First graders explore, describe and apply math concepts in an effort to continue building their number sense (good intuition about numbers, their magnitude, relationships and how they are affected by operations). Our math curriculum, based upon the Investigations in Number, Data, and Space program, actively engages students so that they can construct concepts and build skills in group situations and through individual endeavor. Students develop a solid mathematical foundation by building careful links between physical models and symbolic work. First graders are provided with ongoing opportunities to develop fluency with addition and subtraction combinations through 10, solve math problems in a variety of ways, explain their thinking orally and in writing, explore and develop a variety of thinking strategies, apply math to see patterns, analyze situations, and build confidence in their ability to learn new ideas. First grade students are exposed to a broad range of concepts, including measurement, geometry, data analysis and principles of chance. Our program emphasizes connections between math and the real world, as well as other curriculum areas, in order for students to recognize that math can be used to solve real-world problems.
One of our primary first grade literacy goals is for students to appreciate and enjoy quality children’s literature as they continue their journey to becoming lifelong readers. Instruction is aligned through the Lucy Calkins and TCRWP Colleagues Units of Study. Our curriculum, which includes reading, writing, handwriting, word study, listening and speaking, helps students listen carefully and share their ideas. Comprised of four major components—guided reading, word study, writing workshop and handwriting—our program enables children to become more independent as readers, hone their craft as authors, ensure that they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, and grow in their ability to write for an audience.
First grade students deepen their passion for inquiry and investigation through our science curriculum. Students study a broad range of topics, such as the cycles of life and death in nature, the structure of our solar system, and basic weather phenomenon. First graders practice asking meaningful questions, sharing detailed observations, and analyzing their experiences with their peers. Field studies—both on and off campus—complement the investigations that take place in our dedicated science classrooms.
The goal of our social studies curriculum is to help first grade students create a better understanding of the world and their place in it. Our world geography curriculum enables first graders to begin to see themselves as important components of larger structures: their families, their school and their broader community. Students learn about the locations of continents, develop an understanding of their differing geographical characteristics, and appreciate the connection between culture and geography. Students also learn about the design and engineering process and its role with invention. Questions such as “what role do inventions have in our lives?” and “how do you take an idea and make it a reality?” guide students’ journeys as they learn about the history of some famous inventions and discover the valuable lesson that mistakes and failures can help us improve upon our ideas. First graders create blueprints, build prototypes and make iterations to their own inventions to create solutions for real life problems, often using 3D printing.
First graders are introduced to French and Spanish languages on a rotating basis throughout the school year. This early exposure to new languages assists students in acquiring an authentic accent at an age when they are most receptive. First graders engage in activities such as songs, games and stories intended to develop listening and speaking skills and to simultaneously expose them to the cultures in which the respective languages are spoken. First-hand experience with French and Spanish in first grade helps families and their children make educated decisions about their more “permanent” language choice in fourth grade, when students select a language to study for the remainder of their time at Brookwood.
First grade students visit the library at least once a week for a dedicated library class where they continue to be exposed to new and notewothy children’s literature, including biographies, early fiction and nonfiction. Students learn to differentiate between an author and an illustrator and recognize that library materials have a specific arrangement. They begin to locate information in nonfiction books, and identify parts of a book such as cover, title and end pages. Our extensive 18,000+ volume collection serves as a valuable resource for students and faculty throughout the school year as part of our integrated curriculum model, and it also provides families with a variety of child and adolescent development resources.
First grade music class is the place to be! Filled with dancing, singing and playing instruments, students are encouraged to develop an appreciation and respect for many styles of music while they expand and deepen their understanding of musical concepts. In addition to broadening their singing range to include more notes and simple canons, they also learn to coordinate singing with movement by playing Orff instruments (xylophones and rhythmic instruments) while engaging in song. Through our performing arts curriculum, first graders also act in various productions such as the annual Kindergarten & First Grade Play and the Lower School Play.
First grade artists are encouraged to look carefully and make connections between what they see and what they create. Art concepts and skills are practiced and reinforced, while new techniques and processes are introduced. Students work with color as they learn to mix secondary and tertiary colors, they use scissors to cut more complex shapes, they combine materials to make three-dimensional constructions and are introduced to “famous” artists past and present. The overall intention of our first grade art program is to expose our students to people, places and things that inspire them to create, to ask questions and to be bold makers and doers.
First graders engage in a variety of games and exercises in P.E. class in order to refine and hone manipulative skills. An assortment of equipment including beanbags, hula hoops, balls, scooters, jump ropes and balloons are used to help students develop and improve both fine and gross motor skills. A significant aspect of the first grade P.E. curriculum is to keep all children moving at all times in order to increase cardiovascular endurance.
First graders deepen their understanding of circuits and electronics through our Lower School-wide electronics project that takes place each fall. Additionally, students use “swish cards” to program Phiro, a car shaped robot, to change light colors, move in different ways and react to the environment. During their study of continents and space, students travel to the Antarctic, Mars and other hard-to-reach destinations using Virtual Reality (VR) goggles. In media creation, they generate picture books about their work with Wellspring House, a local organization that empowers families to live more secure lives through basic needs assistance, education and job training. Integrated with their literacy curriculum, first graders create persuasive iMovie trailers that reinforce the need for planning, focus and attention to detail in the writing process. In their year-end unit on inventions, students integrate lights, motors and other technologies into their prototypes.
A dedicated outdoor space located just steps from our first grade classrooms is used year-round to support and broaden concepts and observations from a variety of projects and curriculum. In the fall and spring, first grade students use their outdoor classroom to care for and learn about a variety of flowers and plants native to the coastal Massachusetts region. Hands-on learning experiences both in the classroom and outdoors inspire students to foster lifelong habits of inquiry, critical thinking and creativity.