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1st Grade Academics

Home » Our School Day » Academics » First Grade

First grade is an exciting time for students to begin to exercise some autonomy, initiative, and self direction as learners. They will take pride in their growing ability to follow classroom rules and routines, use materials purposefully and respectfully, sustain their attention to independent work, and adapt with flexibility to new learning paradigms as they arise.

In addition, first graders will begin to use technology with intentionality as it becomes clear to them that it can assist  them with thinking and problem-solving.

First graders flourish socially and emotionally in a classroom culture that stresses love and support and respects that each student develops in this regard at his or her own pace.  Students enjoy a variety of opportunities to interact and participate and work cooperatively. Skills such as self-direction, creative problem-solving, taking turns and developing strategies, are all cultivated by playing games with rules and participating in structured physical activities. Students also learn through such activities to interact easily with both adults and peers, participate in the life of the class, and respect the rights and feelings of those around them.  

The MindUP and Second Step curriculums support such learning with stand alone lessons that engage the students.

Language Arts – Reading

Already in love with reading, first graders continue to develop this passion as they engage with the Lucy Calkins Reading Units of Study approach. Children engage literature as a multifaceted practice which sees them engaging in reading aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading. What is more, they begin to recognize that the term “text” can apply to a myriad of printed material including picture books, novels, non fiction, poetry, songs, charts and newspapers. Reading instruction is delivered through mini-lessons on skills using mentor texts and teacher modeling. Individual and small group lessons are geared to each student’s developmental stage of reading, and these groups are flexible, allowing students the chance to be grouped for skill work and interests, as well as ability. Recognizing that reading is a skill essential to all academic disciplines, it is not taught in isolation. Rather, it is integrated across the curriculum throughout the day. In terms of cultivating each student’s understanding of the mechanics of reading, first grade curriculum is indebted to Sounds in Motion (Phonemic Awareness program) and Spelling Connections. 

Language Arts – Writing

First graders are given many opportunities to write throughout the day in a variety of contexts. Independent writing, creating class or individual books, making lists, responsive writing, shared writing, guided writing and writing workshop are just some of the formats that challenge students to continually hone their skills in this regard. Recognizing that the novelty of medium can sometimes serve to inspire creativity, students get the opportunity to write in journals, different size paper, blank books, postcards and dry erase boards using pencils, crayons and markers to allow for exploration. Children learn letter formation though modeling, copying print, and handwriting practice with the Handwriting Without Tears program. Spelling instruction is delivered through Spelling Connections. The program introduces spelling rules and grammar skills. Children work towards becoming independent writers through reflecting on and documenting their experiences, utilizing the Lucy Calkins Writing Units of Study approach. Instruction is presented through a variety of units such as narrative, informational and fiction writing. Each child’s developmental stage of writing is acknowledged and honored through individual conferencing with his or her teacher as a means to work towards individual goals.


First grade math is enriched by implementing the Eureka Math program. Teachers use a variety of tools to reach, support, and enrich students of all mathematical abilities. Concepts and skills covered are addition and subtraction of whole numbers, fractions, place value, geometry, time, money, measurement, mental arithmetic, problem-solving, graphing, and patterning. Instruction varies between cooperative, whole group, and independent paradigms.  In these various groupings and implementing games and other engaging activities, children will learn to solve problems utilizing a variety of strategies and practice skills. An important goal of first grade math is to teach basic skills with an understanding of their contextual relevance so that students can recognize that these skills are germane to the solution of real world problems.


Children are natural scientists. They love to investigate concepts and phenomena unfamiliar to them and then analyze what they have discovered. Inquiry skills, physical life, and Earth science concepts are integrated into a meaningful context by encouraging students to ask their own questions while exploring in a hands-on environment. The focus in science is on active investigation through observing, recording, describing, questioning, forming explanations and drawing conclusions. Participation in STEM activities and science experiments allow students opportunities to explore topics such as animals, weather, matter, Invention Convention, pollinators and health topics.

The first grade Science curriculum is supported by Studies Weekly and Healthy Lifestyle Choices.


Research is integrated throughout the curriculum. Brainstorming and teacher modeling guide students to investigate a variety of topics related to our curriculum. Through class discussions, questions and predictions are generated to direct students on a path of self-discovery. Students learn to extract information from different sources. Graphic organizers are used to compile information in order to present their research findings. A variety of methods are used to display their findings including graphs, written reports, posters and diagrams. The rudimentary research skills will establish a solid foundation to build upon and foster lifelong learning.

Social Studies

Social Studies instruction in first grade is focused on family life and community. The students learn about their roles as members of a family and how family life has changed through the years. The curriculum introduces students to primary sources, timelines and Studies Weekly. Students begin to see themselves in relationship to the world as they study communities and beginning economics (needs and wants, consumers and producers, spending and saving, goods and services and how people receive money). Geography and cartography skills continue to be of importance in first grade social studies. Children learn how to locate places on maps and globes and how different communities are influenced by geographic and environmental factors. They also study about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in their communities and explore American symbols and holidays. Participation in group discussions offers children the opportunity to relate knowledge to prior experiences and plays a role in developing higher thinking skills.

The first grade social studies curriculum is supported by Studies Weekly, Scholastic News, Second Step and MindUP.

About Brown School

The Brown School community is strong and supportive, and we believe that our students deserve not only an academic education but also a place to enjoy traditions and experiences that they cherish for years to come. Our faculty and administration are committed to mindfully educating each individual student in a nurturing and collaborative environment.

Our School Day

Our school song states that “Brown School is joy, friendship, and laughter. Memories dear, now and long after. Working each day, growing together. Brown School is learning and love.” Even though we have modernized our teaching and offerings, these words hold true even decades after they were written.

Beyond the School Day

Brown School students of all ages have a plethora of options available after the school day is over. Whether it is partaking in the after school or Plus programs that offer a purposeful place for students while parents are working, exploring new interests or established hobbies, or getting together beyond the walls of our school, our Brown School community is strong.

Prospective Parents

We know that you are looking for just the right spot for your child, and we want to partner with you in that process. It is hard to get a sense of the community and daily routines of Brown School online, and we encourage you to schedule a visit or join us at one of our Open Houses.

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Current Families

There are so many things happening in our school community each day, and we value your partnership in making amazing things happen. These links will help Brown School students and families stay connected to keep our community strong!

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