First Grade is an exciting year for our students! The children are eager to wear uniforms and give up naps . . . just like the big kids! Our highly differentiated first grade program encourages increasing independence and leadership as we teach routines to foster good study skills.
In addition to the rapid development of cognitive abilities, this year is one of tremendous physical, social, and emotional growth. First graders are maturing rapidly, and this is an excellent year for character-building lessons that will continue throughout the EDS experience. The most recent Stanford Achievement scores indicate that our first graders test an average of one and a half to two grade levels above the national norms in reading and math. These are the building blocks for a successful academic career.
The Reading and Language Arts program continues the heavy emphasis on phonics-based lessons from PK4 and Kindergarten and accelerates learning by including many opportunities for speaking, reading, and writing. Children read in class, read individually to the teacher and teaching assistant, and read at home. Teacher-led reading lessons include systematic, direct, multisensory instruction of phonics and skills while exploring many genres of literature. English grammar, mechanics, and the writing process are taught systematically as well. In addition, journal writing provides an individual phonics and grammar lesson for each child. Students work daily in an independent skills workbook on their individual reading levels. The Accelerated Reader program encourages reading and increases reading ability by giving the young reader the confidence to read more challenging books. Reading levels are evaluated four times a year using the STAR Reader diagnostic tool. Because the strongest educational foundation for life-long learners is the ability to read, speak, and write clearly, these skills are heavily emphasized.
Manipulatives, games, practice, and mathematical reasoning are all part of the diverse approach to the Mathematics program. The emphasis on our program is on developing number sense and understanding mathematical concepts rather than just learning algorithms, as recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Problem solving skills are fostered by traditional “story problems” and direct instruction of logic and analogy. Parents are amazed that their children enjoy math and are not fearful of the various skills introduced during the year. Manipulatives are always available as the children develop number sense and learn about money, time, measurement, fractions and probability, geometry, graphing and data collection, and place value, as well as computation. Mad Minutes will become part of everyday conversation with your first grader as he masters math facts. This is a special part of the first grade math program that makes learning fun while reinforcing basic skills.
Science and Social Studies units allow children to explore the world around them through hands-on activities, field trips, and cross-curricular projects. Science units include Plants; Animals; The Sky and Weather; Caring for the Earth; Matter, Matter Everywhere; and On the Move. Our biome, the special habitat first graders study, is Grasslands. Social Studies topics include Where We Live (geography); Our Earth (environment); Working Together (economics); Our Country Today (civics); Our Country Long Ago (history); People and Places in History (history); Louisiana culture, and map skills.
The Religion program includes Chapel, Eucharist, and weekly classroom lessons, as well as the many opportunities that arise during a first grader’s day to discuss virtues, choices, and character development. There is a three-year rotating cycle in place in the school to study the Old Testament, New Testament, and church history and tradition. In conjunction with the Religion program, first grade students are encouraged to participate as a class in outreach projects. Some past projects have included donations to the Heifer Project, sponsoring a child in Haiti through Tend My Lambs, raising money for LaPaw to help homeless animals, and working with 8th graders planting to restore the grasslands in Louisiana. This allows the children to see what a difference even a first grader can make. In addition, Bishop Noland is a Leader in Me school. We are teaching the principles of the seven habits to develop a good work ethic, compassion, and leadership in every child.
Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School offers wonderful enrichments in addition to the regular classroom program. Each week the children attend classes in music, art, physical education, library, computer, and Spanish. Field trips typically include a ballet, musical, or play, museums, and special events that are offered to area schools such as the Halloween Pumpkin Patch and Grant Christmas Tree Farm. Our traditional Mothers’ Day Tea is a great favorite, and our end of the year performance of The Grouchy Ladybug and Where the Wild Things Are is always a treat.
Each activity in first grade is designed to develop a skill that will be used for life. The skills are presented to reach all learners-visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile. They are reinforced in a manner that will generate interest and curiosity to seek more knowledge. This is the beginning of happy life-long learners!