Last Thursday, the Prep School English department held its annual Summer Reading Symposium for 11th and 12th grade students.
CGPS first graders love to read, write and develop their number sense.
Project-based learning takes on a deeper meaning in first grade as it allows for further exploration across the disciplines. Studying maps to determine the boundaries of New York City and its boroughs inspires the students to explore famous landmarks. New York Day is the culminating event for the first grade social studies curriculum. The event includes a landmark museum in each classroom, a performance, and a sampling of "New York" foods.
- Language Arts 1
- Math 1
- Social Studies 1
- Science 1
- Spanish 1
- Art 1
- Music 1
- Library 1
- Physical Education 1
- Chess 1
- Yoga 1
- Dance 1
First graders receive daily small-group instruction in reading with classroom teachers and reading specialists. Building upon what was learned in kindergarten, first grade classes continue to use Fundations, a multi-sensory, research-based approach to reading and spelling with phonics. Through instruction, students build their phonics skills so that they can begin to read and spell words with more complex patterns. They develop sight word knowledge for both automatic recognition and spelling and are explicitly taught strategies to use when they encounter an unknown word. Students then integrate what they are taught to become more fluent readers, which is essential for reading comprehension. There is an increased emphasis on reading for meaning, which begins with in-depth study of story structure and learning how to retell what they read and identify character traits.
The writing curriculum is influenced by approaches to writing instruction such as Benchmark, Judith Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing, and Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study. Students keep journals, write informational reports and compose personal narratives. They learn to work like real authors by following a writing process, as they generate a topic, write, revise, edit and publish. Throughout this process, students apply their emerging skills in sentence formation, basic grammar, punctuation and capitalization. The program Handwriting Without Tears is used to help students review and practice lowercase letter formation. To further develop their skills, the program Wordly Wise is used to help students develop a sophisticated oral vocabulary.
The Grammar School mathematics program develops mathematical thinkers who can compute, communicate, collaborate, draw connections and use a variety of strategies. Thinking flexibly and persevering through investigations builds growth mindsets needed for problem solving. Skills build from grade to grade in each of the six strands of the math program: number sense, operations and computations, measurement and geometry, patterns and relationships, mathematical reasoning, and data analysis. Concepts are taught from concrete to abstract levels with manipulative materials, paper and pencil work, games, performance tasks and literature. Our team of math specialists supports differentiated instruction and enrichment by collaborating with teachers on curriculum development and working with small groups of students.
Throughout the year, first graders work towards the mastery of addition and subtraction in units. They are also introduced to an array of important math concepts that they will work to refine throughout their time in the Grammar School. The fall semester focuses on addition and subtraction strategies, including combinations of ten and twenty, greater than and less than, and ordering and patterns. Critical thinking and story problems are emphasized throughout. In the spring, first graders spend several months learning about geometry and measurement, considering shapes by building and drawing them, composing 2D and 3D shapes, and classifying them. Standard units of measurement, including metric, are introduced. They also begin to understand the systems for time and learn how to read time to the hour and half hour. A study of money helps reinforce the concepts of addition and subtraction, as children identify coins, make change and combine coins to reach specific sums. By the end of the year, they are ready to have an introduction to graphing and place value.
At CGPS, the social studies curriculum focuses on events from the past and present through the lens of an essential question. For the first grade, that question is “Where do I live?” and the curriculum covers many facets of New York City, including the five boroughs and their geography, city transportation and important landmarks. Children learn about Manhattan’s grid system and work on mapping their own grid. This NYC-based curriculum is augmented by field trips throughout the five boroughs, including to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn, The Museum of the City of New York, Top of the Rock, the Apollo Theater and even a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. The social studies curriculum culminates in a celebration called “New York Day” in March. On this special day, the children proudly share the results of their first research project about an NYC landmark. Students display models they have created in our Makerspace and sing songs about New York they have learned in their music class.
In first grade science, students explore simple machines, animal classifications and pond life. After an introduction to the scientific method, they make predictions, follow a procedure, make observations and form a conclusion as they learn how simple machines can make work easier. Next, first graders examine systems in the natural world through the study of animals and their adaptations. First graders continue their study with a focus on different types of vertebrates, invertebrates and insects that inhabit a pond ecosystem. First graders share their accumulated knowledge with parents and other community members at the Science Share.
World language exposure encourages empathy for learning a new language, and develops problem-solving skills and an understanding of and openness to cultural differences. All Spanish classes are full-immersion experiences with focus on acquiring speaking and listening skills. First graders are enthusiastic Spanish students who are introduced to new vocabulary through songs, books, calendar routines and games. The year begins with a study of basic greetings, numbers, months, days of the week and school supply vocabulary which culminates in the creation of a class book composed of drawings of their mochilas (backpacks) with all the contents labeled. This introductory unit is followed by an exploration of city buildings and transportation which connects to their New York City social studies curriculum. The students finish the year with a unit on animals that features a report in which the students describe an animal of their choice, in connection with their study of animals in science.
First grade students are introduced to a varied arts curriculum that explores different art techniques and media. Throughout the year the children work with drawing from stories and their imaginations. They are also exposed to color theory and composition through large scale tempera painting. First grade artists explore shape, line and a variety of brush strokes. In addition to drawing and painting, students work with clay to create simple pottery and sculpture. In collaboration with the classroom curriculum study of New York City, each student constructs a cardboard relief representation of a city block. The art studios provide children a valuable opportunity to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas in a safe and nurturing environment.
First graders explore essential principles of music such as dynamics, solfege, steady beat and rhythm through singing games and exploratory movement. They begin the process of learning how to read music, write on a five-line staff and speak about music. By the end of their first year, students sight-sing melodies, write music notes on a staff and create music compositions based on storybooks. First grade classes combine to sing at New York Day, the cross-curricular unit of study that culminates in a much-celebrated musical performance.
First graders are enthusiastic emerging readers who are excited to borrow two books each time they come to Library class. They focus on larger concepts, such as the difference between fiction and non-fiction and begin to explore more in-depth titles with the librarians, including sharing chapter books for the first time. The students alternate between having Library class and Reading Buddies. During Reading Buddies, first graders hear a story read by the librarians and engage in projects or read books with their buddies. Many of the Reading Buddies projects in first grade include a writing component, such as working on a written interview with their buddies about their likes and dislikes or creating a list of things that they are grateful for. First graders are also invited to attend their first official "movie night" in the library, where an entire grade enjoys a movie adapted from a book. This type of community building event inspires a passion for and a connection to reading, as well as social connections through common experiences. Students also have the opportunity to attend various author and illustrator visits throughout the year.
The first grade physical education curriculum consists of various individual, partner and group activities that focus on traveling movements, creative play, body awareness and control. Activities are also structured to introduce fundamental sports skills while giving children the opportunity to continue developing their individual performance and strengthening interpersonal relationships with their classmates.
First graders develop more advanced skills through practicing creative and critical evaluations of never before seen chess positions. The immediate feedback they get through the consequences of their decisions gives them unique insights and growing confidence in their abilities. The first grade chess program expands students' general chess knowledge by demonstrating full classic and model games with follow-up group discussions. The use of guided play helps instructors to evaluate students' progress and individual needs. Chess exercises and problem solving challenges enable each student to progress at their own pace. Friendly group and individual games stimulate thinking and build social skills. Students learn to write down their moves, improving their handwriting skills and enabling a later review of their choices and ideas.
First grade students work on both their physical and emotional strength during yoga class. Building on their previous yoga knowledge from prekindergarten and kindergarten, students learn more difficult poses that require core strength and flexibility. They engage in games that promote self-control and resiliency. In their mindfulness practice, the children learn to meditate for longer periods of time and explore focus and attention techniques. Books that address relaxation strategies, compassion and empathy are read and discussed. The students attend yoga for half of the school year.
First grade dancers incorporate gross motor movements into solo, partner and group dances. Students explore improvisation, tempo and sequencing with directional changes. They create patterns and formations. Dance offers social interaction, non-verbal communication and cooperation with peers as well as storytelling through movement and theatre games. This fosters spatial and body awareness, self-expression, body and emotional regulation, and instills a love and appreciation of dance.