First Grade Overview

First Grade Curriculum Overview 

English/Language Arts

RTSD addresses the PA Core Standards in English Language Arts in First Grade in the following ways:

Reading Comprehension: The core resource for comprehension instruction is the Making Meaning program. This program uses literature and informational text from texts read-aloud to teach students nine different comprehension strategies while also creating a supportive community of readers. In the classroom students receive direct instruction through teacher modeling, time to practice, an opportunity to share and, most critically, an opportunity to apply at their level what was learned.
The Making Meaning units of study in First Grade include:
  • The Reading Life: Fiction and Narrative Nonfiction
  • Retelling and Story Elements (fiction)
  • Making Connections (fiction) and Understanding Character
  • Visualizing with Multiple Genres (poetry and fiction)
  • Wondering: Fictional and Narrative Non-fiction
  • Growing and Changing our Thinking Through Expository Nonfiction
  • Wondering, Making Connections and Activating Schema
  • Exploring Text Features: Expository Nonfiction
  • Informational Book Club
  • Revisiting the Reading life

Vocabulary: The Making Meaning Vocabulary supplement teaches high-utility words found in the Making Meaning read-aloud texts along with strategies students can use to unlock word meanings when they are reading independently. By using words from the books taught in the program, students learn words in context. The goal vocabulary instruction is to have students, without prompting, accurately using new vocabulary words in their everyday speaking and writing.

Writing: Written language instruction is based on Being a Writer. This core program uses trade books for genre immersion and author studies that encourage young writers to consider author’s craft. It also integrates writing instruction with regular community-building elements and guided partner work to develop in students a sense of autonomy, belonging, and competence. Being a Writer combines the use of explicit strategy instruction with student empowerment, cooperative learning and reflection to create a writer’s workshop that is engaging and powerful for the learner.

Units of study in First Grade include:

  • The Writing Community
  • Getting Ideas
  • Telling More
  • Writing Stories About Me
  • Writing Nonfiction
  • Exploring Words Through Poetry
  • Revisiting the Writing Community

Guided Reading and Small Group Instruction: Regular guided reading and other small group instruction allows students to practice and apply what they are learning in language arts. The purpose of guided reading is for students to have time to read and apply strategies and skills that were demonstrated by the teacher during read aloud and shared reading instruction.

Foundational Skills: Wilson Fundations includes an integrated handwriting component that allows teachers to use a multisensory approach to teach how a letter looks, sounds and is formed.


Math in Focus is a K-8 comprehensive mathematics program published by Marshall Cavendish.  Math in Focus provides rich and engaging resources based on 20 years of Singaporean success as a world leader in mathematics education. The framework presented in Math in Focus follows the same framework developed by the Singapore Ministry of Education.  The instructional approaches emphasize real-world, hands on experiences through a concrete-pictorial-abstract learning progression.


For more information about Math in Focus, please click here.


1st Grade Mathematics will be guided by the following course objectives:

  • Count and compare numbers to 10
  • Number Bonds can be used to show parts and whole.
  • Addition can be used to find how many in all.
  • Subtraction can be used to find how many are left.
  • Explore, identify and compare plane and solid shapes in patterns and in the real world.
  • Numbers and words can be used to describe order and position.
  • Count, compare and order numbers to 20.
  • Different strategies can be used to add and subtract.
  • Compare the height and length of things. Measure with non-standard units to find length.
  • Picture graphs, tally charts, and bar graphs can be used to show data.
  • Count, compare, and order numbers from 1 to 40.
  • Addition and Subtraction to 40.
  • Calendars are used to show days, weeks, and months of a year. Clocks are used to read time of the day.
  • Count, compare and order numbers from 1 to 120.
  • Numbers to 100 can be added and subtracted with and without regrouping.
  • Penny, nickel, dime and quarter are coins that can be counted and exchanged. Money can be added and subtracted.
  • The weight of things can be compared and measured with non-standard units.
  • Number bonds help you to add and subtract mentally.
  • Multiplying is the same as adding equal groups. Dividing is the same as sharing things equally or putting things into equal groups.
For more information about the 1st Grade curriculum, please click here.



First grade students will be using three science modules which focus on three content areas of science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, and Life Science.  Descriptions of the modules are below and are excerpted from

The Life Cycle of Butterflies

The Life Cycle of Butterflies unit introduces students to the concepts of life cycles by inviting them to investigate one organism—the painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) for eight weeks. As students care for the caterpillars and butterflies, they observe, record, and describe in words and drawings the metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis and from chrysalis to butterfly. In many cases, students will get to see a butterfly lay eggs. Some butterflies will die natural deaths, completing students’ observations of the life cycle. Through these investigations, students will understand that the term “cycle” implies continuity and that life cycles exist for all living organisms. This experience deepens their understanding of the diversity and complexity of life on earth. 


Weather introduces students to the concept of weather and to the idea that scientific tools can be used to measure the phenomena they observe with their senses. Students observe weather; use thermometers, rain gauges, and wind scales; record their own data; and discuss their findings on cloud cover, precipitation, wind, and temperature. Students are asked to apply their new skills and knowledge to make predictions about the weather in their area. They compare their own weather predictions to the predictions of the local meteorologist and what actually happens with the weather where they live. The lessons in this unit enable students to appreciate how weather changes and how it affects their daily lives.

Solids & Liquids

The investigations in Solids and Liquids introduce students to two key concepts of physical science—that solids and liquids are two states of matter and that each state of matter has its own identifiable properties. Students begin by investigating a set of solids, focusing on properties such as shape, color, texture, and hardness. They conduct experiments to determine whether the solids will float or sink, roll or stack, or attract a magnet. Next, students actively explore the properties of liquids, how they look and feel, their fluidity, how they mix with water, and their degree of absorption. Students communicate their observations and the results of their experiments through discussion, writing, and drawing and improve their ability to follow directions and conduct experiments. 
Social Studies



This social studies course will give students an introductory look into many facets that help to shape a community such as individual and group responsibility and contribution, geography, and economics.  Students who have a firm grasp of the role of individuals in community and how communities function can make informed decisions regarding their own behavior and how their actions impact the community. 


Major Units of Study:


Unit I: Community Building and Civics


Unit II: Geography and Culture


Unit III: US Historical Figures and Landmarks


Social Studies Alive! My School and Family

First grade art students attend art class once in every 5-day cycle for 50 minutes.   Art classes introduce the vocabulary that is intrinsic to producing and talking about art. The elements of art are imbedded in lessons that demonstrate how to use a variety of media, techniques, processes, tools and materials to create art.  Major understandings include: artists make thoughtful choices when creating works of art and often repeat a task many times to learn a new skill; visual art is created for a variety of purposes; art can communicate ideas, express emotions and relate experiences; visual art is displayed; and art elicits a response from the viewer.

Major Topics:

·        Students will begin to understand how to create works of art using the elements: line,shape, color and texture, with a variety of materials and tools

·        Students will begin to use basic visual art vocabulary when talking about art. For example:  line, shape, color, texture

·        Students will begin to understand that visual art is exhibited.

·        Students will begin to understand that art is part of everyday life.

Units of Study:

·        Line is used to create art

·        Lines make shapes/shapes make objects

·        Paper and fiber weaving on loom

·        Clay pinch pot

·        Mixing primary colors to create secondary colors


The Straight Line Wonder by Mem Fox and Marc Rosenthal
White Rabbit's Color Book (Little Rabbit Books) by Alan Baker
Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
When a Line Bends . . . A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene and James Kaczman
Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola
Health & Physical Education


The goal of 1st grade physical education is to teach children to move efficiently and to achieve success and satisfaction in movement experiences. Students continue to focus on listening skills, safety awareness, respect for self and peers, and appropriate peer interaction. The program consists of activities that enhance body awareness, self control, spatial awareness, gross and fine motor skills, loco motor and non-loco motor movements, creative and rhythmic movements, directionality, balance, partner and group challenges, and manipulative skills with a variety of equipment. Students will begin to apply newly learned skills in a meaningful way by engaging in various low organized games. 

All students in first through fourth grade take part in wellness classes which consists of eight units taught throughout the school year to help educate students on living a healthy and safe lifestyle.  Throughout the students’ educational journey, the information taught becomes progressively more challenging but remains developmentally appropriate:
  • The safety unit focuses on safety while riding the bus or other means of transportation, participating in sporting or exercise activities, and in the home or school.
  • The emergency unit prepares the students to act appropriately in an emergency situation by learning the correct numbers to call and the information that is needed to aid in an emergency.
  • In the first aid unit, the students learn basic first aid procedures for minor injuries, including cuts, burns, nosebleeds and joint injuries.
  • During the hygiene unit, the students learn the basics of grooming and maintaining good health through procedures such as hand washing, brushing teeth and wearing clean clothes.
  • Stress reduction is the focus during the relaxation unit where students practice progressive muscle relaxation, mental imagery and yoga to deal with life stressors.
  • The circulatory system, the skeletal system, the nervous system, the muscular system and the respiratory system are the focus of the body systems unit.  The students learn the major organs of each system and ultimately how the systems work together.
  • The drug prevention unit allows the students to discover the care that must be taken when using a medicine and the definition of the word drug.  The dangers of smoking are the focus of this unit.
  • Making good choices when it comes to meals and snacks is the main point in the nutrition unit.  Students are introduced to foods that should only be consumed occasionally and those foods which can be eaten daily.  

Elementary students receive instruction in Library once in every 5-day cycle for 50 minutes, with the exception of Kindergarten classes which are 30 minutes in length. The library curriculum is closely aligned with the English Language Arts Pennsylvania Core Standards and the American Association of School Librarians.

Students in library learn to:

1. Ask questions to find knowledge

2. Work with others to create new knowledge

3. Work as a cooperative library citizen

4. Read widely and make personal connections


First Grade Units of Study:

·         Life of a Reader

·         Organization of the library

·         Type of books  / Information in books

·         Responsible Library Citizenship

·         Research

·         Digital Citizenship


Elementary students experience music by singing, playing, moving and improvising. The skills of matching pitch, steady beat, rhythmic notation and echo are taught and assessed regularly throughout the year. Students are assessed on notation of quarter notes, paired eighth notes and quarter rest.  Children explore the musical elements: melody, harmony, rhythm, form and timbre, as well as expressive elements through a varied repertoire of music from diverse cultures and genres. Students regularly have the opportunity to perform music using Orff instruments and multicultural instruments.

Silver Burdett’s Making Music, Grade 1. 2002 edition.