The emphasis of first-grade Language Arts is to improve communication skills through activities that involve listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Students also develop critical and creative thinking skills by predicting, decision-making, and planning. As reading and writing skills develop and improve, they are practiced in all subject areas. Capitalization, alphabetizing, punctuation, suffixes, prefixes, syllables, compound words, opposites, and contractions are introduced and reinforced throughout the first-grade curriculum.


First-grade students follow the Handwriting Without Tears program. HWT techniques help children learn handwriting basics and become proficient with letter formation, placement of letters on lines, spacing between letters and words, and differentiating the size of capital and lower-case letters. In addition to formal handwriting instruction, our students practice handwriting skills when they write reports, keep daily journals, create class books, and write creatively.


Our first grade reading/spelling textbook is Open Court Collections for Young Scholars, which provides systematic instruction in phonics and rich experiences with authentic literature. In addition to receiving explicit phonics instruction, students read daily from Big Books or other literature and complete daily writing assignments. Comprehension skills are gained through questions and answers, recall of events and facts, and predicting and problem solving of what-if situations. Our spelling program promotes the formal teaching of reliable patterns and rules. A supplemental grammar program, Shurley English, will provide practice in grammar mechanics, basic parts of speech and sentence structure.

The Accelerated Reading program, a computer-based assessment tool, is used to personalize student practice in reading. Students complete readings in class and/or independently and then answer comprehension questions on the computer about the books they have read. Through AR, students are exposed to a variety of genres including non-fiction stories (science and history), fables, fairy tales, poems, short stories, novels, and nursery rhymes.


In first-grade, students use Everyday Mathematics, a rigorous math curriculum designed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics project. EDM builds a foundation of mathematical knowledge that, in time, enables students to move from the basics to higher-order thinking and critical problem solving. This program is supplemented by Rocket Math, a basic math-facts program. Each day, first-grade students participate in a class math meeting that includes number practice, written practice, and oral and written assessments.


On Wednesday mornings, first-grade students serve as acolytes and light candles for the chapel service conducted by the Rector of St. Mary’s Church. During the fall semester, children learn about the Christian year by studying and portraying Bible stories from the Old Testament. The season of Advent and Christmas are observed in our classrooms, as well as in chapel, and we enter into the New Testament stories about Jesus. In the spring, we end with the observance of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. During each chapel service, students reenact stories from the Bible, sing songs, participate actively in the Lord’s Prayer, and recite our chapel creed. Birthday blessings also take place during chapel. Chapel lessons and active participation in chapel services foster positive, healthy, and spiritual attitudes in our students.


St. Mary's science curriculum is a hands-on approach to learning the fundamental processes of science. Through direct laboratory or classroom experiences, students interpret, infer, predict, investigate and model. Activities are concrete in nature and consistent with Piagetian levels of intellectual development. During science studies, first graders focus on living things and their environment, the human body, matter and properties, an introduction to electricity, astronomy and planet Earth.


First graders become increasingly aware of their role as individuals, as members of a family unit, as students of their school, and as citizens of a wider community. They will also develop geography skills working with maps, globes, and other geographical tools. First graders will be introduced to early world history and modern culture studies as well as key components of American history.


During their week at St. Mary’s, First grade students experience the following enrichment classes:

Early Childhood Curriculum Guide

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