Grade 1


Reading is implemented through a balanced literacy approach, which is comprised of guided reading, independent reading, shared reading and phonics. In the classroom, students observe teachers demonstrating how to utilize key skills and specific strategies. Following the mini-lesson, students independently select books at their instructional level and have the opportunity to practice these skills. Students confer one-on-one with a teacher in order to receive feedback and establish individual goals.  Areas of study include building good reading habits, applying appropriate decoding strategies, fostering comprehension, analyzing character traits, exploring nonfiction and reading across genres.

Throughout the year, students continue to build upon reading for meaning and understanding. Reading skills introduced and reinforced include building sight word awareness, using clues to determine the meaning of a word or phrase, reading with expression and intonation, drawing connections, making accurate predictions, and identifying story elements. To further promote critical thinking skills, students learn to draw literal and inferential conclusions based upon evidence in the text.


Students develop their unique voice during Writing Workshop as they learn the writing process, including generating ideas, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. Writing Workshop begins with a mini-lesson, is followed by extensive independent writing time and concludes with sharing of student work. Areas of study include personal narratives, informational books, opinion pieces, realistic fiction, poetry and writing like a scientist.  Spelling is integrated through the explicit instruction of patterns and high-frequency words.

Over the course of the year, students develop the skills necessary to support their growth as authors across various genres. These skills include the ability to generate ideas independently, organize their writing sequentially and include descriptive language. Throughout non-fiction units, students learn strategies for supporting their ideas with evidence from their lives and text. Students also discover how to strengthen their writing through the revision and editing process including applying appropriate conventions.


Large group, small group and individual work affords students many opportunities for rich math learning. Our rigorous curriculum utilizes balanced instruction through hands-on activities, games, fact practice, and daily routines. Students connect mathematical concepts to everyday situations with an emphasis on problem solving, critical thinking and exploration of multiple strategies. The curriculum provides repeated exposure to mathematical concepts and skills to increase mastery. Topics of study include patterns in counting, place value, addition, subtraction, measurement, data and graphing, money, and geometry. 

Skills reinforced throughout the year include reading, writing and representing numbers, as well as comparing and ordering numbers. Students learn to apply strategies and use mathematical tools in order to solve equations, number stories and to justify their thinking.

Social Studies

Students spend the first six weeks of school understanding the role of a first grader and learning how to be a member of a school community. Through a project-based approach, students study the five boroughs of New York City. Throughout the year students learn map skills, research landmarks and explore important places in our great city. The history of transportation in New York City is enhanced with related field trips and extensive hands-on experiences. Units of study also include the history of transportation, the architecture, form and function of bridges as well as the waterways that connect them. The year concludes with an integrated study of the Hudson River, beginning with where water comes from, and learning about the environmental issues that impact our great river. 

Students practice various skills during these units of study that reinforce the concepts learned. During the map unit of study, students demonstrate their knowledge of geography through the creation of a neighborhood 3-D map. Through collaboration and discovery, students compare and contrast old and modern day New York. Students evaluate how the infrastructure, including bridges and transportation, meets people’s needs. Students conduct experiments in order to analyze the health and properties of the Hudson as they learn about the creatures that inhabit the river.


Students study the five senses and how to make observations.  They learn about the structures of the eye, ear, and nose, experimenting with depth perception, sound waves, and “scent boxes”. Students then study recycling and composting. They explore “Recycle City”, an interactive program that teaches a variety of methods of reducing, reusing, and recycling. They discover what goods are compostable and what are not, and learn the process that is done on the roof to create soil. We trek to Battery Park to fill up homemade compost containers made of two-liter bottles. Afterwards, students record their observations by drawing the containers and observing the changes in the containers as the materials decompose. Next, 1st graders explore the vast regions of space. They model the Big Bang Theory and study constellations. They also use gigantic inflatable planets to represent our solar system and Oreo cookies to model the phases of the moon. 

In the spring, students study food groups and nutrition. In addition to sorting their own daily diets according to the rules of the food pyramid, students learn the roles of the different food groups in maintaining their physical health. We compare and evaluate the differences between myPlate and myPyramid, two healthy eating representations. Afterwards, 1st graders study the major systems of the human body. Students make models of our body systems, and they use stethoscopes to listen to their active and resting heartbeats. As classes learn about the Hudson River following their riverboat field trips, the students examine food webs in rivers and streams and learn how animals adapt for survival in the river.


We begin 1st grade by reviewing topics that were covered in previous grades and build upon those themes. Students are exposed to the sounds and words of Chinese Mandarin and learn to have basic conversations about themselves including their name, age, feelings, likes and dislikes. Aural and oral skills are the main focus in 1st grade. The goal is for students to feel comfortable speaking and hearing Mandarin. By the end of the year, students will be able to construct sentence segments and simple sentences, as well as to give short responses to questions asked. As part of our cultural learning, students celebrate holidays by learning about the stories behind them and demonstrate their knowledge through arts and crafts. 


We begin 1st grade by reviewing topics that students covered in Kindergarten and building on those themes. The goal for students is to feel comfortable speaking and hearing Spanish. Students learn how to have basic conversations about themselves including their name, age, feelings, likes and dislikes. They study vocabulary related to colors, numbers, classroom objects, weather and clothing, food, places to go, and animals. As part of our cultural learning, students celebrate holidays and listen to music from different Spanish speaking countries.


We begin 1st grade by reviewing topics that students covered in Kindergarten and building on those themes.  The goal for students is to feel comfortable speaking and hearing French. Students learn how to have basic conversations about themselves including their name, age, feelings, likes and dislikes. They study vocabulary related to colors, numbers, classroom objects, weather and clothing, food, places to go, and animals. As part of our cultural learning, students celebrate holidays and listen to music from different Francophone countries.

Visual Arts

Students are encouraged to explore the qualities of the materials used, to experiment and problem solve, to express their own ideas, and to reflect on finished work.

Our focus in 1st grade is cityscapes. We begin our theme of urban landscape by looking at Romare Bearden’s The Block and create mixed-media street collages. We think about how the city is built down, as well as up, look at David Macaulay’s Underground, and make above ground/underground drawings. We continue this idea during our printing project, creating two printing plates, one for above ground and one for underground, and joining the two to create a single two-color print.

We then work in three-dimensions to create a ceramic building using slabs of clay. We learn to score and slip the clay in order to attach any details and to join the edges of the building.


The woodworking curriculum is centered on four main principles: the practice of individual safety and awareness of others, teamwork and cooperation between students, the development of tool usage, and a lasting sense of accomplishment and success. The overall goal of the program is for students to increase motor skills and tool usage, as well as develop a strong sense of personal accomplishment, success, and ownership by completing meaningful projects. Students learn how to use straight and coping saws, safety goggles, files, c-clamps, hammers and wood glue to build their projects. Once the project is assembled, students further design their project with paint and ink to give it a finished quality and promote ownership and achievement.

The first project in Woodworking for 1st Grade students is an “Animal Box”. Each student builds a four-sided box in which two sides are cut into the shape of two different animals of his or her choosing. The “Animal Box” is a utilitarian object that combines personal choice and design while expanding each student’s proficiency and personal tool usage.

Next, to coincide with the classroom studies of New York City, students design a project that depicts a specific building, park, bridge, or other unique architectural structure. The goal is for students to consider the concept of “place” and to create a work that is meaningful to him or her.


In 1st grade, students build on the skills and concepts introduced in Kindergarten, developing foundational musicianship skills and instrumental technique on the violin. Throughout the semester, students use their singing voice to match pitches in tonal patterns and repertoire. Each class begins with a “hello” greeting, sung on words or solfège with accompanying solfège hand signs. Students echo solfège tonal patterns independently and together in addition to singing song repertoire. Throughout the year, students develop violin technique and posture while they practice keeping their violin up and covering their left shoulder while playing. Students develop left hand position and learn how to put their fingers down in the correct spots to play the notes. They practice setting up a good bowhold and keeping their fingers flexible with a curved pinky and bent thumb.  

Students think critically and demonstrate their understanding of how to make a beautiful sound on the violin. They focus on playing with a light bow, keeping the bow in “bow country” between the bridge and the fingerboard, and making sure that the bow only touches one string at a time. Students perform as a full class, in small groups, and individually to maximize their learning. In music literacy development, students read and perform four-beat rhythm patterns and demonstrate an understanding of written melodic contour in repertoire. Singing on solfège and utilizing the accompanying hand signs helps students to build their audiation, or “inner hearing”, an important part of developing music literacy. Students perform a wide variety of repertoire from different genres as well as benchmark songs including “The Monkey Song”, “Hot Cross Buns”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Violin Pro”.  Differentiated parts including bass line, melody, upper octave and harmony are provided to help students to progress at their own level.

Physical Education

In 1st grade, students participate in both competitive and cooperative activities. Our curriculum offers a balance that allows each student to be successful throughout the school year.

Through warm-up games and activities students strengthen their spatial and body awareness, locomotive skills such as skipping, galloping and running. Students will participate in a variety of beginner team sport units which include soccer, basketball, pillow polo hockey, kickball, and tennis, focusing on developing eye-hand and, eye-foot coordination. Our cooperative units include parachute manipulation, bowling and short jump rope. The highlight of our year is the circus arts unit, which incorporates all of the above skills. Students learn the beginning steps of juggling scarfs, plate spinning and stilt walking. The culmination of the school year is our Lower School Field Day. On this day students compete in relay races and activities, displaying good sportsmanship and respect for classmates.


Students spend the first few weeks of school learning about water safety, which includes our pool rules and routines. We discuss the importance of following the rules and how they can help us become more productive swimmers.

Throughout the year students learn skills that are essential to swimming and lifesaving. Students review exhaling underwater, floating (supine and prone floating), streamline ready position, flutter kicking and diving. Differentiated instruction is crucial to the swimming development of each student, and students often work in small skills-based groups to ensure each student receives the attention they require to progress. Students are also taught to combine skills, such as how to streamline off the wall and glide while exhaling from their nose as they begin a flutter kick. These are the beginning steps to learning the front crawl stroke, and they are drills that will help them to improve their technique and endurance. With practice, students will be challenged to complete up to a 50-yard swim.

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