First graders at Agnes Irwin are encouraged to explore their creativity in many ways. In the fall, each student creates her own self-portrait, seeing the project through from a pencil sketch while looking in a mirror to the creation and personalization of a custom frame for the masterpiece. As a class, the girls present their portraits at an Art Show and Reception for their teachers and parents. In social studies, students learn about Alaska. They track female Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Racers on the Internet, which exposes them to strong female role models as well as the use of computers. The Alaskan theme extends to student art projects as the girls choose and learn about an Alaskan bird, then create a free-standing, papier maché model for display.
In Lower School art, a student is encouraged to discover her own artistic voice, express herself with confidence, connect with the physical world, and think and feel in new ways. Students are introduced to basic design principles as they mix colors, paint, draw, weave, sew, make books and construct in numerous other ways. The art teacher works closely with homeroom teachers to plan art projects that enrich and personalize core curriculum themes. Meets once weekly.
The language arts curriculum is designed to support literacy independence. In reading, students use strategies for comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expanding vocabulary to support their reading development. Strategies include retelling, blending sounds, selecting “good fit” books, and tuning into interesting words. During writing, students see themselves as authors choosing topics that interest them following daily mini-lessons. Mini-lessons are designed to model both creativity and writing mechanics. The use of sound-based spelling allows creativity to flow, and writers have ample opportunity to share their work and gain confidence as speakers. In both reading and writing, students’ growth is supported through individualized and small-group instruction. Weekly spelling and phonics instruction helps students learn the sounds and common spelling rules and patterns of our language. Handwriting Without Tears provides students with the proper handwriting habits such as posture, paper and pencil skills, and letter formation through multi-sensory instruction. Meets daily.
First graders expand their knowledge of the library by reading many different types of fiction and non-fiction books. Students learn to take responsibility for their books and enjoy sharing favorite illustrations and pages with each other in class. Library terms are used and discussed. Meets once a week.
Using manipulatives, students learn basic math concepts such as addition and subtraction to 18, place value, skip counting, time, money, estimation, probability, fractions, regrouping, geometry, patterns and story problems. In addition, they are taught to collect, classify and interpret data. Math concepts are applied to real world situations using trade literature, story writing and small-group activities. Meets daily.
In first grade, the students continue to learn a variety of folk songs, music games and rhymes, honing their memorization and group cooperation skills. Students are introduced to more complex music notation, such as sixteenth notes, rests and syncopation. Students continue refining their skills with musical scales, and learn about musical forms such as rondo and fugue. First graders also begin instruction on the soprano recorder, learning to play songs as well as to improvise and compose their own music. Meets twice a week.
The foundation of the first grade physical education is movement, which can help girls develop a love of exercise, build confidence in her ability to perform skills, and function effectively in a group. Focus is placed on locomotor skills, sequential movement patterns, and body control. Basic skills are developed through the use of small group instruction followed by the application of the skills in a related activity, dance or game. Meets four times a week.
Our Lower School science program uses the BSCS Science TRACS curriculum, an inquiry-based program that incorporates many cooperative-learning opportunities in a modular format. In the first grade, this approach focuses on the processes of scientific inquiry in modules focused on Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth and Space Science. Students are encouraged to explore objects, events, and organisms in their environment; develop and explain concepts both orally and by writing and drawing; and develop communication skills by recording data, reflecting on experiences, reporting results, and reading. Meets twice weekly.
In all facets of the social studies curriculum, students learn to develop an appreciation and understanding of community. We explore the yearlong theme of community by delving deeply into various facets of our school and home communities, the Alaskan Inuit community and the Aboriginal community of Australia.
Thematic units in first grade Spanish program are similar to the ones in Kinergarten and relate to the girls’ immediate environment. While we review numbers, colors, greetings, polite words, the calendar, holidays, weather, body parts, clothing, family, food, animals, school, community, and sports vocabulary, we do so on a more advances level, and use the vocabulary in longer sentences. Students also reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language. They develop an appreciation for diversity as they learn about different cultures. Geography, food, music, dances, arts and crafts, holidays, costumes and traditions of different Spanish-speaking countries are incorporated into the program through the study of the Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries. This 30-minute class meets daily.
First graders review and build on basic computer skills, including key functions, use of the touch pad mouse, and word processing skills. Students use laptop computers with a wireless network, as well as age-appropriate software and the Internet. Classes are designed to complement what students are learning in other subject areas. In a unit on Alaska, students use the Internet to learn about Alaskan animals and geography and follow the Iditarod race live. Meets once a week with additional computer time as needed for special projects.
What is "wellness"? Our first grade students will get an introduction to the meaning of "wellness" and what it means to be healthy and make good choices. Saying you are sorry, sharing your feelings and being good sports are among the topics discussed. The class also focuses on bones, dental care and germs.