Expanding with Ms. Pamela

The over-riding goal in first grade is to meet students where they are academically and socially, challenge each student every day, and expect that every student will love school and learning.

Students learn through hands-on, engaging activities and projects. Whether the child is learning the alphabet or is already a fluent reader, programs are differentiated based on the student’s needs. Reading and language arts are often integrated with the other content areas (science, social studies, art, world languages, music, PE and math) bringing greater meaning and understanding for the student.

The basic skills like handwriting using Handwriting Without Tears and phonics are addressed as building blocks for everything we do. Children participate in a “Take Home Reader” program through Reading A-Z (readers and nonreaders) where books are selected to match a student’s skill level.  Students may also choose to read online with Raz-Kids and record their reading for the teacher to listen to. Children usually read around 100 “Take home Readers” in first grade.

In addition to all of the traditional approaches to teaching math, including equations and problem solving, arithmetic is taught using hands-on manipulatives. The kinesthetic learning style is stressed so that students actively learn the crucial concepts that provide a strong foundation for their future math skills. Math and science activities are often integrated. Some of our curriculum resources are Everyday Mathematics, and IXL.com.

Social and emotional development is an important aspect of the Oak Hill experience, and we create a safe and supportive environment that promotes children’s growth.

Students learn important lessons about respect, sharing, and cooperation. The ‘Second Step curriculum is used to teach students empathy, problem solving, and anger management. Students learn about democracy through brainstorming class rules and participating in class meetings. Students practice their social skills during a coveted “Choice Time” each day where students play with puzzles, games, use computers, create art, build with blocks or Legos, engage in imaginative play, or read (alone or with a partner).

The life cycle of plants is an area of study in the fall and spring.

The students plant potatoes in the spring and in the fall the next first grade students harvest the potatoes. They count and weigh the potatoes, charting the results. Then the potatoes are cooked and shared with other lower school classes.  In the winter, students see the life cycles of insects unfold in real time and compare the stages exhibited by each species to reveal patterns.  At the same time, students grow one type of plant from seed and observe it through its life cycle to produce new seeds and also gain experience with the ways that plants and insects interact.

In the spring, first graders choose a country to research and present to their peers.

Children usually come with a poster with pictures about the things they want to share. A sentence or label sometimes is used to accompany each picture and help the student remember the intended information for sharing.

Clothes, artifacts, and/or toys are often shared and help to create engaged listeners. Most students share money and words from the language of the country. Taste treats add another dimension of experience for the children when representative food from the country is shared with the other children. The presentation is open-ended so that students can follow their own interests. Questions, previously generated by the class, are meant to be suggestions. As each student presents the class learns about another country and locates the country on the world map. As a culminating event the students display their projects in the annual Earth Day Project Fair.

In addition to all the rich core class experiences, the first graders attend lessons with nine specialists a week. They have lessons in Mandarin, French, Spanish, Art, Public Speaking, Computers, Music, Planet Explorers and PE.  PE is everyday of the week.

This all culminates in an amazing, comprehensive program.

Pamela Beeler, First Grade