First Grade

Open Window School first grade students are eager learners. Displaying a strong need to know, first graders arrive at school each day ready to dive into engaging units of study and tackle the appropriate challenges and fun that await them. Our first grade program embraces and celebrates the curious minds and boundless energy of the six and seven year old gifted student. Teachers plan lessons with Open Window School standards as guides and differentiate lessons according to the assessments, interests and needs of each student. Lessons are often taught in small groups, allowing students to work and learn at their appropriate skill level. Learning to be members of the classroom community, to cooperate and to be a good friend are important parts of this program. The important 21st Century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity take root in the Open Window School lower school classrooms. The first grade program is organized to include a consistent morning routine, core subjects, and specialist classes. It includes daily activities that emphasize social and emotional skills.

Language Arts

First grade is a time of tremendous growth in language arts skills. Students begin the year possessing a wide range of abilities, skills, and development. The language arts program is designed to nourish emergent readers while developing literacy at all levels, including those students who enter as fluent, confident readers and writers. First grade classrooms surround students with books and environmental print, nurturing their curiosity through carefully chosen independent and group language activities. Students select from authentic reading and writing choices, working independently toward personalized goals, while the teacher meets individual needs through whole-group and small-group instruction, as well as one-on-one conferring.
The first grade reading program instills a deep understanding of self-selecting text that is of an appropriate reading level and interest to each student, with a strong focus on developing critical thinking skills within those books. Twenty minutes of nightly reading at home is an important piece of the learning-to-read process. Language arts concepts are integrated throughout the first grade curriculum as students read and write in the content areas of science and social studies. Writing occurs daily and includes writing journals, reading response activities, reading journals, collaborative writing, and Handwriting Without Tears lessons. Students use phonics books and engage in phonics lessons that are selected depending on each student’s need and ability. Communication skills are emphasized through class discussions, cooperative group experiences, personal interactions and social-emotional skill lessons.
Curriculum Resources
  • CAFÉ (comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expanded vocabulary)
  • Daily 5 – reading, writing and word-work program
  • Words Their Way
  • Handwriting Without Tears
  • iPad apps
  • Fountas & Pinnell Reading Assessment


First graders begin their year with an introduction to the scientific method, answering the questions, "What does a scientist do," and, "How do scientists ask questions?" The scientific skills of planning and carrying out investigations, constructing explanations and designing solutions are learned through high-interest topics such as Biomes and Structures, Spiders, Earth Science and Raptors. These topics are integrated with homeroom projects and activities.


Our lower school students are also supported with many special classes each week including: art, drama, physical education, music, science, Spanish, Library Learning Commons and technology. To find out more about specialists, visit the K-4 specialist page.


Math instruction is differentiated per students’ needs and abilities. Instruction includes hands-on, experiential activities that push students to explore mathematical patterns, solidify a deep understanding of numeracy, and investigate both their own thinking processes as well as those of their classmates. Students also participate in collaborative problem-solving activities and games which serve to further deepen this mathematical understanding through social learning and strategizing. Assessment is ongoing and informs the content and pacing of math instruction. 
Curriculum Resources
  • Bridges in Mathematics
  • Number Corner 

Social Studies

Social studies in first grade extends the foundation established in kindergarten and is designed to promote awareness of the relationship between oneself and the world. Using a unifying thread of the broad idea of “family,” social studies in first grade exposes students to experiences in the areas of culture, history, diversity, geography, global connections, and leadership, and are often cross-disciplinary, incorporating math, literacy, science, and technology concepts wherever possible. Students also engage in the use of basic map skills, comparison strategies, and beginning research skills in specific areas of study. Additionally, first graders find authentic applications of their studies throughout the school year that might include performances, presentations, and service learning opportunities.
Curriculum Resources
  • Trade Books
  • iPads and other technology resources

Social & Emotional

In Lower School, social and emotional learning instruction (SEL) is taught formally by teachers and counselors twice weekly, however this learning about self and others takes place organically throughout the entire school day and in all environments as students and teachers interact with one another. Year by year, the program builds with SEL concepts relevant to the needs of our students. Lessons are intentionally designed for students to develop respect for themselves and others, gain emotional awareness and control, learn effective communication skills, and set and achieve their academic goals.
Formal SEL lessons take place through 30 minute meetings that bring students into a circle for a range of experiences including classroom instruction, group discussions, reflections, role-play, community building activities, problem solving, and a variety of mindfulness practices including guided imagery, relaxation and yoga. These meetings provide time for students to learn and practice new skills, while simultaneously developing an understanding of what it means to be both an individual and a group member. These skills are necessary for school success, and they are also necessary for life success.
In first through fourth grades, students continue to address topics that are age appropriate and applicable to their needs. They learn critical interpersonal skills such as “I- statements” and finding win/win solutions. They compare and assess the value of different communication styles such as assertive, passive-aggressive, etc., and discuss how these styles help or hinder problem-solving efforts. Social awareness is emphasized through lessons that foster perspective taking skills and develop increased empathy for others. We also provide activities that promote self-awareness and self-management. Students learn about character traits such as gratitude and persistence, along with Executive Function skills such as flexibility, planning and organization, and impulse control. They practice Mindfulness techniques to develop their attention, concentration and sense of well-being.