Teachers read literature aloud to class every day. They also model comprehension and critical-thinking strategies before students practice these skills. Activating schema, predicting, questioning, making connections, and learning to recognize inference are explicitly taught in the reading program. Picture books, poetry, chapter books, nonfiction, and informational articles are learning vehicles.
Independent reading in Reader's Workshop happens every day so students can use their new skills to build proficiency, and teachers conference with students each week to provide individualized instruction and new goals for reading time. First graders work in small groups, in which they continue to receive direct instruction in phonemic awareness, handwriting, and comprehension strategies. They also begin to receive direct instruction in spelling. Groups are dynamic as students progress and master skills.
First graders write independently using invented spelling, and begin to master sight words through the use of word walls, phonics, and reading. As the year progresses and children learn spelling skills, they should begin to move toward conventional spelling.
Teachers use Writer's Workshop to provide direct instruction in personal narrative, fiction writing, poetry, and nonfiction/informational texts. Through mini-lessons, children learn about all stages of the writing process from brainstorming to drafting, editing, and revising. First graders also write in reflection and response journals and practice conventional skills with a weekly "Weekend News" narrative.
Several projects, such as the "Name Biography," enable children to share their interests through verbal presentation, writing, and creative displays. The "Community Project" allows first graders to build connections to the larger school community while using their reading, writing, and research skills. Children interview staff and choose an individual to study more in depth.
These projects consist of interviews, letter correspondence, observations, drawings, discussions, and photographs. The projects culminate in creative displays of learning, which reflect each student's research. Students have freedom to choose how to organize and present research and findings. Theme-based projects are vehicles for language development and research skills.
Through direct investigative experiences, communication, collaboration, questions, and discussions, students build content knowledge. The math program focuses on the following areas:
- Providing a safe and engaging environment for inquiry and exploration.
- Valuing multiple problem-solving approaches, solution methods, and thinking strategies.
- Experiencing multiple math tools.
- Engaging in hands-on building to solve problems.
- Discovering math connections in the world.
- Communicating ideas and results using numbers, pictures, and words.
- Assessing student progress during performance tasks, teacher observation, direct questioning, and some problem situations.
The theme enables teachers to integrate all subject areas smoothly into the curriculum. Each unit is designed to allow children to enter projects at their specific and individual developmental skill levels while allowing them to work at their zones of proximal development, or challenge levels. Math, science, social studies, and language arts are integrated within the theme throughout the year. Building leads the class into areas of balance, structural integrity, mapping, graphing, addition, subtraction, community, friendships, fort play, and projects.