First Grade


First graders spend much of this year learning the basic reading tools. Your child will practice reading every day in an environment that strives to keep learning whole and meaningful, that emphasizes self-direction and choice, and that acknowledges that children learn best in a noncompetitive, supportive environment.

Each first Grader will begin to read in his or her unique way.

They will learn through active engagement with the printed word in their world. Since each child’s path will be different and a wide scope of reading behaviors are to be expected, instruction will be delivered in whole group lessons covering big ideas, small group lessons that present ideas in a context that affords more direct instruction and individualized conferences.

First Graders learn beginning phonics.

First Graders put sounds together to make words and take sounds in words apart. They count the number of syllables or parts in words and change beginning, middle and ending sounds to make new words.

First Graders build a list of words they can read.

First Graders will build a list of “sight words” (words that they recognize without sounding out). The first few times they see a new word, they will have to sound it out. Through repetition and through seeing the word in various contexts, that word will become part of students’ reading vocabulary.

First Graders will use semantic and syntactic knowledge to assist them in decoding unknown words.

First Graders will practice integrating phonemic, syntactic and semantic cueing systems as they move toward fluency.

First Graders learn that there are different things to read.

First Graders explore different types of written material. They learn that people use writing not only for stories, but also for poems, songs, newspapers, signs, digital communication and more.

First Graders learn new words and ideas.

First Graders will learn new words and increase their vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills by being read to and by discussing what they have read.


Writing and reading develop hand in hand for First Graders at Cornerstone Learning Community, where we nurture both skills daily.

First Graders will write daily.

First Graders’ self-selected topics will provide them with meaningful understanding of the writing process as well as the opportunity to practice letter formation. The neatness of their writing will still depend on the development of their motor skills (how well they control the pencil).

First Graders write the sounds that they hear.

First Graders use inventive spelling (temporary spelling), based on the sounds they hear, to write the words they do not know. During the year, they will correctly write more words as they build up their list of words they have memorized and learn new strategies for spelling less familiar words. They also learn to break larger words down into syllables and deal with them one part at a time.

First Graders will begin to learn the conventions of print, correct use of capital letters, ending punctuation and spacing.

First Graders will learn to express thoughts through sentences.

As the year progresses those thoughts will increase in complexity, and sentence length and structure will reflect this change.


First Graders learn to participate in group settings and learn that there are different roles and responsibilities to be filled.

First Graders spend their first year at school learning to be a part of a larger group and adjusting to the school environment. They learn about families, homes and schools and begin to examine their membership in these groups. They compare their own home and school life to that of other children. They will think about the concept of rules, authority and responsibility within the context of group membership.

First Graders will think deeply about the concept of home.

Through literature and class discussion, first graders will think about homes and what they provide us with. They will compare our homes to homes around the world and to animal homes. They will imagine the effects of being without a home both for animals and for people.

First Graders learn that each of us is special and unique.

First Graders have opportunities to describe how they are alike as well as different from others. They will learn to accept and value different cultures, races, religions, and learning styles.

First Graders learn simple geography and economics.

First Graders will construct simple maps and drawings of their home, classroom or school, where they can point to familiar places. They will have discussions about the difference between “wants” and “needs” and about some of the uses of money.


Cornerstone uses the Primary Mathematics (Standards Edition) program, a progressive curriculum based on the highly successful Primary Mathematics series from Singapore. Topics are covered in depth and taught to mastery so that students develop lifelong logic and problem solving skills.

Students will progress from concrete, to pictoral, to abstract approaches with ever more complex mathematical ideas.

Topics will be revisited in subsequent years.

First Graders do lots of activities with the numbers 0 to 100.

First Graders learn to recognize and practice writing the numerals (written numbers) 0 to 100. They learn to count up to thirty objects and to match numerals to sets containing the same number of objects. They will learn to read the number words, zero through ten.

First Graders will understand the concept of place value.

First Graders will understand how many units, tens, and hundreds are in numbers.

First Graders learn to add and subtract.

First Graders will begin to learn math facts. They will work toward “fact power” or instant recall of sums to ten, doubles, +1 and +0 facts. They will work toward solving math problems using these facts with increased automaticity. They will use the number grid to work with larger numbers. They will understand the relationship between adding and subtracting.

First Graders learn to work with 10’s.

They will be able to make groups of tens and to add ten to a number.

First Graders will learn to “skip count”.

First Graders will skip count by 2’s to 20, by 3’s to 30, by 4’s to 40, by 5’s to 100 and by 10’s to 100.

First Graders work with patterns and putting things in order.

First Graders learn to continue patterns, to correct mistakes in patterns and to create their own. They practice putting things (such as letters, numbers, months, or days) in order and use patterns to solve problems.

First Graders make graphs and read charts.

First Graders will collect data (information) and plot it on a simple bar graph. They will start to read small tables and charts as well as thermometers and gauges.

First Graders use manipulatives (small objects) to measure, estimate and solve math problems.

First Graders practice estimating (guessing) how many things can fit into all types of containers (“I think that jar will hold 50 jelly beans”). They measure length using objects in their classrooms (“This shoe is eight paper clips long”). They use cubes or other objects to solve math problems (“If I put these two cubes with these three cubes, I’ll have five cubes.”).

First Graders will work with shapes.

First Graders will learn the basic shapes: square, circle, triangle and rectangle. They will also start to recognize spheres, cones, cubes, cylinders, hexagons and trapezoids.

First Graders learn about time and calendars.

First Graders learn the seasons, months and calendar words such as today, year, yesterday, tomorrow, next week, last week. They tell time up to the half hour.

First Graders will count coins.

First Graders will count coin combinations of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. They will learn cent notation.


Across all grades at Cornerstone students are asking and exploring the question “How is science knowledge collected and constructed?” In first grade we begin the year by exploring our five senses as our primary scientific tools for perceiving the world. Students develop an understanding of the difference between making observations about what they see and stating opinions. We work on developing their sensory vocabulary as they practice making observations and classifying living things and materials based on physical properties and behavioral characteristics.  As we develop an understanding of ourselves as scientists we explore a number of essential questions: how do living things survive in the places they live? How do the shapes and structures of animal and plant bodies help them grow and survive? How do young animals learn to survive?”

First graders at Cornerstone Learning Community refine their observation skills, enhance their descriptive abilities, and learn to use simple scientific equipment such as measuring cups, rain gauges, insect nets, field magnifiers, balances, thermometers, and stethoscopes.

Students practice writing and drawing observations in a science notebook, they share their observations in discussion, and gain experience with real object and picture graphs. We aim to honor the individual interests and strengths of students by providing opportunities to write, draw, build, and perform in the course of their science explorations. An important goal of science in first grade is that students retain a sense of joy and wonder as they develop a greater understanding of the nature and practices of science.


First Graders attend formal art classes.

First Graders spend much of their time drawing and painting in the regular classroom, but will attend formal art classes with an art teacher twice weekly. They will do projects using a variety of materials and techniques and will be exposed to works of professional artists. At Cornerstone Learning Community students are taught that art is a form of communication and a means of expressing themselves. Through communication and self-expression, art becomes a source of discovery and joy.


Every student in kindergarten through eighth grade attends a minimum of two 50 minute classes in physical education per week. To reflect the National Association of Sport and Physical Education standards by providing meaningful, appropriate games and activities, the elementary physical education program explores and promotes the development of skill-and health-related physical activity components.


First Graders attend weekly music classes.

Children attend weekly music classes taught by a professional music teacher. The classes strengthen and integrate basic music skills such as singing, rhythm, music reading and instrument playing. Instruction is hands-on and energetic so that children develop enthusiasm for music as a means of artistic expression. They also learn active listening techniques as they listen to examples of traditional music from a variety of cultures.


The Spanish Program in grades one through three is a conversational approach to language acquisition using thematic units, games, rhymes, movement and picture books. The focus is on listening to the language, developing good pronunciation and responding to Spanish commands or questions. The written language is introduced in third grade with labels, charts and “libritos.”