The first grade curriculum is academically challenging while remaining developmentally appropriate. Students are expected to enter first grade with a good working knowledge of the English alphabet and basic reading and math skills. Students are frequently placed into small groups for guided instruction and centers. Basic organizational skills and small amounts of daily homework help develop increasing independence and time management skills. Students in the first grade are encouraged to take more responsibility in managing themselves in centers and in small groups.
Students in grades 1-5 use the Building on the Rock curriculum from Summit Ministries. First grade focuses on the idea of true wisdom. Students come to understand the importance of building the foundations of their lives on God, our Rock, by knowing, loving and obeying Him. Students learn that God exists and He is truth, He is the only God, He is one God in three persons and He is the Creator. Weekly elementary chapels also help instill a desire for worship and Christian leadership. Service project field trip - pass out student made valentines to a local nursing home facility.
Through use of the Wright Group’s Gear Up! guided reading series, students are leveled using benchmark assessment books. They are then placed on an individualized reading plan. Teachers give direct instruction in comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, phonemic awareness and fluency. Small groups of students who are on similar levels work together with the teacher to progress in their reading skills. First graders are expected to finish the year on an independent reading level of J or higher. This is the national standard. Northland utilizes the STAR assessment program to determine the exact reading level at which a student is proficient. Levels are reassessed 5 times a year. The online Accelerated Reader program encourages the love of reading while developing comprehension and vocabulary skills. Students progress through seven different AR levels, attempting to earn either a bronze, silver or gold medal at the end of the year. The Reading A-Z program allows teachers to provide supplemental readers to students who need additional instruction and for students in need of greater challenges. Students are also expected to master all eleven Dolch sight word lists by the end of first grade.
The Wright Group’s Fluency First! Program curriculum is based upon The Fluency Development Lesson, which was highly researched by Drs. Timothy Rasinski and Nancy Padak of Kent State University. Daily lessons use simple and brief reading selections that students practice multiple times before performing for their peers. Teachers assess students based upon reading rate, accuracy, expression, volume, clarity, eye contact and gestures. A total of five formal assessments are conducted each year. Vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and word recognition skills are the focus of this entertaining and motivating program.
Explicit phonics and phonemic awareness is taught in grades 1-3 using the Neuhaus Language Enrichment method. The Neuhaus program, developed here in Houston, uses research-based methods of literacy instruction. This curriculum caters to all learning styles, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic. Research shows that emerging readers who receive phonemic awareness training score significantly higher in reading and spelling in the early elementary years.
The Houghton Mifflin English curriculum is used to teach basic sentence structure and types of sentences. Nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives are explored as well. Capitalization and punctuation skills are reinforced throughout the year. Cumulative reviews help students continually revisit skills previously learned. Student workbooks are colorful with large easy-to-read print.
The first grade writing program correlates with our Houghton Mifflin English curriculum. Students learn the basics of writing complete sentences. Teachers model the various types of writing with the help of the class. The steps in the writing process are directly taught and practiced throughout the year. Students utilize journals to document weekly events in their lives and to develop writing fluency.
The Houghton Mifflin Spelling and Vocabulary series, published in 2006, is used to focus on basic letters of the alphabet, short and long vowels, consonant blends, suffixes and compound words. Daily exercises provide practice with handwriting, spelling and vocabulary.
Through use of the Houghton Mifflin Math Expressions Common Core 2013 curriculum, students are expected to memorize and master the 0-9 addition facts. This curriculum challenges students to think critically in order to apply what they learn in class to everyday situations. Students are expected to analyze and evaluate the thinking of other students. They are taught how to communicate mathematical thinking and how to organize their thinking. First grade covers addition and subtraction skills. Place value, patterns and equations set the stage for later algebraic math. Basic geometry and measurement concepts are also introduced. Data analysis, probability and problem solving are continually reinforced throughout the year.
The Scott Foresman 2010 Diamond Edition was adopted in 2010. Students explore the differences between living and nonliving things. They study various habitats, plants and animals, life cycles and food chains. Earth science units include land, water, air and weather. Matter, movement and sound, and energy make up the study of physical science. Students also are given a glimpse into the world of space and technology. Publisher created science kits allow the teachers to readily provide hands-on experiments and labs.
The Harcourt Social Studies 2010 edition shares with the students the world from a child’s view. Basic rules and laws, including a study on government, helps children to understand how our country works. Map and globe skills are scattered throughout the text. A unit on patriotism assists the students in having a better appreciation for our country. A brief study of changes throughout history is also included. Students are introduced to various cultures and the basics of how the marketplace works. Critical thinking and higher-level reading skills are integrated into this challenging curriculum.
First grade students attend music class three times a week for 30 minutes per class. Students in first grade music are taught to demonstrate command of a steady beat and how to label high/low notes. Beginning solfege notes such as so, mi and la are used in folk songs and singing games. Simple rhythm notes such as one or two sounds on a beat are practiced. First grade students perform in a Christmas musical, Western Day square dancing, and a spring musical.
Art is taught by an experienced art instructor two times per week. Students learn basic lines, shapes and colors. Art is also integrated into the regular classroom curriculum. Bible crafts and seasonal art projects allow students to be creative on a weekly basis. Students enjoy making Christmas crafts during the holiday season. Special projects include Rodeo Art drawings for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The elementary Physical Education program was developed by SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) and is taught by two highly-qualified coaches who have many years of teaching and coaching experience. P.E. classes are designed to develop skills that enhance learning in the classroom. All students participate in 30 minutes of P.E. daily. Classes are taught in the school’s gymnasium and are highly structured in nature. Our belief is that daily physical activity is essential for good health and well-being. First grade students continue to hone large-motor and fine-motor skills through various games and activities.
Northland integrates the use of computers and technology into the regular curriculum. First grade has access to computers in the classroom as well as in a fully equipped one-to-one iPad lab. Basic terminology is taught based upon the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards). Accelerated Reader and other educational software, apps and websites are incorporated into the curriculum.