In grade one, the goal is to foster a love of reading. Through whole group lessons and individual guided reading instruction, students explore concepts and participate in activities to help them become confident, independent readers. They learn basic phonetic rules and how to recognize and spell many high-frequency words. After each lesson, students practice new skills and review previously learned skills as they move into the individual guided reading segment of the program. Students read daily from their independent book bags, which contain literature at each child’s designated reading level. Within these levels, students choose from a wide variety of fiction, nonfiction and poetry selections. Teachers meet regularly with each student to monitor progress, focusing on fluency, applying reading strategies, comprehension, word attack skills, and vocabulary development. At the conclusion of each conference, the teacher sets a new individual goal and directs the student to complete a response sheet about one of the books. These response sheets include comprehension assignments, character studies, and chapter summaries.
The goal of the grade one writing program is to improve students’ overall communication skills. At the beginning of the year, first graders review the formation of uppercase letters and learn the lowercase letters. Next, students learn basic capitalization and punctuation rules. As these skills develop and students become more comfortable with the writing process, they practice incorporating more detail into their writing. Later in the year, students create a rubric to help them assess their work, which reminds them to check for proper capitalization and punctuation, spacing between words, correct spelling of basic sight words, and descriptive detail. With this introduction to editing, students begin to learn the importance of reviewing and revising their writing. To improve listening skills and to cultivate an appreciation of the written word, teachers read to the children daily from a range of literature, including picture books, chapter books, nonfiction, and poetry. As part of their language arts activities, first graders also present a musical play to the school. Over the course of the production, the children learn their lines, create the scenery, learn songs, and practice choreography. This is the students’ first foray into public speaking at Fay, and it is a highlight of the year.
In grade one, students continue to build on word skills and habits of mind introduced in Kindergarten. They begin the year reviewing consonant and vowel sounds and then learn phonetic concepts such as digraphs, blends, bonus letters, vowel teams, and open and closed syllables. Appropriately-leveled sight words enrich each student’s lexicon as reading skills expand. These spelling rules are explicitly taught in sequence to the whole group and then reviewed and practiced in small groups in reading and writing. Utilizing a spiraling phonics curriculum, first grade students can master, retain, and apply the skills to both their reading and writing assignments.