First Grade Read Aloud
In the first grade, our read aloud is a very special time where students can study an author or a topic deeply, across texts, and they can talk with each other about what they’re learning and thinking. Our teachers support the students in their conversations by providing vocabulary at the beginning of each day – words that are in the text that they might not know, as well as words they can use to talk about the text. Then each day, time is left for students to ask questions, pose ideas, and discuss together.
In september, we begin with an author study of kevin henkes, where we read chester’s way, jessica, and lily’s plastic purse. The students will notice what kinds of characters kevin henkes likes to write about, and how he uses his illustrations and dialogue bubbles to help move the story along.
Then we move into a study of community. The goal of this unit is to build a classroom community where everyone feels welcome and supported, and to talk about how a community is like a family – they take care of each other, they grow together, and they accept each other for who they are, yet challenge each other to be their very best. We read books like the great big book of families, which explains the fact that families can take many different forms, and have many different traditions, and that the important and common factor is that families love each other. We also read spaghetti in hotdog bun, which tells the story of a young girl who has the courage to be herself, and to speak up kindly and respectfully for what she believes in. We also read the sandwich swap, which tells a story of two friends who find out that the foods from their respective cultures are different from each other, but good!
Or the next we read a lovely book by judy bloom called the one in the middle is the green kangaroo, which tells the story of a boy who – like the title suggests – feels lost in the middle of his family. This is a great story that so many kids connect to, and they love to talk about the character and the changes they see in him. From this point on, we look for character change in the books we read.
We end october with a nonfiction read aloud study of the human body. In this study, our students will do some investigating into the most important health issues that face families in our school, and this will drive their learning about how and why we take care of our bodies. The study will culminate with each class taking some action to help the families in our school be healthier!
At home, you can support this work by asking your child about the read aloud book they’re discussing in class, but you can also support this work by continuing to read higher level books together at home. Your child’s reading life is in some ways limited to the level of book they are able to decode. But, your child might be ready to learn and think about much more complex stories! We strongly recommend parents continue reading to their children each night, or as often as you can, because it fosters a love of reading together, and many books have wonderful lessons tucked inside. You and your child can read favorite illustrated fiction, or venture into some chapter books such as george’s marvelous medicine, lola levine, the sarai series, my father’s dragon, or the magic tree house series.
We began november with the fiction series, mercy watson, by kate dicamillo. This is the first of many books our students will read by this author – we read the miraculous journey of edward tulane later on in the year, then the students will read because of winn dixie in third grade. Mercy watson is a fun read aloud, with characters that make our students laugh. At the same time, it is an excellent book to work on our skills of predicting, identifying patterns of behaviors with characters that help us name a character trait, and developing our own ideas or opinions about a book. This gets the students read for a deeper, more mature study of characters in the winter.
After mercy watson, the students launch into a nonfiction read aloud theme, studying the life cycle of frogs. In this study, students research together, dipping into various types of informational and narrative texts, then taking their own notes using a combination of words and pictures. This research leads to the class together writing a teaching, or informational, book about frogs and their life cycle. We facilitate this first research and writing as a whole class, and then later on in the year students will have the opportunity to choose their own topics to study deeply, then present to their peers.
Finally, we take the last week before the winter break to read about many of the winter holidays that are celebrated in our community at this time, especially christmas, hanukah, and kwanza. As with all holidays, our focus at school is to learn about the tradition – how the holiday is celebrated at home or in a person’s community. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about and appreciate similarities and differences between the many cultures represented in our school community.
The first grade read aloud curriculum starts the new year by thinking about the characters we meet in our books, and connecting this to the characters we know best – ourselves! The students will be reading about 3 characters who are very “out of the box”, or unique. These are the paperbag princess, meet yasmin, and junie b jones (one of our favorite read aloud series books across the first grade, by barbara park.) in each of the books we read in class, the students will learn to watch their characters carefully – especially paying attention to what their characters do, say, and think. They learn that actions and words reveal a lot about personality, and when they notice patterns in characters’ talking, thinking, and actions, they begin to name big personality traits.
At the same time, students are studying artists in their art class who were also unique or “out of the box.” we will be making connections between these two studies, helping students see and discuss how some artists were actually not respected right away because they were trying something “different.” it wasn’t until later that people became open to valuing the art that they made, and of course it’s a good thing they stayed true to themselves – they made beautiful art that is appreciated across the world today!
Along the way, and especially at the end of our study, students will use what they’ve learned about personality traits in our read aloud, and what they’ve learned about artists in their art class, to create a final project that expresses who they are.
Students will continue studying characters in february, but this time we’ll study true characters in a biography study. We will read about helen keller, rosa parks, and cesar chavez, to name a few. In this unit, students will learn about the genre of biography – texts that highlight a person who has achieved something special or made a special contribution to society - and they’ll learn how authors use timelines to organize and convey key events in a person’s life. Part of our work will extend to a home component where we’ll be asking the student to create a timeline of their own life, as well as a family member. Please begin gathering pictures and other artifacts that might help your child visualize these key moments in their and others’ lives!
In the spring of first grade, we study recycling and taking care of the earth. This unit builds upon an introduction in kindergarten, where our students learned what happens with our garbage. In the recycling unit, first grade students study pollution and it’s causes more in-depth, and they gain a more mature understanding of the different ways we can re-use, reduce, and recycle. They take a trip to the materials center in manhattan, where materials that might have been thrown away get re-purposed to create artistic displays, for use in classrooms for imaginative plan, and for our first grade students, the materials will be used in a project later on to celebrate a book we read in read aloud.
You can support this unit at home by asking your child what they’re learning about pollution, and what reduce, re-use, and recycle mean. You can also take time as a family to look at your garbage plan – are there simple ways you can reduce, re-use, and recycle more at home?
Then in april-into-may, the first grade students read the miraculous journey of edward tulane by kate dicamillo. This read aloud builds on what students learn in their reading workshop, which is that characters in our books go on a journey, and our job as a reader is to watch them move from scene to scene or chapter to chapter along their journey, and to notice what they learn and how they change. Edward tulane is a very special read aloud that the students process as a grade, ending with a culminating celebration on thursday, may 24th, which we hope you can join us for!
In june, we read classic and fractured fairytales, exploring the genre as a type of storytelling and then written text meant to teach children about how to be – and how not to be. The fractured fairytales help students see how these stories have been told and retold to connect to different audiences and times, and to sometimes make us laugh!
In Reader’s Workshop, our first graders move from reading simple leveled books at the beginning of the year to early reader chapter books by winter and spring. It’s a very exciting year, and we begin with a short unit called Good Readers Have Good Habits. In this unit, we ask the students to help “teach” the class about the important habits every reader should have. These are:
- Choosing a just-right book (not too easy, not too hard, just on your level)
- Getting ready to read by previewing a book – looking at the cover and the pages inside to get an idea about who and what the story might be about.
- Stopping to solve tricky words by tapping them out, reading to the end of the sentence, then reading it again to figure out the word, putting your own word in there, or pointing to what the word might be in the picture.
- Reading with fluency and expression.
- Retelling our books by naming the character, the setting, the problem (if there was one) and the most important parts.
At home you can support this unit by creating a place and time for quiet reading each night. It is of utmost importance that your child read the books in their baggy for 20 minutes each night. 20 minutes a night, multiplied by the number of school days, leads to much more comfortable, confident and skilled readers by the end of first grade! Keep in mind, in September, your child might be more comfortable reading TO you than alone.
At the beginning of October, we take one week for complex text reading. In this week, students are given the opportunity to hold a text that’s slightly harder than they are used to reading, and they are invited to really find and problem-solve around the tricky words they find. This is wonderful because it helps everyone know that ALL readers find tricky words – and together in the class we discover or learn strategies to solve all of these words.
At home you can support this by celebrating when your child stops to solve a tricky word, or by sharing some of the tricky words YOU find in your reading too.
Finally, the rest of October is dedicated to a unit we call Getting to Know Our Characters. In this unit, the students explore different ways to infer (figure out) characters’ feelings, and they become experts at identifying important feelings across a story. They then use the important feelings across the story to help them give a more mature retelling of the stories they read.
At home, you can support this unit by making sure to name your own feelings across the day, and ask your child how they feel at different times too. Remember that people often have two different feelings at once- excited and scared, frustrated and sad, etc.
In Reading Workshop in November, we focus on reading in the nonfiction genre. This unit builds on the knowledge and skills introduced in Kindergarten, and supports students in reading nonfiction at higher levels, and with more complex contents and formats.
We begin by discussing and naming how nonfiction is similar but different from fiction – it has words and pictures, but sometimes the pictures are photographs, diagrams, or close-ups to teach the reader even more information. It has tricky words, but the authors often give you a glossary or very clear context clues in the text to help you learn any words that are truly important to the topic. It’s organized in some way – often with chapters, or section headings.
The students will be reading some texts with the teacher, as part of their lessons, and they will also have the opportunity to choose their own nonfiction texts to read. It’s important to note that during the nonfiction study, we still ask students to keep up with their leveled fiction reading, so we take time in class to read both. At home, we encourage students to read at least one or two of their fiction books, along with any other nonfiction reading they choose as their nighttime reading.
In December, we begin a shared reading unit, where students have their hands on a text slightly above their level, and the teachers facilitate the student’s previewing, reading for comprehension, and reading for fluency and expression. This is a wonderful unit where students get exposed to series and reading strategies that are right where they need to go next – and it sets many students up for reading the next level by the time they return to us in January!
How can parents help at home?
Consider ways to make reading a quiet, focused, and positive time at home. Ask yourself: what does your child need to be a productive reader at home?
Do they need an audience? Ask your child to read their books aloud to you or another family member.
Do they need a cozy reading nook? Consider getting a reading pillow or a lap desk to help them read comfortably, but still with good posture.
Do they need a snack? Offer it!
As you read with your child, you can ask them….
What is the story mostly about?
What is your favorite part?
What is one word that was tricky, but you solved it? How did you solve it?
What is one word that was too tricky to sound out, but you think you know what it means? How did you figure that out?
Did the main character remind you of any other characters you’ve read before? How?
In the new year, we begin a unit on Envisioning without pictures – this is a very important unit where we prepare students to read with less and less picture support. They learn to notice key signals in the text that help them know WHERE a scene is happening, WHO is there, and WHAT they are doing. Then they practice making a movie in their mind (and on paper) of those things. Finally, they look at place where the author adds body language, facial expression, and special dialogue tags (yelled, cried, etc) to think about the feeling a character has, even if the author didn’t name the feeling for us. This is called inferring, and it’s a very crucial skill for reading without pictures.
In the spring of the First Grade, we begin a study of Character Journey in Reading Workshop. This means learning to identify our character’s journey – usually their main problem – and then track their steps along this journey as they reach a solution or resolution. The students learn that when authors create a story, they plan their scenes out carefully – in each scene, something important happens. Students learn to recognize a new scene by noticing if a character moves to a new place, if a new character enters the scene, or if time passes. The students learn to “get a strong start” at the beginning of a scene by asking, “Who’s here? Where are they? What’s happening so far?” and then they learn to pause at the end of the scene to ask “What’s the big thing that happened in this scene? Is my character’s problem better or worse? Why?” This is a crucial skill for for our readers as they begin reading longer and longer books. Following our character’s journey helps the readers keep track of all of the important parts of a book, and it gives them questions to consider as they read each scene, which helps them remain active in their reading.
Then in the end of March, beginning of April, the students read and write poetry. They learn that poets can write about anything, but they often write about something that gives a strong image or feeling, or both. Each day, they studied a different type of poem or craft, and then tried that out by writing their own poems.
Finally, in late spring, we ask students to develop ideas about their characters. Are they adventurous? Are they shy? Are they bossy? Do they change? This unit invites students to watch their characters closely and to look for patterns in behavior, and to develop an idea about their character that they can substantiate with evidence from the text.
You can support this at home by modeling and discussing ideas about the characters in books you read aloud together, or do the same with characters in movies you watch. An idea can be a simple character trait – brave, loyal, persistent, etc, or it can a sentence – this person is a good friend, this person always reaches out to family members to help him/her through her problems. The big goal is for students to envision the story, notice patterns, and talk about these patterns in their own words.
Each Monday in First Grade, our students continue with their Weekend News. This is a special time of the week when they can share a memory they have from the weekend and they hold onto it by putting their memory into writing. This is also a time of the week where teachers put specific emphasis on handwriting, punctuation, spacing, and other mechanics they see needing attention.
At home, you can support this by talking with your child about the weekend and by planning some simple things to do together. Weekend news does not have to detail a trip to Disneyland. It can be something simple – you made pancakes together, you went to a street fair and danced to new music, you had a sleepover at Grandma’s house. But it does help to take time on Sunday evening or Monday on your walk to school to ask, “What’s a special memory from the weekend that you’d like to write about for weekend news?
Tuesday through Friday in Writing Workshop, the students will be writing Small Moment stories. These are true stories, focused on one moment (not a whole day or a whole week) that have a beginning, middle, and end. Students will gather ideas by thinking about important people and places and things they like to do, then list possible story ideas around these lists. Then students will “storyboard” their stories by drawing each part, then writing the stories themselves. All the while, students will recall what they know as writers – start each sentence with a capital letter, and end with appropriate end punctuation. Leave small spaces between your words. Use the word wall word list and using your tapping strategy to help you spell tricky words.
At home, you can support this work by telling stories from your own childhood. Children love this! In your stories, make sure to tell where you where you were, who you were with, and then give the blow-by-blow of the story, including what people said, what you did, and how you felt.
The students just wrapped up a series of fiction writing pieces – they wrote funny stories, then scary stories, and for each of these they began by gathering ideas in their Writer’s Notebook, then they planned and drafted their stories on writing paper. We will return to fiction writing in the winter – it’s a wonderful way for students to be creative, while still working on all the structural and mechanical parts of writing – composing an idea, planning out the idea, drafting and revising to convey their story in a meaningful way, and editing to make their writing readable.
Mid-November, we begin our How-to unit. In this very hands-on writing, students study procedural writing – writing that teaches the reader the steps of how to do something. We begin by exploring the genre as readers. Children read and follow the directions for making Smores Casseroles and a Thanksgiving centerpieceJ As they study and follow the how-to, they notice and talk abut what makes a how-to helpful and easy-to-follow. From this discussion, the class decides on what all of our how-tos should include…A list of materials, steps broken down, specific action or command words, tips and warnings to help the reader do a really good job, and pictures that are clearly drawn to help the reader each step of the way.
This how-to unit continues into the December months, where students continue to read and write how tos, culminating in a project where students will transfer their how-to skills to a video format, making how-to videos for all to see!
In January, we write problem solution stories. These are made-up but realistic stories about characters who have everyday problems, and who solve these problems in realistic ways – no magic, no superheroes involvedJ They’ll create a character, imagine their likes and dislikes, as well as important people in their lives (parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, friends). Then they’ll imagine problem stories connected to these topics. Students will plan and write their stories, focusing on using dialogue appropriately (with quotation marks and tags to show who is talking), using capitalization and end punctuation, and by showing not telling their characters’ feeling. We will help students make a connection between their read aloud studies – paying attention to characters’ actions, words, and thinking – to help them write their stories.
In the spring of first grade, students begin by writing All About books on topics of personal expertise. This means they think of something they know a lot about….Babies, Soccer, Being A Good Friend, Cats, Playgrounds, etc. Then they write a book teaching all about that topic. This writing gets them used to using their “teaching” writing voice in stead of their “storytelling“ writing voice, which they will use again later in the spring when they research a topic they want to learn more about.
Then, the students spend a few weeks reading and writing poetry. Please see the classroom walls and hallways in our school for beautiful examples of their poetry!
In the end of April, students have a week to read across our nonfiction library collections and to carefully choose a topic that they want to study in depth. Then they learn develop questions about their topic, which soon become chapter titles…..”What is a Bear? Where do Bears Live? How do Bears Protect Themselves?” etc. Then, they read across many different sources to collect information about each question, and they take organized notes. Finally, they turn these notes into a well-researched Nonfiction All About Book.
At home, you can help your child by asking them what topic they are choosing to research, and then supporting their research. You might go to the library and borrow books to read together, or to the bookstore. You might look at PBS kids or National Geographic kids to see if there is a video or short movie about their topic.
We end the year with a brief but fun exploration of Fairytale Writing, which builds on the children’s first exposure to the genre of writing in Kindergarten.
The word study week offers a variety of activities for all learners, as students engage in a combination of direct teaching, hands-on practice, and choral drills, along with small group centers where students can work on their own areas of need or readiness. Across the year, students are introduced to key spelling concepts that will help them read and write with accuracy. They are also introduced to new “trick words” each week, which are words that break the rules, and so we just have to memorize them!
At home, you can support this work by first making sure your child completes their word study homework, and then practicing reading and spelling these words using more than just pen and paper – they can write the words on a plate with shaving cream, or they can build them with connecting cubes such as these
September is dedicated to review of key kindergarten concepts:
Digraphs (sh, ch, wh, th, and ck)
Bonus letters (f, l, s, and sometimes z)
Glued sounds: am, an, and all
In october, we begin our first grade curriculum, and the key concepts are listed below.
Glued sounds: these are letters that sound like they are glued together – it’s hard to hear each of the letters, but if you listen carefully they are there! This is one of the most challenging concepts in first grade, because it involves the student hearing and identifying the correct vowel, as well as two other consonants. The glued sounds are: ang, ing, ong, ung, ank, ink, onk, and unk.
Blends: blends are two or three consonants together in a word where the consonants “blend” together and are hard to hear, especially if we are spelling them. Blends can be found at the beginning of the word, or the end of the word, or both!
Some examples of words with blends are: grin, spill, bunch, blush, wept, stash, pump, melt, grass, drip, flock, ramp, fist, pinch, and went.
Basewords and suffixes: students learn that a suffix can be added to a base word to slightly change the meaning, and that some common suffixes are s, es, ed, and ing
Closed syllable: the students learn to recognize, read, and write words with closed syllable. A closed syllable is a single syllable (a word or part of a word that can be pushed out in one breath) with only one vowel, that is closed in (ending) with a consonant. In a closed syllable, the vowel makes the short (regular) vowel sound. Some examples of closed syllables are: bath, cat, such, it. Closed syllables are the first of 6 types of syllables our first and second graders will learn.
Vowel-consonant-e syllable: the vowel-consonant-e syllable is the silent e syllable. When you have a vowel, followed by a consonant and ending in an e, the e makes the vowel a long vowel, and it “says its name.” some examples of vce or cvce syllables are: stove, hope, cave, and ape.
Reading and spelling words with up to 5 sounds, plus a suffix: students learn to listen for, segment (that means separate) then write out the sounds in order to spell these words correctly. They learn that if you have a suffix, that can be simply added at the end. Some 5 sound words are: stump, clasp, strap
Syllable division rules for closed syllables – compound words: students learn to read and write simple compound words with short vowel sounds, for example catnip, or publish
Sequence of Modules
Module 1: Sums and Differences to 10
Module 2: Introduction to Place Value Through Addition and Subtraction Within 20
Module 3: Ordering and Comparing Length Measurements as Numbers
Module 4: Place Value, Comparison, Addition and Subtraction to 40
Module 5: Identifying, Composing, and Partitioning Shapes
Module 6: Place Value, Comparison, Addition and Subtraction to 100
In this first module of Grade 1, students make significant progress towards fluency with addition and subtraction of numbers to 10 as they are presented with opportunities intended to advance them from counting all to counting on, which leads many students then to decomposing and composing addends and total amounts. In Kindergarten, students achieved fluency with addition and subtraction facts to 5. This means they can decompose 5 into 4 and 1, 3 and 2, and 5 and 0. They can do this without counting all. They perceive the 3 and 2 embedded within the 5.
Module 2 serves as a bridge from problem solving within 10 to work within 100 as students begin to solve addition and subtraction problems involving teen numbers. In Module 1, students were encouraged to move beyond the Level 1 strategy of counting all to the more efficient counting on. Now, they go beyond Level 2 to learn Level 3 decomposition and composition strategies, informally called make ten or take from ten.
We will launch this module through out Inventory Project. Help!! Other classes are borrowing our supplies and we need a system to keep track of what we have, what people are borrowing, and what they are returning. Students will develop strategies to count classroom supplies such as counting cubes, scissors, and markers to keep track of how many of each item they have. They will develop the bundling/grouping strategy to make tens to help them count more efficiently and use this context to develop addition and subtraction strategies. Children can apply these strategies at home when organizing their toys or household items.
In this 13-day module, students will use non-standard units to measure objects, and will compare and order objects by length. Module 3 opens by extending students’ Kindergarten experiences with direct length comparison to the new learning of indirect comparison whereby the length of one object is used to compare the lengths of two other objects. “My string is longer than your book. Your book is longer than my pencil. That means my string is longer than my pencil!” Students use the same transitivity, or indirect comparison, to compare short distances within the classroom in order to find the shortest path to their classroom door, which is helpful to know for lining up and for emergencies. This module takes longer than and shorter than to a new level of precision by introducing the idea of a length unit. Centimeter cubes are laid alongside the length of an object as students learn that the total number of cubes laid end to end with no gaps or overlaps represents the length of that object. Students will then explore the usefulness of measuring with similar units. Students measure the same objects from Topic B using two different non-standard units, toothpicks and small paper clips, simultaneously to measure one object and answer the question, “Why do we measure with same-sized length units?” They realize that using iterations of the same unit will yield consistent measurement results. Similarly, students explore what it means to use a different unit of measurement from their classmates. It becomes obvious to students that if we want to have discussions about the lengths of objects, we must measure with the same units. This module closes as students represent and interpret data. They collect data about their classmates and sort that information into three categories. Using same-sized pictures on squares, students represent this sorted data so that it can be easily compared and described.
In this 35-day module, students will study, organize, and manipulate numbers within 40. They will compare number quantities, using the symbols for greater and less than (>, <). Students will work with adding and subtracting tens and will begin to add two-digit numbers. The place value chart at this point in 1st grade consists of two boxes; the one on the left labeled “tens” and the one on the right labeled “ones”. Students will be asked initially to match a number of objects with the correct representation on the place value chart. Later, they use the chart more abstractly to add two-digit numbers. Incorporated throughout this module is “The Design a Game Project” where students will work in small groups to create their own game (card game, board game, memory game) that will help them practice the skills and strategies they are learning throughout the module to add and subtract.
In Module 5, students consider part–whole relationships through a geometric lens. The module opens with students identifying the defining parts, or attributes, of two- and three-dimensional shapes, building on their kindergarten experiences of sorting, analyzing, comparing, and creating various two- and three-dimensional shapes and objects. Students combine shapes to create a new whole: a composite shape. They also relate geometric figures to equal parts and name the parts as halves and fourths. The module closes with students applying their understanding of halves to tell time to the hour and half hour.
In this final module of the Grade 1 curriculum, students bring together their learning from Module 1 through Module 5 to learn the most challenging Grade 1 standards and celebrate their progress. As the module opens, students grapple with comparative word problem types. Next, they extend their understanding of and skill with tens and ones to numbers to 100. Students also extend their learning from Module 4 to the numbers to 100 to add and subtract. At the start of the second half of Module 6, students are introduced to nickels and quarters, having already used pennies and dimes in the context of their work with numbers to 40 in Module 4. Students use their knowledge of tens and ones to explore decompositions of the values of coins. The module concludes with fun fluency festivities to celebrate a year's worth of learning.
- Practice “counting on” as a strategy for addition, e.g. if you have 7 LEGO pieces, and then you get 3 more, encourage your student to start with the number 7 and count “8…9…10” to find the total.
- Discuss various ways to take apart a given number, e.g. 6 is made of 1 and 5, 2 and 4, 3 and 3, etc.
- Talk about how we can find “tens” in other, large numbers
- Make up and discuss short story problems that involve simple addition and subtraction
- Give your student as many opportunities to measure objects using other, smaller objects, e.g. “How many Lego pieces long is your book? How many blueberries long is this notebook?
- Continue to practice adding and subtracting within 20.
- Continue to ask your student to compare two different quantities, using the language “greater than” and “less than”.
- Begin to ask questions such as “What does the 2 represent in 29?”
- Continue to practice counting up to 40 or beyond.