The instruction is based on topics of interest to the students, as we work in an atmosphere of “comprehensible” immersion to promote and accelerate the acquisition of French.

Performing Arts

Music:  The First Grade study of patterns is a wonderful launch pad for pattern recognition in music literacy, movement, and aural/visual discernment of form.  Students practice simple melodic patterns using the Kodaly system of solfège (sol, mi, la), corresponding hand signs and notation, rhythmic patterns using ta, titi, rest (quarter notes, eighth notes, rests), and patterns of meter and phrasing. Students also explore patterns in movement: with partners and individually, in circles, spirals, double circles, standing or sitting, hand clapping or lummi sticks, and incorporating movements such as skipping, galloping, floating and marching.  We continue to lay more groundwork for healthy vocal technique, critical aural skills, and music literacy via an assortment of American folk songs and games, Far Brook songs, folk songs in foreign languages (such as Spanish, French, Japanese, Maori and Chinese), and formal classical repertoire. A unit on formal works related to fairy tales such as Stravinsky’s Firebird and Grieg’s Peer Gynt allows opportunities for integrating lessons in creative movement, poetry, and story-writing.

DanceThe first graders begin to gain an awareness of technique and form within their dancing, and learn the process of choreographing work independently within a group of peers. Focusing on patterns and sequencing and considering the classroom curriculum, the fall semester will culminate in an informal sharing of student-created work, using different pathways (circles, zig-zags, direct & indirect lines) and working with an introduction to movement canons. Focusing on small group work, listening to others and refining choreography through a series of work-in-progress shadings and reflections, students will begin develop a strong sense of personal artistry and the strength of an ensemble.

Fine Arts

Art: First Grade studies patterns in nature, which facilitates a more complex and detailed method of understanding and seeing within a visual format. Students create a double self-portrait titled “The Inside Me, the Outside Me.” This project consists of an image of the student which is drawn and painted on transparent acetate.  The viewer looks through to the inner portrait, which is done on canvas board. This represents an opportunity to express personal feelings about themselves in a safe environment.

Woodshop: Continuing to build upon the skills gained in Kindergarten, the First Grade students gain more confidence and refine their skills.  The First Graders begin the year by exploring simple shapes as well as balance. Inspired by Alexander Calder’s work, the students design and create their own mobiles. 


First Grade students have sports class 4 times per week for 30 minutes each class.  Basic motor skills are enhanced through lead up games, drills, and activities.  Sports strategies are introduced through a variety of games.  Activities that involve throwing, catching, kicking, dribbling, and bouncing are refined to help students prepare for team sports games.  Students learn to respect others and understand the importance of practicing the Golden Rule.  

Social & Emotional

Our goal in First Grade is to provide students with the skills to be both successful students, and also independent, kind citizens of their community, whether it is their immediate classroom community or the global community they are a part of.  Through our Open Circle curriculum, students learn strategies for expressing their emotions appropriately, calming themselves down when they are upset, and solving problems such as feeling left out. These learning experiences are coupled with Mindfulness, where our First Graders practice skills which help to cultivate empathy, and wonder.


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