Learning in first grade becomes more organized and routine-based, but still with a lot of room for children’s creative exploration. First grade marks many, important milestones for young children as they develop into readers, writers and math students. In first grade, students also begin to develop a sense of independence. First graders now have to use the social skills they have developed in preschool and kindergarten in more mature ways. Therefore, knowing how to follow rules and take care of themselves becomes important. Becoming self-sufficient enough to navigate through school’s daily academic and social routines is an important part of first grade. The true magic of first grade happens as children develop the ability to understand what letters and numbers really mean. When they’re ready, they’ll be able to “crack the code” and read words and solve more complex mathematical problems.
First grade is traditionally thought of as the level where children learn to read. Not all children become fluent readers by the end of the first grade, but most master the foundation of skills for reading. Their reading material varies from simple rhymes, to classroom news, to patterned stories and beginner non-fiction books. By the end of the year, most are reading grade-level chapter books and some are reading at even more advanced levels. Writing, like reading, takes a variety of forms in first-grade. With the newfound ability to read and write individual words, children begin combining words in order to form complete sentences and gain further understanding of the written language. Writing activities include journal writing, writing creative stories, or documenting their work in other subject areas.
First graders begin to grasp more abstract mathematical concepts. Children are introduced to time, money, and the meaning of numbers greater than those they can count. Because first graders still learn best by working with physical objects, children are provided with materials to use during math lessons such as number cubes, pattern blocks, and color rods. First graders begin to do simple addition and subtraction problems. They learn to count by 2s, 5s, and 10s, which will help them later when doing math equations. They also work with 2- and 3-dimensional geometric shapes. The Indian Mountain Lower School utilizes an updated Houghton Mifflin math program.
Kindergarten is a year of increasing reading readiness. Students are read aloud to everyday to build listening and comprehension skills. In addition, students are taught foundation language skills such as phonemic awareness, which is an essential part of learning how to read. Students are taught to recognize each letter of the alphabet in correlation with its sound, to know the difference between vowels and consonants, and begin to read short (CVC) consonant-vowel-consonant words (ie. dog). Kindergarten also focuses on the recognition of high-frequency sight words.
Along with reading comes writing. For kindergarten, this includes learning proper letter formation in both upper and lowercase print. At the beginning of the year, a student may dictate a sentence to the teacher and illustrate it. By the end of the school year, however, students will be able to complete entries in a journal of his/her own.
Mathematics focuses on sorting, patterning and comparing data. Students will also learn number representation and formation and begin to learn the basic operations of addition, subtraction, time, money, and fractions.
In science and social studies, the focus in kindergarten is on the world that surrounds us. Discussion and activities related to home, families, holidays, and traditions are central to the curriculum. In addition, kindergarten takes part in the Lower School’s year-long study theme, such as Native American Studies or Outer Space. Throughout kindergarten, the goal is to encourage each student’s interests and abilities, teach basic academic skills, and to foster respect and love for both learning and the school community.