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The Elements of a Quality First Grade (Class I) Experience

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

First grade, known as “Class l” at Waterford School, is the crucial bridge between Kindergarten and Class ll or second grade. This first grade bridge is made of the strongest of elements:

Melinda Zabriskie, Reading Assistant and Retired Waterford Class I Teacher, working with students on a Fundations unit.
Melinda Zabriskie, Reading Assistant and Retired Waterford Class I Teacher, working with students on a Fundations unit.
  1. Reading
    Each student reader is well-served by Fundations, a structured, multi-sensory, phonics-driven program which is successfully used to build both reading fluency and spelling accuracy through Class III. First grade classrooms operate during the 90-minute reading block with two teachers, one of whom specializes in quality literature appropriate to the reading level of each group; the other focuses strictly on specific phonics concepts from the currently taught Fundations unit. Weekly spelling assessments are utilized in both literature and Fundations groups. To support students who need extra instruction and practice, both small group and individual tutoring is available. Class I teachers marvel as they observe the blossoming literacy of their students who lose themselves in books from classroom collections and treasured tomes from our excellent Lower School Library.
     
    Class I students practice their penmanship during Writing.
    Class I students practice their penmanship during Writing.
  2. Writing
    Writing in Class l follows a similarly impressive trajectory.  Many students who struggled in September to place a few wobbly words on lined composition paper are thrilled to be able to write complete sentences and cohesive paragraphs in the spring. Full-length stories, poems, and even short “chapter books” are often composed by year’s end. Penmanship is formally taught, with standard D’Nealian letter formation encouraged throughout the year.
     
    Students explore mathematical concepts through a variety of hands-on activities.
    Students explore mathematical concepts through a variety of hands-on activities.
  3. Math
    Class I students explore mathematical ideas daily. They become mathematical thinkers through carefully scaffolded experiences, with regular opportunities for problem solving, making connections, and communicating their ideas. Class I teachers create classroom environments where learners are persistent, open to challenges, and curious about how and why math works the way it does.
     
    Waterford teachers continue their own education through ongoing research and professional development.
    Waterford teachers continue their own education through ongoing research and professional development, helping students to grow in the process.
  4. Experienced Teachers
    Waterford’s Class l teachers are students themselves, regularly spending time learning about and discussing research-based, developmentally appropriate programs and teaching methods. Noted authors and educators are often invited to share their expertise with Waterford faculty, helping to shape meaningful discussions in classrooms throughout the school, and inspiring teachers and, in turn, students to stretch and grow.
     
    Students visit an Arts specialist several times each week to learn the fundamentals of drawing, painting, and 3D art. 
    Students visit an Arts specialist several times each week to learn the fundamentals of drawing, painting, and 3D art. 
  5. Arts
    One of Waterford’s best-known strengths is its unwavering support of the Arts. Our Class I students attend classes several times a week taught by a local artist, a former professional dancer, and a legendary local pianist who encourages young children to raise their voices in song.
     
    Waterford's Class I science lab is an inviting and stimulating environment that inspires scientific thought and curiosity.
    Waterford's Class I science lab is an inviting and stimulating environment that inspires scientific thought and curiosity.
  6. Science
    Students look forward to science in one of the Lower School Science Labs twice a week. They learn to think like a scientist as they form a hypothesis and test that hypothesis with an experiment. Their passion for learning is naturally fed by their insatiable curiosity about the world around them.
     
    Students spend time in the Computer Lab each week to access educational software that guides age-appropriate learning in core subjects.
    Students spend time in the Computer Lab each week to access educational software that guides age-appropriate learning in core subjects.
  7. Technology
    Our fortunate students spend time each week in the Computer Lab where they access a variety of educational activities on individual computers, including keyboarding. Created by Waterford’s technology gurus, these activities support age-appropriate reading, math, science, and social studies topics which both inform and entertain.
     
    Physical Education is critical to Waterford's Class I curriculum. Students learn good sportsmanship as they develop an appreciation for physical activity.
    Physical Education is critical to Waterford's Class I curriculum. Students learn good sportsmanship as they develop an appreciation for physical activity.
  8. Physical Education
    No description of the Class l curriculum at Waterford School would be complete without P.E.! The Waterford Lower School boasts its own multi-talented coach who succeeds in making a P.E. fan of virtually every Lower School student. While skillfully teaching and encouraging students with diverse interests and skill levels, he models the self-discipline and good sportsmanship he seeks to build in his students.
Students learn to read music on the piano with Waterford's music specialist.
Students learn to read music on the piano with Waterford's talented music specialist.


To be sure, Waterford’s Class l students are the recipients of remarkable educational opportunities which both shape and enrich, priming each child for the wonders ahead.