First grade is a magical time in the life of a BPCA student. Students enter first grade enthusiastic and ready to learn, and first grade provides the framework for children to develop a love of reading and writing, to expand their awareness of the world around them, and to apply scientific and mathematical concepts to real-life situations. Throughout the day, students are creative and collaborative. Our students work daily to develop the ability to persevere in challenging moments, take risks, problem solve, and build resilience. Classrooms in our school are bustling with activity and excitement, and cross-curricular and cooperative projects are the norm.
During the first six weeks of school, students learn routines and create their hopes and dreams for the year ahead. From these hopes and dreams, students craft a classroom contract outlining how they want their classroom to function in order for everyone’s goals to be accomplished.
The school’s social curriculum, woven throughout each aspect of the first grade curriculum, serves as an important component of the first grade classroom. Each day begins with a movement journey and active circle lesson, in which teachers and students get to know one another through greetings, sharing, and games.
Each classroom creates a distinct community of learners, and first grade students practice being kind and responsible classmates who work and play cooperatively and resolve social conflicts.
First grade teachers utilize a transdisciplinary block style, or seminar, model for instruction in language arts, sciences, writing, form drawing, and arithmetic/math. Through this model, students develop the skills to work independently, with a partner, as member of a small group, and with the whole class. For example, a typical language arts block begins with a circle, telling a story, a poem recitation, and a main lesson. This is followed by guided reading groups, independent reading, and word work. Learning to read is a developmental process and BPCA students begin First Grade at different stages in the process: some students are just beginning to read, while others are already reading at advanced levels. Wherever children are in the process, our intentional approach to reading instruction helps students develop skills and strategies focused on developing both fluency and comprehension. Writing is taught through both cursive and print.
In addition to honing reading and writing skills, First grade language arts focuses on the development of active listening and speaking skills, with an emphasis on learning to communicate clearly using words in a meaningful way and actively engaging with a speaker in order to enhance interpersonal communication.
First grade arithmetic and math encourages children to be investigators, predictors, explorers, and risk-takers. Using specific contexts, students learn the qualities of numbers. Using rhythm as much as possible, our curriculum explores whole numbers, counting to 144, the four processes using numbers 0-24, symbols of four processes, subtraction facts to 20, multiplication tables, 2x, 3x, and 10x. Students make connections between real-life situations and the concepts and skills important to understanding and applying mathematical principles. A short, computational routine called a number string, in which students share strategies for solving related problems, is also an important part of First Grade math.
The first grade science curriculum is divided into three blocks. In the fall, students explore the diversity of life, the structure of cells, and the cycles of energy and matter that sustain them. In the winter block, our first graders go deep in their understanding of the human identity. We examine the development of the human body and reproduction, its physiological functions and senses, learning & cognition, emotional hygiene and mental health. The year concludes with the living environment in our spring block, in which we delve into the interconnectedness of life, heredity, and evolution. Throughout the year, students use their natural curiosity to generate firsthand experiences in scientific inquiry and formulate the nature of science itself.
First grade students also participate and engage in speciality classes including art, environmental education, botany, flute, voice, movement and drama, social studies, Spanish, and a community collaboration block.