1st Grade


The First Grade curriculum at St. James Episcopal School addresses the needs of the whole child—cognitive, spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and aesthetic. It is developmentally appropriate and academically rigorous, with high expectations for growth and success.  Learning opportunities grounded in Multiple Intelligences research allow scholars to develop to their fullest potential through diverse, hands-on experiences. This ensures that the learning needs of all children will be met, and progress will be made in all areas. The 3R’s—Rules, Respect, and Responsibility are emphasized at all times during the school day. Interdisciplinary instruction which utilizes the Elements of Depth and Complexity provides an engaging, challenging cognitive experience across the disciplines of language, math, science, and social studies, and in areas of enrichment such as religion, Spanish, technology, and fine arts.

First Grade scholars are taught to look at the world through the Global Theme lens of Systems, identifying the following essential, conceptual truths (generalizations):

  • Systems work to complete a task.
  • Systems have parts that work together.
  • A system’s structure depends on its function.
  • Systems follow rules.
  • Systems can be natural or person-made.
  • Systems can have positive or negative effects.



Literacy is highly correlated with scholars’ oral language proficiency, and the ability to understand a text read aloud is a prerequisite for making sense of the same text in printed form. The language arts curriculum in First Grade is built upon daily oral language development, the Spalding Method of direct phonics instruction (for writing and reading), and daily exposure to printed text (Houghton-Mifflin Journeys and children’s fine literature). This ensures a strong foundation in vocabulary, handwriting, grammar concepts, writing, and reading. Because Core Knowledge strongly recommends daily read-alouds that are meaningful and focus on a single topic over a sustained period of time, literature selections and writing prompts are chosen around thematic unit topics.

Listening and Speaking

Classroom Discussion

  • Speak clearly with appropriate volume, eye contact, and courtesy.
  • Ask questions to clarify and follow rules for group discussions.
  • Understand and use language to express spatial and temporal relationships and identify and express physical sensations, mental states, and emotions of self and others.
  • Understand and use descriptive language, common sayings, and phrases.

Presentation of Ideas and Information

  • Follow multi-step oral directions, give simple directions, and provide simple explanations.
  • Memorize and recite Bible verses and short poems independently.
  • Give oral presentations about topics of interest, using appropriate eye contact, volume, and clear enunciation.

Comprehension and Discussion of Read-Alouds (all texts)

  • Listen to and understand a variety of texts read aloud including fictional stories, fairy tales, fables, historical narratives, drama, informational text, and poems.
  • Distinguish the following genres of literature: fiction (narrative), nonfiction (informative), and drama.
  • Describe illustrations and sequence four to six pictures.
  • Answer questions requiring understanding of the key details and/or facts.
  • Answer questions that require making interpretations, judgments, predictions, or giving opinions about what is heard.
  • Understand and use words and phrases heard in read-alouds.
  • Compare and contrast similarities and differences and make connections to events or experiences in read-alouds.
  • Interpret information that is presented orally and then ask additional questions to clarify information or the topic in the read-alouds.
  • Compare and contrast, retell, or dramatize stories, using narrative language to describe characters, setting, and sequence of events.
  • Create and tell an original story using narrative language to describe characters, setting, and sequence.
  • Identify the moral or lesson of a fable, folktale, or myth.
  • Demonstrate understanding and use literary language to retell and/or create stories.
  • Identify sensory language and how it is used to describe.


Phonemic Awareness

  • Given a pair of spoken words, select the one that is longer (contains more phonemes).
  • Identify the number of syllables in a spoken word.
  • Indicate whether a target phoneme is or is not present in the initial/medial/final position of a spoken word.
  • Orally blend sounds to form a word.
  • Segment a spoken word into phonemes.
  • Given a spoken word, produce another word that rhymes.

Phonics: Decoding and Encoding

  • Blend individual phonemes to pronounce printed words.
  • Understand that sometimes two or more printed letters stand for a single sound, and that two or more phonograms might produce the same spoken sound.
  • Demonstrate understanding that a systematic, predictable relationship exists between written letters and spoken sounds. The relationship creates the 71 (Spalding) phonograms covered in First Grade, and the Spalding rules for phonogram spelling and reading.
  • Read one to two syllable words containing the Spalding phonograms.
  • Read and write words with inflectional endings.
  • Read, understand, and write contractions.
  • Read and spell chains of one-syllable words in which one sound is added, substituted, or omitted.

Oral Reading and Fluency

  • Read at least 50 words generally identified as high frequency words.
  • Read decodable stories that incorporate specific code knowledge.
  • Demonstrate increased accuracy, fluency, and expression on successive readings of decodable text.
  • Use phonics skills in conjunction with context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding.
  • Use commas and end punctuation as inflection cues.
  • Read aloud, alone, or with a partner.

Reading Comprehension (all texts)

  • Demonstrate understanding of completely decodable text after reading independently.
  • Sequence four to six pictures illustrating events.
  • Answer questions requiring literal recall and understanding of the details and/or facts.
  • Retell key details from a text read independently.


Writing to Reflect Audience, Purpose and Task

  • Use details when writing original sentences.
  • Express an opinion or point of view and support with evidence.
  • Write a descriptive paragraph.
  • Create a title and an ending relevant to paragraphs.
  • Write or retell a story.
  • Write about a research topic including beginning and ending sentences and facts or examples relevant to the topic
  • Begin to use tools, including technology, to plan, draft, and edit writing.


Language Conventions

  • Print from memory the 26 letters of the alphabet using Spalding upper and lower-case forms.
  • Form words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.
  • Use basic capitalization, punctuation, and spelling conventions.
  • Use commas appropriately in greetings and closings of letters, dates, and items in a series.
  • Write on primary lined paper from left to right, staying within the lines and leaving spaces between words, from top to bottom using return sweep.
  • Recognize, identify, and use common and proper nouns and adjectives, orally and in written text.
  • Recognize, identify, and use subject, object, and possessive pronouns.
  • Recognize, identify, and use regular verbs to convey a sense of tense.
  • Recognize, identify, and use subjects and predicates.
  • Recognize, identify, and use statements, questions, and exclamations.
  • Identify and use synonyms and antonyms.
  • Capitalize the first word in a sentence, the pronoun I, months, days of the week, paragraph titles, and proper nouns.
  • Write a simple friendly letter.
  • Use apostrophes to create contractions and indicate possession.


In First Grade, the study of history and geography embraces many topics throughout the Core Knowledge Sequence. The goal of studying selected topics from world history is to foster curiosity and the beginnings of understanding about a larger world outside the scholar’s locality, and about how varied civilizations and ways of life developed over time. This will be accomplished through informative text, stories, drama, art, music, discussion, and exploration of cultural traditions. Geographic knowledge embraces a spatial sense of the world, awareness of the physical processes that shape life, a sense of the interactions between humans and their environment, an understanding of the relationships between place and culture, an awareness of the characteristics of specific regions and cultures, and the opportunity to identify man-made systems at work in the world.

World Geography

Spatial Sense

  • Name continent, country, state, and community.
  • Understand keys, legends, and symbols on maps.
  • Identify characteristics of and advantages for using globes and maps.
  • Locate: the seven continents, five oceans, Canada, U.S., Mexico, and Central America on maps and globes.
  • State at least one unique detail about each of the seven continents.

Geographical Features of the Earth

  • Locate the Equator, cardinal directions, North and South Poles, and Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
  • Identify characteristics of peninsula, harbor, bay, island, and gulf.


 Ancient World Civilizations

Mesopotamia: Cradle of Civilization

  • Explain the significance of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
  • Understand the relationship of writing to the development of civilization.
  • Know why rules and laws are important to the development of civilization- Code of Hammurabi and early code of laws.


  • Identify how geography affected the development of Egypt.
  • Explain the impact of floods on farming and the development of cities.
  • Learn about Egyptian government and religion.
  • Explain similarities and differences between hieroglyphs and written English.

History of World Religions

  • Explain the difference between polytheism and monotheism.
  • Identify characteristics of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Americas

Early Peoples and Civilizations (Pre-Columbian)

  • Understand the land bridge and the arrival of Hunters and nomads from Asia to North America.
  • Understand how the movement from hunting to farming affected the development of villages.
  • Study three civilizations; Maya, Aztec, and Inca.
  • Identify ruins of early cities remaining today.

Exploration and Settlement

  • Explain the significance of explorations by Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Hernan Cortes, and Francisco Pizarro.
  • Discuss contributions and problems brought to the “New World” by the Spanish.
  • Study English colonization in North America.
  • Discuss the arrival and role of slaves brought to the “New World”.

 The American Revolution

From Colonies to Independence

  • Locate the original thirteen colonies.
  • Retell the story of the Boston Tea Party and the movement toward independence from England.
  • Explain significance of Paul Revere’s ride.
  • Recite excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.
  • Explain importance of Fourth of July, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, the National Capitol, and Betsy Ross.

 Early Exploration of the American West

  • Identify Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road’s contribution to western expansion.
  • Explain the significance of the Louisiana Purchase, the expedition of Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, and the settlers.
  • Locate the Appalachian Mountains, Rocky Mountains, and the Mississippi River.

Symbols and Figures

  • Recognize and become familiar with the significance of the Liberty Bell, bald eagle, Old Glory, White House, Uncle Sam, modern American flag, fifty states, and the current United States president.

Modern Civilization and Culture: Mexico


  • Locate North America, Mexico and Mexico City, Canada, the United States, Central America, the Yucatan Peninsula, the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Rio Grande River on a map


  • Explain how the Native American (Indian) and Spanish heritages have contributed to American culture.


In First Grade, the science program is a systematic approach to the exploration of science that combines hands-on experience and observation along with utilization of text to provide essential building blocks for deeper future understandings. Scholars develop grade-level appropriate scientific content through asking questions about nature and seeking answers; collecting, comparing, classifying, and measuring things; conducting investigations using the Scientific Method to test hypotheses and make qualitative observations; and discussing findings and conclusions.

The First Grade Science curriculum is inspired by and organized around children’s curiosity about “how things work”. Science provides opportunities to identify natural systems at work in the world, and to use a variety of tools, including technology.

Living Things and Their Environments


  • Living things live in habitats to which they are particularly suited.
  • There are different types of environments (biomes) in the world.
  • Biomes provide specific habitats.
  • Interdependence explains the relationships between living things.
  • Food chain and webs are primary examples of interdependence.
  • Plant and animal life on Earth depends upon water, soil, air, sunlight, and nutrients.
  • Changes to an environment can be positive or negative.
  • Human interaction impacts plant and animal life.

Special Classification of Animals

  • Classify animal groups by feeding habits and physical characteristics.
  • Endangered and extinct animals result from habitats that no longer promote their survival.

Oceans and Undersea Life

  • Explain the ratio of water to land on the Earth.
  • Explain the unique characteristics of oceans.
  • Discuss the features of the ocean floor.
  • Explain the variety and diversity of life in the oceans.
  • Discuss dangers to the oceans.

The Human Body

Body Systems

  • Study how the human body is a “system of systems” that work together.
  • Discuss the skeletal, muscular, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems.

Preventing Illness

  • Being healthy means taking care of the systems of the body.
  • Healthy habits include exercise, cleanliness, nutritious foods, rest, and immunizations.


  • Matter comes in three forms and these forms can change states.
  • Everything is made up of matter, and all matter is made up of elements.
  • Atoms are parts of elements too small to see, made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
  • Name and give examples of three states of matter.

Properties of Matter

  • Measurement
  • Objects can be described and classified according to their composition and physical properties.
  • Objects can be quantified using systems of measurement that include length, volume, and temperature.
  • Systems of measurement use specialized tools.


Introduction to the Solar System

  • Name the planets in the solar system in order from the sun.
  • Explain that the sun is really a star.
  • Know the phases of the moon.
  • Know that stars create pictures in the sky called constellations (Big Dipper).
  • Explain how the Earth revolves and rotates and the effects of these movements.

The Earth

Geological Features of the Earth

  • Describe the layers of the Earth.
  • Explain formation of volcanoes and geysers.
  • Compare metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks.
  • Identify important minerals in the Earth’s crust.

Science Biographies

Scientists and Their Contributions

  • Rachel Carson
  • Thomas Edison
  • Edward Jenner
  • Louis Pasteur
  • Steve Jobs
  • Steve Wozniak


The First Grade Singapore Math at St. James Episcopal School is a program that emphasizes concept development, mental techniques, and problem solving.  Math is more than memorizing formulas and fact families.  Through this program, scholars learn the “how” and “why” of math, not just the operations.  By developing a logical way of thinking using a broad spectrum of manipulatives, scholars build a strong foundation in mathematical thinking and skills.

Patterns and Classification

  • Position and direction
  • Ordinal Number – naming position

Numbers and Number Sense

  • Counting
  • Numbers bonds
  • Comparing numbers
  • Halves and fourths
  • Graphs


  • Bills and coins
  • Shopping

Computation-Addition, Subtraction, and Solving Problems and Equations

  • Addition with number bonds
  • Other methods of addition
  • Methods of subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division


  • Comparing and measuring length
  • Comparing and measuring weight


  • Common shapes

First Grade Curriculum Map
First Grade Spanish Curriculum Map
First Grade Art Curriculum Map