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First Grade

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

In first grade, students develop social and academic skills while growing in confidence and independence.

Children at this age learn best through discovery and active involvement with people and materials. In addition to classroom activities, field trips broaden the children's’ knowledge. We attend the Great Frederick Fair to recognize the importance of local agriculture and use our math skills to measure, compare and collect data. Croyden Creek Nature Center provides the opportunity to find plants in their natural environment. and to conduct a plant dissection. At the Maryland Science Center, children use the scientific process to build a machine to solve a problem. Finally, our trip to Fox Haven Learning Center allows children to observe pollinators and decomposers at work on a farm.

First graders are interested in real life tasks and activities. We are fortunate to have a partnership with the Langstaff farm. Ms. Langstaff comes to the classroom to talk to the children about the life cycle of a sheep , their care, and products. Then we tour the farm with her, participating in the care of sheep. Another activity is a fiesta to celebrate our yearlong study of Mexico. Students experience the culture of Mexico through traditional songs, dance, food, art, and clothing.

Time is spent in small group and individual instruction in reading, writing, and math skills. This is balanced with the “noisy’ work of collaboration and problem solving.

In addition, first graders are involved in community service projects. They participate in the school-wide Help the Homeless Walk. They also do extra jobs to earn quarters. We then combine our quarters and go on a shopping trip to purchase holiday gifts for a child who would otherwise not receive gifts.

We have fun learning!


Language Arts

Reading skills are a gateway to understanding ourselves and the world around us. They are a major emphasis in the early grades.

The reading skills first graders develop can be broken down as follows: decoding, blending, recognizing sight words, and reading fluency. Reading comprehension includes: identifying and remembering information; demonstrating understanding of information; and using information in a new situation.

During language arts, children use the Handwriting Without Tears handwriting program to help perfect their letter formation.

Written communication is the focus of Writer’s Workshop. Students work to write complete sentences, which include correct punctuation and capitalization. They incorporate their new learning about nouns, verbs, and adjectives into their work. They apply the spelling patterns introduced in their reading groups, including contractions and suffixes. They also learn to use correct verb tense.

The most difficult skill they practice is editing their own writing. This includes critically rereading sentences and checking phonetic spelling by looking up words in Words I Use When I Write.


Math includes manipulatives, multiple models and questioning. Our emphasis is deep understanding of mathematical ideas, with less emphasis on arithmetic drills and greater emphasis on various strategies for solving problems. Use of specific math vocabulary in discussions, when solving word problems and when writing answers to math questions is also an integral part of math lessons.

Math skills developed during first grade include: place value, addition and subtraction, measurement, money, fractions, geometry, and time.

Social Studies

In social studies, first graders focus on three main topics. Basic map skills are introduced. This includes cardinal directions and map symbols such as map keys and the compass rose. Children look at various kinds of maps and discuss how to read and use them. Then children create their own maps.

Mexico is a yearlong focus. Children study the geography and various landforms of Mexico. They are introduced to a simple history of the country. Our study of Mexico is cross-curricular, including many projects completed in art class, twice weekly Spanish language instruction, and a joint celebration with our fourth grade buddies. We learn about the people, clothing, and crafts of Mexico. Holidays such as Days of the Dead, La Natividad, Las Posadas, Three Kings Day, and Cinco de Mayo are all explored and compared to American holidays. We our yearlong study of Mexico culminates with a fiesta on Cinco de Mayo. The children enjoy a feast of typical Mexican foods, perform the ballad Senor Don Gato and do the Mexican Hat Dance. Following these festivities, they participate with their parents in a traditional Mexican-style marketplace, where each child buys and sells their artwork with pesos.

We also learn about holidays, famous Americans and American symbols.


Our lessons center around Next Generation Science Standards. Students learn to be scientists by making observations, then describing them as accurately as possible. They use tools such as thermometers, rulers, magnifying glasses, and field trips to collect information. Their information is recorded on charts, graphs, and other organizational tools so children can draw conclusions.

First grade science includes sounds and vibrations; patterns found in plants, the sun and moon; and traits inherited by plants and animals.


First grade uses the program Descubre el Espanol A. Students can access online activities from home to practice the content covered in class through games. This program exposes children to the Spanish language and culture. The emphasis on the development of a vocabulary-base and the enjoyment of the Spanish language is achieved through the use of age-appropriate activities: songs, rhymes, stories, movement, and competitive and cooperative games. First graders start to recognize the alphabet (with an emphasis on vowels), and letter names and sounds to start the process of reading. They read syllables and simple words at the end. Students will be on their way to speaking Spanish in no time!

Physical Education

First graders learn what it is like to be in a "rodeo," chasing and attempting to lasso stray cattle. This activity is one of many that focuses on developing perceptual motor efficiency. The children demonstrate locomotor and non-locomotor movements with attention to levels of speed, time, force, and space. They practice turning a jump rope, completing a forward roll, demonstrating an instep pass in soccer, mastering the skills of chasing, fleeing, and dodging to catch or avoid others, and many other skills. In playing games, they learn emotional control, taking turns, following the rules of the game, and participate without fear of failure. Eye-hand and eye-foot varied skills are taught, such as accuracy in rolling, striking and catching a ball, etc. The children demonstrate rhythmical locomotor/manipulative movements and work creatively to music.


First grade students have art once a week for 45 minutes. Students are introduced to the color wheel and begin to practice mixing secondary colors. They continue to explore with a variety of art media, while focusing on traditional and contemporary Mexican art. In May, many of the students’ projects are installed as part of our Mexican Market, which coincides with Cinco de Mayo. Families are invited to walk through the market with their child and purchase the artworks with paper pesos.


Singing and song repertoire constitute the basis of first grade music classes. Much of the movement, simple dances, acting-out activities, miming, and rhythmic actions in which the children engage, are connected with songs. Songs transmit culture, history, and the richness of shared human experiences, values, and feelings. Through music, the children celebrate the seasons, and observe in some meaningful way the traditional holidays and festivals. Special emphasis is placed on agricultural cycles since the Barnesville School is located in the Agricultural Reserve; the order of actions a farmer must take to grow his crops is a favorite topic to sing about in first grade! The first grade always makes an enthusiastic and hearty contribution to Lower School May Day as they participate in the traditional processional up the gently sloping hillside singing Unite and Unite and carrying flowers and branches of May to place at the base of the May Pole! Later in the May Day program they perform a singing game or country dance at the May Pole and sing songs of spring.


First grade students are introduced to the library as a wonderful place where together we grow in the love of books. The students have a library class once a week that reinforces and expands on the concepts taught in the previous years. Students begin to take a closer look at the illustrations in picture books and recognize notable illustrators. They learn to recognize the Caldecott Award and understand its significance. They learn more about the parts of the book with an emphasis on the spine, and how books are sorted and placed in different library locations. Students are introduced to trickster tales around the world, especially Mexico, which is a social studies focus in first grade. Students begin to explore both levels of the library as their interests expand and understand that the automated library catalog can help them find books on a particular subject. Students in the first grade are introduced to online safety and etiquette via the Common Sense Media curriculum.

An independent private school in
Montgomery County, Maryland
offering innovative preschool
through 8th grade programs.

Barnesville School

21830 Peach Tree Road
PO Box 404
Barnesville, MD 20838

p: 301.972.0341
f: 301.972.4076


We offer a vigorous academic program for students as well as engaging, hands-on learning experiences.


Our positive, supportive learning environment promotes imagination, exploration, personal growth, and achievement.

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