First Grade

כיתה א


The first grade curriculum builds upon the early steps taken in kindergarten and cultivates in each child a growing ability and confidence to take initiative, learn independently, and contribute actively as a member of a learning group. An enriched and stimulating learning environment provides the supportive setting within which children’s emergent academic skills – as beginning readers, writers, mathematicians, speakers of Hebrew, scientists, artists, and so on – are further developed and refined.

First grade is also the year in which many of the conventions of study and learning are introduced to help children internalize and take responsibility for their own academic skills: editing in writing, standard notation in math, following directions, and completing tasks independently and in a timely manner, to name a few.


The focus of the first grade art curriculum is an exploration of materials. Children discover characteristics of natural materials, such as paper, clay, paint, drawing fabric, and recycled materials. Through guided activities which encourage creativity, students discover the variety of properties of the materials with which they work. This discovery, in turn, prepares them to make educated artistic decisions in their own work. Students also visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see examples of the types of artwork they have created in class.


In addition to the formal art curriculum, children are also engaged throughout the year in a variety of art activities that related to other curriculum areas.

Hebrew עברית

The main emphasis of the Hebrew program in first grade remains oral communication. In addition, with the introduction of skills and concepts drawn from the Hebrew series Otiyot Kor’ot, the Hebrew program begins shifting some of its focus towards written communication, and the rudiments of reading and writing are taught. Using games, skits, books, stories, songs, puzzles, brainstorming sessions, and worksheets, the children review and continue to build their vocabulary and knowledge of basic grammar, language patterns, and sentence structure. Daily routines and parts of morning meeting are conducted in Hebrew, as are selected art and math activities.


Key goals for first grade include understanding and using standard and routine phrases, singular and plural forms, masculine and feminine forms, vocabulary building with particular emphasis on verbs, and reading and writing all letters and vowel sounds.

Jewish Studies

In t’filah (prayer), the children phase out the class siddur (prayer book) that they used in kindergarten and begin to create the personal siddur that will accompany them throughout their elementary years. Each page contains the text of a prayer, as well as their illustrated commentary on it.


By midyear, they complete their study of the Amidah, and, having learned excerpts of each of the 19 b’rachot (blessings) and categorized them as prayers of praise (shevach), request (bakashah), or thanks (hodayah), they demonstrate their newfound proficiency by presenting a Siyum HaAmidah (culminating celebration) to family and friends. Later in the year, they learn more of the Sh’ma and excerpts of the b’rachot that precede and follow it. In addition, when they are called to the Torah for an aliyah, they recite the b’rachah before and after the reading.


First graders encounter the daily, weekly, and annual cycles of the Jewish calendar with both nostalgia and new learning. In their study of the Jewish holidays, they experience many of the practices and review many of the stories that they encountered in kindergarten, and they also uncover new material and ideas that build upon what they already know: book of Jonah during the high holidays; a midrash about the lulav and etrog on Sukkot; an exploration of the concept of pirsum ha-nes (advertising the miracle) on Chanukah; a character study for Purim; an exploration of the concept of symbols for Pesach, focusing on the seder plate; and the midrashic origins of the customs of Shavuot.  In addition, the children are exposed to a new commemoration that they hadn’t learned about in kindergarten: the counting of the omer. They also continue their study of parashat hashavua (the weekly Torah portion), focusing on sections or scenes different from those learned in kindergarten.


At the end of the year, first-graders learn Jewish values through teachings from Pirke Avot. As they explore these teachings, they weave a tapestry on our class loom, symbolizing the foundational importance of Jewish values (middot) in building a kehillah (community). The teachings from Avot are spelled out in the tapestry using aleph-bet beads, and at the conclusion of the year, the tapestry is a gift from this year’s Kitah Aleph to be used by next year’s Kitah Aleph (e.g. as a challah cover).

Language Arts

First grade is a year of tremendous growth in both reading and writing. Students build on the skills that they developed in Gan in reading, writing, listening and speaking. A key goal of the reading program is for children to become independent readers and writers who have mastered a variety of word attack and comprehension strategies to help them analyze increasingly difficult texts and derive meaning and enjoyment from a range of genres.


Our first grade curriculum strikes a balance between continuing to develop phonological awareness and decoding skills to increase children’s accuracy and efficiency, and comprehension strategies to promote meaning-making and understanding. Children learn how to make the sounds associated with various letter combinations, sound out words, break down words into beginning sounds, middle sounds, and end sounds, look for clues in language patterns, and use pictures to help gain understanding. They learn new vocabulary, learn how to self-monitor their reading for meaning, to make predictions and check them, to ask questions of the text, to make connections, to retell a story, and to read with fluency.


The writing program in first grade guides and encourages students to grow into confident and expressive writers. Children learn to write non-fiction books, personal narratives, fictional stories, folk tales, and poetry. Through both direct instruction and collaboration with peers, children practice skills such as brainstorming, drafting, editing and revising. Students reflect on the writing process and their individual skills by re-reading their work, conferencing with teachers, sharing their writing with other children, and publishing their completed work. Phonics instruction helps children learn how sounds and letter patterns come together to form words, and begin to transition from inventive to conventional spelling. We begin to stress the use of proper punctuation and basic grammar, and appropriate use of capital and lower case letters. The emphasis on language development through both oral and written language extends into play and to all content areas including theme, science, math and Jewish Studies.


Math in first grade continues to be inquiry-based, with a balanced emphasis on mathematical thinking and developing fluency in computation and other mathematical skills. Teachers introduce concepts and teach specific skills; children gain proficiency in these skills and concepts through guided practice in pairs, groups, or individually. Children share problem-solving strategies throughout their math sessions.


Key goals for first grade include understanding place value, adding and subtracting, developing number sense, and identifying and describing numerical and geometrical patterns. Tangible objects, such as cubes, a number line, and a hundreds chart, help children comprehend mathematical ideas and support them in their early attempts to use them in calculation and problem-solving.


The concepts, skills, and strategies studied in first grade math may include the following:

  • Addition (1-20 for all students; two-digit for those who are able)
  • Subtraction (1-20 for all children; two-digit for those who are able)
  • Odd and even numbers
  • The number line
  • Tens facts, doubles facts, and near-double facts (doubles plus 1 and doubles minus 1)
  • Counting by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s, and 10’s
  • The 100’s chart
  • Place value to three places
  • Sorting
  • Greater than and less than
  • Estimation and prediction
  • Solving and posing word problems
  • Geometry – angles and sides, symmetry, tangrams
  • Measurement – non-standard, and the beginnings of standard measurement; mapping, bird’s-eye view
  • Patterns
  • Data collection


Our first grade students continue to develop a love for music and skill in singing and using percussion instruments. They have a more nuanced understanding of the elements that make up music – not only can they identify soft and loud, they can also listen for high and low notes. Rhythm work continues and children are introduced more explicitly to 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time. Naturally, music in the first grade continues to be taught largely through movement activities. In one notable lesson, children interpret, through movement, the music of Ketelby’s “Persian Market”.

Physical Education

The fun and games of Physical Education continue in first grade. Children enjoy the discovery of what their increasingly strong bodies allow them to do. They can kick a ball further and with greater force and more accurate aim. They can run faster and stop themselves more easily. Our first graders especially love going to Central Park for P.E. class in the fall and spring. Children engage in more organized sport games in first grade, where there continues to be an emphasis on teamwork and sportsmanship.

Thematic Studies, Science & Social Science

Theme is the focal point of the integrated first grade curriculum. It incorporates science, social studies, reading writing, art, Hebrew, and Jewish Studies.

In Gan, students chose their theme in a group selection process. In first grade, student choice is worked into projects and activities within the theme of the parks of New York City, with a focus on the history, geography, and ecology of Central Park and the High Line. Based upon the essential questions that the teachers pose and that build upon the children’s prior knowledge and questions, the children read books, conduct science experiments and explorations, go on museum visits and other field trips, and record their findings.


After spending most of the year exploring the two parks and their central role in the daily life of New York City residents, in the spring the first graders investigate the importance to Israel’s inhabitants of nature and the outdoor experience. Students learn about the value of teva (nature) and tiyul (hiking) in Israeli life and how the natural landscape is cherished. They study about the diversity of terrain in different regions of Israel, including Kinneret (Galil), Tel Aviv (coastal plain), Jerusalem (mountains), Tiberias (valley) Ein Gedi/Dead Sea (Judean Hills) and Be’er Sheva (Negev) and view them through the eyes of fictional American families looking to make aliyah.


Among the science skills that are developed in the process are observation, recording, measurement, graphing, comparison, data analysis, and creative and logical thinking, as well as developing a hypothesis and experimenting. Science concepts explored include the physics of playgrounds, earth science of pebbles, sand, and salt, and the life cycle of butterflies. The social studies concepts and skills that children learn include understanding the characteristics of community; working effectively in a community; reading non-fiction texts; taking notes on their reading; interviewing; and making observations and comparisons.