First Grade

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The first grade program is dedicated to developing “The Total Child,” while instilling a love of learning in each student. Nurturing the natural curiosity and enthusiasm of our children, as well as the significant growth that occurs at this important time, we emphasize an integrated approach to learning, often through the use of themes. As part of our hands-on, experiential approach, we enhance the first grade experience through SMART Boards and iPad integration. Moreover, we seek to foster, within every child, a sense of caring, responsibility, cooperation, and respect for self and others.




Reading

The reading program encourages students’ love of reading and meets their personalized needs, whether they are beginning or fluent readers. Flexible ability groups provide opportunities for our children to feel both successful and challenged. At every level, they are exposed to a range of genres, including: realistic fiction, animal fantasy, expository nonfiction, poetry, folktales, fairy tales, and even plays. The stories selected enhance students’ understanding of phonics and phonemic awareness, expand their sight word recognition and vocabularies, build their literal and inferential comprehension, and heighten their overall language experience. They also motivate our early readers to become lifelong book lovers.

Through readers’ theater, our first graders practice orating before an audience, in this way, developing their reading voice, fluency, and confidence. They further build upon their oral language skills by reciting rhythmic and phonetic poetry that includes their weekly spelling patterns. Focusing on analogies helps our students to make connections among words.  

Language Arts

The language arts program highlights students’ ongoing development in oral communication, listening, and written expression. Teacher-directed and independent lessons, along with classroom discussions, help to enhance students’ speaking, vocabulary, and auditory comprehension. As their comfort with writing grows, they begin to express their thoughts using complete sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. They also internalize new spelling patterns through a structured linguistic and phonetic approach.

Our thematic curriculum provides many opportunities for students to develop their writing skills. Some examples of writing projects include: creating imaginative stories using descriptive words, writing reflections in science and math journals, and completing a variety of book reports. The first graders also write friendly letters to their global pen pals in China, sharing information about themselves and asking questions in turn. Finally, they develop, through interpretation and reflection, an appreciation for poetry, before attempting to pen their own short poems.

First grade students also participate in the Writers' Workshop program at least three times a week. The goal of the program is for children to write what they know by selecting topics that are personally meaningful and relevant to them. Through focused mini-lessons and individual conferences with the teacher, students enhance their craft as writers and become independent authors of a variety of literary pieces. At the conclusion of each instructional unit, students publish a piece of their work and share it in celebration with the rest of the class.


Singapore Math

The Singapore Math program enhances students' higher-level thinking and understanding of real-life mathematical concepts. These include: addition and subtraction with regrouping, time, money, measurement, geometry (shapes), and estimation. Taught in small, flexible ability groups, the program allows for each child’s readiness-level to be carefully considered. Moreover, daily mathematical fluency activities help to hone students’ critical thinking skills and to sharpen their math facts through 40 in both addition and subtraction.

In the first grade, number bonds become the key to unlocking the door to more complex mathematics; they help children to understand how groups of tens can aid them in adding and subtracting. Students also begin to develop an understanding of part-to-part and part-to-whole relationships, to carry out higher-level computations, to calculate in their heads using mental math, and to create and solve story problems, choosing the correct operation. Through direct, hands-on interaction with manipulatives, such as number lines, base ten blocks, Unifix Cubes, counters, as well as analog and digital clocks, students gain important life skills. They also use technology, such as the SMART Board and iPads, to review math facts and to play interactive games. Finally, in math journals, the children are able to reflect on their work, paying particular attention to key vocabulary terms and to new concepts that have been presented in class.

Social Studies

The social studies curriculum focuses on family, neighborhood, community, and Los Angeles, as well as on basic geography and mapping. Each unit is also paired with our sister country China, learning about their family lives, traditions, and capital, Beijing. Students benefit from our interactive, online curriculum, full of rich stories, beautiful illustrations, and hands-on demonstration activities. Although first graders are still developmentally centered on the concept of 'self,' it is important that they be able to look outside of themselves too, to see the similarities and differences that distinguish them from others and make them unique.

 In this vein, students are often asked to compare and contrast people and things while studying various social studies themes. As part of our community unit, the children share about their own neighborhood and build a collage, later comparing it to neighborhoods in our sister country. Students explore their own family heritage, their ancestors, and their family's countries of origin through the process of creating a family tree.  To gain a deeper understanding of their family's heritage, students write letters to a special "grandpal" inquiring about the grandpal's cherished memories and experiences as a first grader. Finally, they compare this information to their own life experiences. The project culminates with a Thanksgiving Celebration and Friendship Feast.

Global Education

In our Global Education unit of study, we focus on the sister country of China and compare our own experiences in the United States to those of our global buddies. Students gain background and real-world knowledge about China’s people and traditions, sharing this knowledge with their friends abroad. On the Chinese New Year, they put on a special celebration, filled with song, dance, and poetry, for the entire school community, as well as for their proud parents and extended family members.

Character Education/Service Learning

As part of Laurence’s Character Education/Service Learning program, each first grade classroom adopts a panda to help raise awareness for this endangered China-based species. Then, in a beautiful and moving Brotherhood performance, the children celebrate friends, family, the holiday season, and China through song, dance, and music-making. In this way, they demonstrate an appreciation for and understanding of the interdependence and diversity of people and countries.

Science

The first grade science program is engaging and enriches the students’ awareness of themselves and the world in which they live. First graders discover many different animal and plant habitats. To further enhance this unit, they take a field trip to the zoo to observe and compare the different animals. They also garden and harvest in the Edible Garden and learn about the importance of keeping their bodies and the environment healthy and safe. Our young scientists think and work like real scientists by exploring and experimenting in our fully-equipped lab, making observations, keeping journals, and communicating reflections.

Buddy Program

Finally, our Buddy program fosters the children’s social/emotional growth and shows them just how much they are cared for. First grade students are lucky enough to be mentored by fifth graders, through meaningful social interactions, including special buddy picnics and desserts. What a treat!

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