First Grade

First grade at Wesleyan is an exciting year! The first grade teachers strive to build a solid academic foundation while enriching each students’ childhood experience. With certified teaching assistants in each classroom, students receive more individualized instruction. Some of the highlights of first grade include our Three Piggy Opera play, Scarecrow Day, and hatching chicks in our classrooms. Each class also has weekly hands-on, science lessons in our newly completed Wolfie’s Learning Lab.

Curriculum Highlights


•    Reading: Comprehension and fluency are emphasized through the SRA Imagine It program and guided reading groups. First grade strives to differentiate instruction through different genres and leveled readers. Non-fiction, as well as fiction and biographies are used. Independent reading is also stressed.

•   Phonics and Spelling: First grade is the time for children to further develop their phonemic awareness and become fluid, comprehending readers and spellers. Students begin the year reviewing the sounds and letters taught in kindergarten using the Orton-Gillingham method. This multi-sensory approach is used throughout the year to build a strong phonics and spelling foundation. Students learn phonetic rules, how to apply them, and how to identify "exceptions". Students are assessed weekly on sight words to determine mastery. In addition, students are required to spell, using their knowledge of the different phonetic concepts.

•   Grammar: Writing and grammar are important components of literacy. Students begin writing simple sentences in their journals. They learn grammar and sentence structure through Morning Message and Daily Oral Language, and are introduced to the writing process. Their writing progresses to telling simple stories related to their reading. They learn to write personal narratives, letters, descriptions, simple reports and more complex stories.


Manuscript handwriting is taught in first grade. Handwriting instruction coordinates with the sounds being taught in phonics using the Orton-Gillingham method. Teachers also integrate the methods of Brain Gym, which encourage physical movement, to enhance handwriting performance and learning.


The foundation of our K-4 mathematics program is Math in Focus, a curriculum focused on problem solving through real-world and hands-on experiences.Students are taught to think critically about math by moving through a sequence of concrete (manipulatives) to pictorial (bar models) to abstract (formulas/algorithms) learning.To achieve mastery, students will learn the “why” behind each mathematical concept before learning the “how”.The ability to apply knowledge to routine as well as non-routine math problems is an integral part of demonstrating mastery of math concepts.

In grades 2-4, math classes are departmentalized and taught according to ability.Through on-going assessments and the support of a math specialist/resource teacher, teachers are able to differentiate lessons to meet the needs of each individual student.Academic support and enrichment are both part of the daily math experience in the lower school.

At Wesleyan, we believe success in math cannot be achieved without mastery of math facts, therefore each grade level has its own math fact mastery expectations. Research shows students who are able to recall math facts quickly free up working memory that can then be devoted to more difficult problem solving.


Science instruction is integrated throughout the first grade curriculum. Through hands-on activities, field trips, and guided reading groups, students are introduced to a variety of science experiences. Habitats and animals are explored and studied in depth. Related activities have students constructing different habitats, and completing animal research papers. Other units of study include weather; sound; heat and light; simple machines; and, the human body. All of these units incorporate hands-on activities and computer programs such as Kidspiration to inspire learning and enthusiasm. A highlight of the year is the opportunity for students to hatch chicks and watch them grow.

Social Studies

Social Studies in first grade is taught in units of study within the first grade classroom. Through guided reading, projects, and other hands-on activities the children are given the opportunity to learn different strands of social studies. Some of the units of study include Community and Family, Mexico; and Christmas in France, Germany and Italy. All of these units include projects and hands-on activirties which are designed to stimulate learning. the study of maps and geography is supported by a Flat Stanley project. This project is followed by the study of individual states in America. Economics is introduced and enhanced with an assembly line activity which is part of a service project. A tradition in first grade is the performance of the Three Piggy Opera.


The first graders utilize the Children's Bible, which takes each Bible story in order and simplifies it for a greater understanding of the important details of each Biblical experience. Accompanied by vivid and colorful illustrations, the children gain an understanding of the excitement of the Bible and its meaning today. As students learn the leadership skills of King David and the courage of Queen Esther, they will also learn about the life of Christ and the meaning of his death, burial and resurrection. The "Fruit of the Spirit" and the "Armor of God" are also important aspects of first grade learning. Hands-on activities are a fun time for the students to create their own expressions of what they have learned that day.

Physical Education

Increased proficiency in the performance of motor skills is the emphasis of the program. This is achieved through student participation in games and relays and individual activities such as aerobics, scooters, and tennis. Personal fitness and healthy living habits are also stressed.


Spanish is offered three times a week. The program spirals from year to year so that vocabulary from Kindergarten is incorporated into the 1st grade curriculum. Frequent use of familiar vocabulary allows for a growing proficiency in interactive second language conversation. The classroom functions successfully in an immersion-style setting. In addition to songs, games and stories, first graders begin to recognize the written word. Spanish is a phonetic language which allows beginning readers to readily decode letter sounds. At every grade level there is sufficient new vocabulary introduced to allow any incoming students new to the program to catch up to speed.


First graders experience a wide variety of art activities in the 45 minute art classes. Emphasis is on the development of each child's self-confidence. Projects are designed to allow students to practice and refine basic skills focusing on color, shape, line, value and texture. Students learn to make controlled strokes with many types of brushes. They learn to mix parimary colors to make secondary colors, make colors lighter and darker, use watercolors and make crayon resists. Students manipulate clay and learn to score and join clay pieces. First graders learn to recognize, appreciate and create the art of different cultures and styles and famous works of art.


Children continue to develop listening, rhythmic, and singing skills. Rhythmic patterns become more complex and the use of Orff instruments more prevalent. They develop the ability to accompany songs with various ostinati on pitched and unpitched percussion instruments. Musical notation is introduced.


Students participate in a library orientation and are introduced to using a computer to search the online catalog and to locate library materials. Students are introduced to biographies, picture dictionaries, encyclopedias, and students learn basic research skills. Book awards and literary elements, such as main idea, sequence, cause and effect, character and setting, are discussed. Students independently locate and select books based on personal interest through browsing. Students continue to be exposed to a variety of literature through read-aloud texts and other media.