Grade 1

Grade 1 Curriculum

Overview of Grade Level Goals and Developmental Milestones

First graders are eager to show and share what they know! Ideas and opinions abound in a Cambridge Friends School first-grade classroom and students enjoy sharing their thinking about their passions. Dramatic play themes are elaborate and reflect their growing understandings of the world. While sitting still for long periods of time can be challenging; movement and physical play in the CFS first-grade classroom continue to support the first grader’s ability to focus. Our hands-on projects are great vehicles for learning new information in first grade and students learn well through games, chants, and songs. As students work, an interest in developing skills and technique for their own sake begins to emerge.


Fairness is important to first graders. Being right is important and can sometimes be the source of frustration or worry. Our classroom rules and routines help to provide security and structure, supporting first graders in their efforts to organize their work and play. In grade one, students are working to develop friendship skills. They practice using words and actions that appropriately and effectively convey their needs and wants. Students continue to practice resolving conflicts with physical and verbal grace. They continue to develop language to self-identify race, religion, and family structure and learn to honor each other’s stories and ideas. 

English and Language Arts

CFS first graders benefit from opportunities to engage in meaningful literacy work. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, and phonics skills are integrated across the academic curriculum and support children in their efforts to solve problems and understand content. Students work individually, in small groups, and as a whole class to learn and practice strategies for decoding printed words, accessing text, and communicating through writing and drawing. 


During language arts blocks, students practice using language to convey their ideas and share their knowledge with others. They practice speaking in front of a group and leading activities and routines. The development of active listening skills supports their ability to make meaningful connections between their own experience and the ideas introduced and shared by others. Reading and writing instruction takes place in a workshop format, where specific skills, strategies, and concepts are introduced and modeled, after which students move on to apply them. Practice with phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling skills are addressed through the Wilson Fundations® Program. Fundations® activities help children with a range of experience to build a foundation for reading and spelling within a structured, sequential, multi-sensory program. 


The CFS first-grade math program is designed to engage students in making sense of mathematical ideas and focuses on developing student mastery of skills in the three major areas of mathematical learning: concepts, solution strategies, and the language of math. Emphasis is placed on reasoning about mathematical ideas and students are supported in their efforts to communicate their thinking and knowledge in a variety of ways including verbal explanations, recording work, and in their use of manipulatives and other materials. 


With the TERC Investigations® at the core of our math program, students focus on the development of strategies to support their problem-solving efforts in the following areas including: number and operations (whole numbers), geometry, patterns and functions, data collection and analysis, and measurement. As in other curricular areas, the math program strives to differentiate instruction so that students in need of additional challenge, support to go deeper, or help with reinforcing skills and concepts may each receive scaffolding as needed.

Social Studies

The first-grade social studies curriculum begins with an exploration of identity. Students develop their understanding of identity in the context of family, community, and history. Through this study, they grow to appreciate differences and commonalities, develop language to articulate their identities, and begin to see the role they can play as change-makers and supporters of an anti-bias mindset. 


In their focus on the American Civil Rights Movement, Cambridge Friends School first graders work to broaden their understanding of oppression and resistance. They learn about the lives and work of leaders and allies of the past and will be supported in making connections to ongoing work today.


Geography studies include an exploration of maps and landforms. Students learn about map features and practice reading and creating 2D and 3D representations of places both real and imagined. 


In our final unit of study, students look at honoring our ancestors. Students revisit themes from earlier in the year work to make connections between the change-makers we have learned about and the people who they know in their lives who make a difference every day. Through this study, students see that people of inspiration are all around them and that to become one themselves is an achievable goal.


Cambridge Friends School first-graders are actively involved in tending to the school garden – improving the soil, planting and harvesting, preparing and eating food, and observing plants and insects. In their life and earth science work, students investigate different components of soil and explore the science of composting, both indoors and out. They study organisms that live in soil and compost and become experts on the life cycle of earthworms and honeybees. They study seeds and fruits, focusing on the growth and development of plants and methods of seed dispersal.


Physical science experiences focus on the structures and properties of matter and may include work with liquids, changes with temperature, and developing formulas for paste and creating a new beverage. In their engineering work, students solve challenges such as designing and constructing seed packages to travel as far as possible, then apply this thinking as they design and test blades for a larger windmill engineering project.


The first-grade art curriculum at Cambridge Friends School helps growing artists build the skills and understanding of concepts and materials introduced in earlier grades. Students build their growing repertoire of understanding of the differences between similar materials, such as tempera and watercolor paint. First grade projects begin to carry an idea through several working sessions or processes towards completion. Our first-grade students begin to form plans for their projects before tackling their ideas. Projects cultivate the use of imagination, encourage self-expression and build students’ self-confidence.

Physical Education

Grade one physical education builds on skills learned in earlier grades, and students are introduced to specific activities designed to develop aerobic fitness, strength, and flexibility. Warm-up routines alternate between loco-motor patterns, rhythmic movement and fitness activities. Core units include a plethora of large group games, parachute activities, scooter play, eye-hand coordination, activity stations, rolling, bouncing, and throwing games that involve a variety of materials. Fitness evaluations are used to measure each child’s aerobic fitness, flexibility, strength, and speed. Baseline data is collected in the fall, and retesting is done in the spring to measure progress.


First-grade students at Cambridge Friends School come to music class once a week for forty-five minutes. Students continue to engage in music through singing, movement, song games, listening, improvisation, and playing classroom instruments. First-graders are introduced to the elements of music, including rhythm, melody, harmony, and notation through a shared repertoire. First-graders also prepare songs for performances in assemblies including: Pride, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Significant Elders’ Day. 


The first-graders come to the library once a week. At Cambridge Friends School, children learn about fiction, nonfiction, folklore, authors, illustrators, and the essential elements of stories. During each class, two or three stories, which are linked thematically, are read and discussed. 


We read traditional folktales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and then an alternative look at the same story – The Giant and the Beanstalk. This is a wonderful opening to talk about fairness and point of view. We also read books about school, holidays, and families. Part of each library time is set-aside for the students to browse in the library and sign out books.