In kindergarten and first grade, students develop their roles as contributing members of a learning community. There is focus on developing their sense of self, identity as a learner, and their role in belonging to a larger group. As they engage in academic pursuits, developing social emotional skills such as learning to name and regulate their emotions, advocate for their needs, and understand perspectives different from their own allows the students to apply and share new knowledge effectively. Students practice social and emotional strategies throughout the day, from the playground to choice time, and while engaged in learning activities. The kindergarten and first grade students’ experience of the classroom community empowers them to take action on projects that affect the wider world, like the Harvest Food Drive and other emergent projects. They demonstrate responsibility, ownership, and confidence allowing them to take increased academic risk. Kindergarten and first grade students engage with foundational knowledge across curricular areas in engaging ways that are responsive to their individual learning trajectories.
Kindergarten and first grade students are immersed in a balanced reading program, which incorporates instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, sight words, and an appreciation of literature. They have daily opportunities to engage with text independently, with a reading partner, in a small group, and in whole group settings. Students also participate in active exploration with letter/sound relationships, word solving strategies, comprehension skills, and sight word recognition. Each month, a new author or theme is studied allowing the children to develop reading mentors, favorite authors, and a love for books. Comprehension skills are developed through one-on-one reading with a teacher, guided reading groups, and interactive read-alouds. Kindergarten and first grade readers represent a range of skill levels, from those building their knowledge of early print decoding, to others who are integrating their decoding and sight word skills to decipher more complex texts. Across this range, students are supported in their growth through frequent, informal assessment and skilled adaptation of the reading program.
In kindergarten and first grade, students are developing their identity as authors. The writing workshop curriculum provides a structure for this process, as well as for exploring a wide range of writing genres. Students practice their writing skills on everything from personal true stories to nonfiction informational texts, and friendly letters. Writing skills are also addressed throughout the day during group interactive writing, independent journal writing, and many emergent opportunities. Kindergarteners and first graders write for a variety of purposes including reflective, informative, narrative, and responses to literature. When writing, students are encouraged to use a combination of phonetic “best-guess” spelling and conventional spelling using resources such as the word wall and sight words. Students are supported in expressing their full ideas in written form, using pictures, labels, sentences, lists, and all other forms of recording. As part of the publishing process, students have many opportunities to “fancy up” a self-chosen writing piece to share with a broader community, developing their confidence in using written expression to communicate their ideas.
Mathematicians in kindergarten and first grade explore ideas, play games, and search for mathematical connections in the world around them. Students are encouraged to inquire, investigate, discuss, and construct as they explore in all mathematical areas. They participate in ongoing investigations developed within real-life contexts that encourage children to mathematize their lives. The Bridges in Mathematics curriculum provides many opportunities for students to develop mental models, to explore multiple strategies, and to communicate their thinking in clear language. Students put forth their ideas in a community of their peers and learn to justify and defend their thinking, as well as understand and appreciate peers’ ideas. Problem solving skills are developed using story problems, which allow students to visualize the actions in the problem. Kindergarten and first graders strive to move fluidly through visualization, recording, and reporting to deepen their overall understanding of the number system and other mathematical concepts. Students are encouraged to approach problems in a variety of ways, working to be accurate, fluent, and efficient in each situation. There is a focus on students developing their individual identity as a mathematician and fostering a lifelong enthusiasm for mathematics.
Kindergarten and First Grade scientists are developing the perspectives, knowledge, and skills needed to enthusiastically engage with the scientific method. They are developing an understanding of fundamental hypothesizing, testing, evaluating, and reporting techniques in real world contexts. These real world scenarios are presented as SPARK projects, units of study that give teachers and children opportunities to think more deeply about a scientific concept, and its connection to justice in the world, in a developmentally appropriate way. An example of this in a Kindergarten and First Grade classroom would be a study of underground worlds. This exploration allows for learning in life science, earth science, and an opportunity to begin understanding how human use of natural resources is changing the Earth.
Social Studies in kindergarten and first grade is focused on relating complex systems to the student’s own life. Civics is learned through the creation of a classroom community that values respect and compromise. Geography is explored by learning about personal histories and those of their classmates. Economics concepts are interwoven into learning about sharing and preservation of classroom resources. History is presented through rich literature focused on the lives of children through time. SPARK projects are units of study that give teachers and children opportunities to think more deeply about a social studies concept, and its connection to justice in the world, in a developmentally appropriate way. In kindergarten and first grade, an example of this might be a study the food’s each child’s family prefers. This project focuses on the communication of personal preferences, cultural identity, and the opportunity for respectful comparison, all of which reinforce foundational social studies skills.
Kindergarten and first grade students use their art time to make connections with other specialists and their classroom. Some examples of this kind of work include collaboration with science work on the subject of dogs/wolves, where kindergarten and first grade students learn the how-to’s of drawing a dog as well as looked at how famous artists portray dogs in their artwork. This drawing work asked the students to focus on line, learn to draw what they see in an image, and to think about the variety in dog breeds.
In preparation for our annual Arts Festival, each kindergarten and first grade
student makes a clay piece for the two new permanent garden wind chimes attached to the Rhododendron tree. Students also create stacking sculptures based on contemporary artworks and contributed a painted record using symmetrical designs for the fences and plant beds. At the end of the year, each student will bring home a collection of their 2D (flat) artwork in a portfolio.
Kindergarten and first grade athletes have fun exploring teamwork strategies in a variety of sports and activities. Through a range of team games and small group challenges, students learn how to work together and solve problems to achieve their goals. These skills are stressed throughout the year to help the kindergarten and first grade students be successful in sports, the classroom, and life. Along with team-oriented activities, the classes enjoy developing basketball and hockey skills, while also participating in various track and field events.
The Spanish program at Giddens School supports children in building their understanding of World Languages and the Spanish speaking countries. By providing Spanish instruction in preschool – 5th grade, we are instilling in students an awareness of the varied ways in which the world communicates and solidifying pathways of language development that support future language learning. Exposure to Spanish vocabulary and language conventions is balanced with cultural explorations throughout the program. After graduation, many Giddens School students go on to place into higher levels of Spanish instruction in their middle schools, building on the solid foundation of instruction provided during Spanish class at Giddens.