Writing, Phonetic Introduction to Letters, Reading Approached through Writing, Speech and Drama, Quality of Numbers, All Four Math Processes, Nature Study, Folk Tales, Ancient Legends, Mandarin, Spanish, Knitting, Recorder, Singing, Movement and Games, Painting, Drawing and Modeling.
First grade! Parents and children alike experience crossing an important threshold when a child makes the giant step from Kindergarten into “the grades.”
The importance and immensity of this transition are real. The child is leaving the cradle of the home and the kindergarten to explore the inner worlds of memory and imagination and the outer worlds of new friendships and relationships with his or her class teacher and subject teachers.
The first grade child has powerful new capacities of intellect available as a result of successfully growing into his physical body and senses during the first seven years of life. To begin with, the child’s memory is no longer dependent upon sight or a sound for recall. As a result, it now becomes free to serve the learning process.
The entire first grade curriculum is presented in a way that will appeal to the child’s sense of wonder and developing capacity of inner imaginations. The child is cultivating a special inner vision that allows her to reach beyond the given and create something uniquely his own. For example, in Language Arts, first graders are introduced to each letter of the alphabet through the rich language of fairy tales and stories in a concrete yet creative way. Letters become more than abstract symbols: they embody rich sounds and vivid pictures. Words and word families are then built from the letters so that soon the children are writing, and later reading, vocabulary far beyond what is printed in the usual children’s readers.
Similarly, the first grader will explore the qualities of numbers in mathematics, as well as all four processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. What does “one-ness” feel like and where is “one-ness” in the world? How is “two-ness” different? Through this approach the children develop a mathematical sense that lives and matures throughout elementary school.
In a similar fashion, science is approached through nature stories and observations, gardening and cooking. The children begin their study of Mandarin and Spanish through songs, poems, play acting and games so that they may live into the mood and gesture of each particular language.
Handwork is an indispensable part of the curriculum in first grade because of the relationship between finger movement, speech and thinking, as supported by modern brain research. Knitting helps to support the reading process as well because of the functional eye-hand coordination which is practiced by the students. Painting is a well-loved part of the week, as children explore the nature of color, and then the creation of form in beeswax modeling and crayon drawing. Form drawing is practiced from the very first day of first grade as a means to help the children orient to reading and writing in the two dimensional world of the page.
A musical time reigns throughout first grade. The children sing during many subjects and they begin recorder playing in daily main lesson activities. The pentatonic scale of five notes is used because the notes can be played harmoniously in any order. Movement through games brings warmth, order and sequence to the limbs. Class plays, in which every child participates as a cast member, occur each year starting in first grade and bring about additional learning across the curriculum, especially in the social realm.