1st Grade Curriculum
First grade at The Geneva School provides a safe and nurturing atmosphere that fosters a lifetime love of learning. Students are encouraged in higher-order thinking skills through developmentally appropriate activities that stimulate every sense and pique each student’s natural curiosity.
First graders at The Geneva School embark on a journey through the fascinating state of Florida. They marvel at manatees, the gentle giants living in the warm waters of the springs, and are introduced to many other indigenous animals. Together they travel back to a time when early Florida natives inhabited the land and courageous European explorers first landed on this unknown shore, the “land of flowers,” La Florida. As students discover the magnificence of their home state, they also ponder their own value as sons and daughters of the very same Creator who hung the moon and stars that shine in the Florida night sky.
In conjunction with the study of creation, students begin the year learning about the planets of our solar system. They work their way down to the planet Earth, the seven continents, North America, the United States, and finally arrive at our amazing Sunshine State of Florida. During their study of indigenous animals, they classify many of them and learn about their unique characteristics and habitats. Each student picks a Florida animal to research and shares what they have learned by dressing up in costume and performing an animal monologue. The students are then fascinated to learn about the Native Americans who lived in our state long before Europeans discovered it. They learn about the major tribes that inhabited this land hundreds of years before most of our ancestors. At the Florida Native Festival, the students create items, taste food, and play games similar to those of the early Florida natives. They take advantage of the chill in the January air to learn about and visit manatees at the warm springs of Blue Spring State Park. Every student brings in a chore-earned dollar so that each class can adopt its own manatee and learn about its life and the tale its scars tell. As they move through the history timeline, students learn about the first Europeans who found this beautiful land of flowers and then claimed it for Spain. Each explorer, some wise and good, some foolish and cruel, adds to the students’ fascination for their home state. Finally, as the year wraps up and thoughts drift to summer fun, they study, identify, and classify shells, the treasures of the ocean; and the students recall that they too are treasures and are as unique and wonderful as any pearl.
Penmanship, Phonics, Spelling, Grammar, Reading, and Writing
Curriculum: Spell To Write and Read (SWR) by Wanda Sanseri
Spelling is the backbone to all writing and reading, but it is a skill that is often neglected in beginning language arts instruction. First grade teachers utilize spelling to teach penmanship, composition, grammar, literature, creativity, and vocabulary enrichment. This time-efficient method unifies language arts and adds interest to spelling instruction. Geneva’s spelling program, Spell to Write and Read, along with the Orton-Gillingham approach (teachers explicitly instruct in the connections between letters and sounds) support fluency development because they allow for ongoing practice with basic phonemes and rules for proper spelling.
- The discipline of daily instruction and an emphasis on proper formation of D’Nealian handwriting reinforce beautiful penmanship and allow for easy transition to cursive.
- Students learn the 70 phonograms essential to English through systematic phonics instruction using the Orton-Gillingham approach. As they master these phonemes and phonograms, they are equipped to successfully spell, encode (write), and decode (read).
- Grammar instruction is integrated through the SWR curriculum including recognizing the difference between a phrase and a sentence; identifying and creating original declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences; and identifying parts of speech.
- Allowing for the wide range of developmental abilities, reading in first grade is done in entire class groups, individually, and in small groups with the focus on proper enunciation, punctuation cues, reading with expression, and learning to comprehend what they read.
- Students become capable of writing original stories by listening to classic children’s literature and using it to model story elements and structure.
Students begin the year by reading Esphyr Slobodkina’s Caps for Sale, enjoying the repetitive text and careful order of this classic tale. They create posters and caps and parade through the lower school campus peddling their wares. As they focus on Bedtime for Frances and other books from the series by Russell Hoban, students list reasons they sometimes don’t go to bed and reasons they always should go to bed! They identify the beginning, middle, and end of the story as they read Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings. Students also write summaries and draw illustrations for each part of the story. They create and wear carefully decorated glasses to go “owling” through the lower school campus grounds after reading Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon. First grade’s study of the Bible, the Florida history native animal unit, and science class all work together as the students read several stories about St. Francis of Assisi. They marvel at his devotion and love for all of God’s creatures. The classic book The Little House leads to wonderful lessons and discussions about the seasons, sequencing in literature, and the use of meaningful adjectives. An introduction to French is inspired by the reading of Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline stories. The children write postcards to Madeline asking her questions about incidents and characters in her stories and are thrilled when she writes back in her native language of French! December brings several beautiful books and stories about the birth of Jesus. As students usher in the new year, they compare and graph their tooth losses and enjoy William Steig’s witty book Doctor De Soto. During the friendship unit, they laugh through the adventures in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books and write friendly letters to other first grade classmates. A highlight of the first grade year revolves around The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other stories by Beatrix Potter. The children write their own story using this classic tale as a model, and the performance of the musical play is always a hit. Students become detectives along with Marjorie Weinman Sharmat’s Nate the Great and solve a mystery that leads them back to the classroom for a tasty surprise—Nate’s favorite food. The students laugh as they read how literal and confused Amelia Bedelia behaves in Peggy Parish’s book series, and they learn about idioms and what they mean. The year ends as they read parables, fables, and fairy tales and remember the distinction between fiction and nonfiction. The reading of classic literature is cherished by teachers and students alike and is a significant and precious part of each day.
The goal of first grade library class is to introduce the students to good stories and literature. The books chosen for story time are mostly classics and/or Caldecott winners, with a focus on fairy tales and fables. The students learn to appreciate the elements of the story and the different art media. First grade students are permitted to check out three books at a time and are taught how to take care of them and return them on time. They learn proper library behavior and terminology. They learn the difference between fiction and nonfiction and how they are arranged differently on the library shelves.
Curriculum: Math in Focus: Singapore Math
Within a framework of progressively concrete, pictorial, and abstract representations, this curriculum emphasizes strategies in problem solving that are central to all mathematical study. First graders enjoy finding strategies for solving math problems that best suit their individual learning styles and skill levels. They build models, play related small-group games, and participate in engaging activities that enhance each concept.
First Grade Math Concepts Include
- Numbers and Operations: Numbers to 100, cardinal and ordinal numbers, using number bonds to represent number combinations
- Money: Identifying and relating coin values
- Whole Number Computation: Formulating addition and subtraction stories, using mental math strategies to add and subtract
- Algebra: Patterns (identifying, describing, and extending two and three dimensional shapes), properties (using the associative and commutative properties of addition)
- Geometry: Identifying and describing attributes and properties of real-world, two- and three-dimensional shapes, sorting and classifying two- and three-dimensional shapes, developing an understanding of congruence and symmetry
- Measurement: Measuring length using nonstandard units, comparing two masses by comparing each with a third mass, identifying days of the week and months of the year, and telling time to the hour and half hour
First graders begin the year remembering that they are all children of a king who knows their names and has each one engraved on the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16). In their study of creation, they learn that all of creation glorifies God and that they are created in his image. John 3:16–18 teaches that a fallen humanity needs a savior and that God sacrificed his Son so that we could be righteous before him. Students memorize the Lord’s Prayer and discuss other ways to pray. As they enter the Thanksgiving season, students memorize Psalm 100 and think of and enact ways to express their thankfulness to others. The idea of putting others first leads to the Christmas season when first graders work on additional patriotic artwork to send to their adopted soldiers. Advent devotionals and the memorization of Luke 2:7–14 help focus the students’ hearts on the coming Savior. The new year brings renewed emphasis on stewardship as they consider ways to take care of their spiritual well-being, their physical bodies, and the world around them. They memorize Galatians 5:22–23 and begin to understand the fruit of the Spirit as they seek ways to intentionally demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to those around them. The class unit on friendship and love focuses on 1 John 4:7–11 and includes special events for Valentine’s Day and special literature events. The students learn that the perfect example of love was demonstrated when God sent his Son as a sacrifice for all. Daily devotions help guide their tender hearts toward an age-appropriate understanding of the resurrection. The year comes full circle as the students memorize the names of the books of the Bible. They store treasured Bible verses in decorated treasure chests and remember that they are treasured children of the King of kings. The year ends with a focused study of the Shepherd’s Psalm: Psalm 23. The children marvel at the meaning behind David’s intentional words of each verse and come to realize that they are looked after by the Great Shepherd who will never leave them or forsake them.
The sciences in grades 1–6 focus on the acquisition of information through observation and exploration. As much as possible, students are encouraged to “get their hands dirty” while exploring God’s creation. The method of instruction is generally presented through guided inquiries which involve physical contact with the subject matter. Drawing, describing, comparing, questioning, making models, and compiling collections are activities which rule the classroom. The subject matter for each grade is selected to complement the areas of history and literature already studied by that grade, to build upon the science concepts learned in previous grade levels, and to prepare the student for the science concepts to be introduced in upcoming years. The emphasis of science in 1st–6th grade is to lay a broad knowledge base or foundation for future, in-depth exploration.
Science Research Outpost: Florida
Our young Geneva naturalists awaken to the world around them as they enter the Florida Research Outpost. The outpost is dedicated to nurturing wonder and exploration. As the students engage with God’s creation, they begin to catch a glimpse of the Creator and marvel at his handiwork. There is beauty, order, and design which compel the students to ponder, ask questions, and desire to learn more. Studying early Florida natives and making observations of a variety of Florida ecosystems helps each student to see the intricacies of the natural world and to understand their place and role. A trip to a Florida spring enriches their study. Curiosity is ignited by walking in the footsteps of the early European explorers who stepped foot on the shores of this unfamiliar land. The students learn from both of these groups and look through the eyes of faith to see the grand design. A thorough examination of a frog, inside and out, integrates all of their learning skills. Field studies of ants, worms, frogs, and birds along with observations and classification of plants and animals deepen understanding. Planting and tending a garden demand application of those recent skills and understanding. Finally, interacting with the nonliving parts of the natural world reveals patterns of behavior and purpose in design.
The language arts are a centerpiece of classical education, and the study of foreign languages, ancient and modern, has always been part of the core classical curriculum. Students continue their study of Spanish, which began in kindergarten. The basics of pronunciation, grammar, cultural knowledge, and essential vocabulary are encountered largely through song, play, and teacher-facilitated dialogue.
There are two basic goals of early language acquisition at Geneva: cultivating the skills of language learning that will support all later language study and fostering the cultural understanding necessary for living in a community increasingly influenced by Latin American culture.
In every grade at The Geneva School, music study and performance are vital to developing an aesthetically rich liberal arts education. In first grade, the elements of music are introduced as students learn to identify the basic structures of music through experiences with dynamics, rhythm, and tempo. Vocal exploration continues to be an integral part of learning. Students use singing as a means to play games, tell and retell stories, match pitch, and identify melodic patterns. In first grade, students learn to sing folk songs, hymns, and spiritual songs that further develop their understanding of the role that music plays in our school, history, and the Bible.
The study of rhythm and ear training continues as students learn to write, notate, and decode music using the Kodaly Method. Students use their developing musicianship skills to notate musical patterns consisting of quarter and eighth notes and quarter rests. In the orchestra unit, students learn to identify the instruments in each family. Students also learn to play and identify classroom percussion as pitched and unpitched.
The students listen to and learn folk songs and dances from Florida’s history, which includes Native American and Latin American traditions; this broadens their view of the world God has made. First grade students also study the violin one day per week, learning bow control and intonation. Students learn how to perform, respond, connect, and create through music. They also perform music selections for Grandparents Day, a violin music recital, and their closing ceremony.
First grade art students work with a wide variety of media including watercolor, acrylic paint, soft pastels, oil pastels, clay, ink, colored pencil, and etching. They create many wonderful projects that reinforce the elements and principles of art and coordinate with each unit of study.
Since they begin the year learning about the animals native to Florida, in art class they spend several weeks drawing and coloring a trio of these animals. During their study of Florida history, they learn many facts about the group of artists known as the Florida Highwaymen and work on their own oil pastel versions of a Florida landscape. During their manatee unit, they create several fun projects including clay sculptures, manatee sketches, and watercolor paintings. Finally, while reading Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books in literature, they learn about printmaking by carving frog images and pulling green ink prints.
Geneva embraces the importance of a sound mind in a sound body. It is committed to providing a curriculum in physical education which allows frequent and diverse opportunities to engage in physical activities necessary to support a healthy lifestyle. Through exposure to a wide variety of activities, students gain the necessary knowledge to understand the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
First grade students explore sensory-motor attributes such as locomotor skills, non-locomotor skills, balance, spatial awareness, manipulative skills, body awareness, and rhythm concepts. Through individual practice and cooperative games, students are introduced to simple team-sports concepts. By the end of the year, students have a better understanding of basic fitness concepts, including the importance of cardiovascular health. Students conclude the year playing team sports including modified Wiffle ball, kickball, and paddle sports.
Field Trips and Culminating Events
Field trips and culminating events are part of Geneva’s integrated curriculum and provide enriching opportunities to enhance the study of a topic in Florida history, Bible, and literature. Some of these events are the culmination of exciting units while others allow a time for these young students to focus their hearts outward to the needs of others. Often these events provide rhetoric experience and a time to simply celebrate and apply newfound knowledge.
- Fort Christmas/Jimmy Sawgrass
- Blue Spring State Park
- Mother’s Day Boat Tour
- Caps for Sale Parade
- Animal Monologues
- Florida Native Festival
- Central Florida Zoo Adventure
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit Play
- I Love Daddy Day
- French Day
- Talent Show
- Nate the Great Day
- End-of-Year Closing Ceremony
An In-Depth Look at the Florida Native Festival
As the students focus on the study of our great state of Florida, they begin the year learning about animals that are indigenous to our state and then focus their study on five early Florida native tribes. The students learn about the location, appearance, means for food, and culture of each tribe during their daily pow wow, which also includes Native American music and chanting. The Florida Native Festival is a culminating event, and the students travel in small groups to various stations to experience how the early Florida natives made clothing, pottery, and jewelry, and how they entertained themselves. Native American music provides additional movement opportunities as the students learn to dance to the rhythm of these songs. Archery and outdoor games provide an opportunity to use large motor skills and experience games of long ago. For many students, tasting items that the early natives might have eaten, such as jerky and dried fruit, opens their senses to a form of food that might be new to them. Additionally, many hands-on opportunities allow the students to use their artistic creativity to make a native vest, talking stick, necklace, and pottery. The fun-filled afternoon provides an extension to the study of indigenous Florida tribes and allows the first graders to experience first-hand the culture and lifestyle of our early Florida natives.