Grade One Course Descriptions

Language Arts

The first grade literacy program is comprised of four main components: reading, writing, word study, and speaking/listening. Our program teaches skills and strategies for developing decoding, visual memory of sight words, and comprehension through reading both controlled and noncontrolled text. Reading materials include selections from Flyleaf Publishing, Spire, and A to Z reading. We also work with the Junior Great Books series to develop reading comprehension, inquiry and skills in group discussion and collaboration. The theory that writing is a process is introduced to students at this grade level. Students also write informally in weekly journals. Children are taught spelling patterns and rules of a sequence based on the Orton­Gillingham approach, using Wilson Foundations as a guide. Skills of speaking and listening are acquired through such activities as class meetings, Reader's’ Theater, and collaborative presentations. Students learn and use cursive writing for all written expression. Sample units of study:

  • Poetry

  • Fables

  • Reading responses

  • Creative writing

Social Studies

Based on the overarching theme of “Origins,” first graders explore topics which include North Carolina/Appalachian history and their own family roots and history. Students begin the year by building a foundation of knowledge about the world around them. Basic geography skills include a study of continents, the meaning of country and state, and national symbols. Bringing in their own family heritage through a cultural heritage unit is an important part of making connections between other cultures and how they have influenced life in the North Carolina Mountains. Students then explore the history of the Appalachian Mountains through song, dance, crafts, and storytelling. Field trips, guest speakers, and projects throughout the year enhance the various topics. Sample units of study:

  • Cultural heritage and identity

  • Appalachian studies

  • Cherokee Native Americans


The Math in Focus (the U.S. version of Singapore Math) first-grade program provides challenging practice problems to help broaden children’s thinking skills and extend their understanding of concepts. The problem-solving questions are designed to challenge students to use relevant strategies for non-routine problems. Sample units of study:

  • Building problem-solving skills and strategies

  • Counting, comparing, and writing numbers to 100

  • Adding and subtracting 1-digit and 2-digit numbers

  • Classifying and sorting shapes and patterns

  • Measuring length and weight

  • Using calendars, time, and money


Students in grades one through five use Science and Technology for Children, which is an innovative hands-on science program. It is designed to provide all students with stimulating experiences in the life, earth, and physical sciences. Field trips, guest speakers, labs, and multi-disciplinary projects throughout the year enhance the various topics.   Sample units of study:

  • The human body

  • Simple machines

  • Western North Carolina Plants and Animals


Students extend their Spanish classes to four 20-minute session of complete immersion in the rotating week. The program focuses on consolidating and expanding the vocabulary and skills built in kindergarten. We work on developing basic Spanish phonemic awareness, while keeping the focus on the students’ listening skills. At this level students are welcomed to begin their language exploration by trying to reproduce and speak the target language. Total Physical Response, or TPR, is the main method used to teach Spanish, using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (VAK) activities aimed towards engaging students’ different learning styles.  We create a class atmosphere that is lively, fun and safe, as we incorporate songs, art projects, role playing, realia, and a myriad of games. Cultural activities continue to be introduced to promote curiosity, awareness, and respect. Sample units of study:

  • The Spanish alphabet and the letter sounds

  • Expressing emotions

  • Expressing likes and dislikes

  • Numbers 1-30

  • Geometric shapes and patterns

  • Parts of the body and face

  • Farm animals

  • Food

  • The calendar

  • The weather


This class builds upon the Kindergarten year with increased class time that reflects the First Grader`s growing attention span. Students continue to explore basic elements of art through two and three-dimensional projects. Drawing, painting, sculpture, and simple printmaking are presented with projects that require increased dexterity. Children progress at their own pace, and process is much more important than finished product. Highlights include drawing with a variety of materials, using multiple types of paint, clay sculpture and collage.  Projects are often integrated with students’ academic classroom topics. Sample areas of focus:

  • Study the basic elements of line, texture, color, form, and space

  • Expand on students’ vocabulary of art and design

  • Observe and interpret works of art-both modern and historical

  • Using children’s literature to incorporate art learning


The first grade music experience creates an active space for the whole child’s creative potential. Meeting twice every 6 days for 30-minute sessions, the program focuses on introducing rhythm, melody, and notation while engaging the whole body in creative movement. Performance opportunities broaden the singer’s vocal literature and offer skills in public presentations. Sample units of study:

  • Songs of the American Revolution

  • Orff introduction of chordal patterns

  • Theme and variations in orchestral works

Physical Education

Students in first grade will continue to build on the locomotor movements learned in pre-k and kindergarten through a variety of fun and engaging activities. Games will be highly inclusive, and all students will leave the gym or field having participated and having found success in the skills that we are learning. Our goal is to enhance students’ quality of life through active living and healthy decisions. Components of our program include:

  • Locomotor skills

  • Gross motor skills such as kicking, striking, throwing and catching

  • Cooperation and sportsmanship

  • Introduction of sport-specific skills: basketball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball

  • Jump rope and rhythmic movement, which culminates with our annual lower school family dance

  • Gymnastics: Jumping, tumbling, balance, arm strength


The Lower School Library supports the Carolina Day School curriculum, encourages reading, and promotes research. More than 20,000 titles are available to students and parents via the web-based catalogue, along with a variety of electronic databases, print periodicals, DVDs, and audio resources. The library program is designed to foster a love of reading and to teach skills in locating and evaluating information. A primary focus is on providing appropriate and enticing materials for diverse reading interests and wide ranging reading abilities, so all students can find materials to support their learning and joy of reading. Lower school students are welcome to independently visit the library throughout the school day with their teacher’s permission. Weekly library visits include:

  • Read alouds focusing on world folk tales, spooky stories, and the North Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees intentionally selected to foster early literacy skills

  • Active listening, contributing to class discussions, and  practice of early literacy skills

  • Introduction to locating library materials

  • Selecting appropriate books for independent reading

  • Checking out books independently


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