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First Grade | Sh’tilim שתילים

Curriculum Overview: The First Grade Classroom

There are many milestones in 1st grade, from losing teeth to developing as independent readers. We strive to create a classroom that responds to the developmental needs of six and seven-year-olds, both supporting them where they are and pushing past current edges of the possible. Skill building and independent work and play are the threads that tie everything we do together. Students will come out of 1st grade with increased decoding, fluency and comprehension skills; with reasoning, analyzing and computation skills; they will build skills in identifying feelings, expressing needs and wants, and beginning to see the perspective of another. They will increase their ability to discuss conflict, problem solve, negotiate, and collaborate to make solutions that work for everyone involved. They will build skills in initiation, speaking in front of peers, leading a group, and develop their confidence and sense of competence as they do so. Our teaching at SJCS is grounded in the following beliefs about how students learn.

Students learn best when:

  • they feel seen, loved, honored, and respected as individuals
  • they feel their self-identity belongs as a part of a greater community they explore and learn through shared experiences and social interaction
  • their current knowledge is built upon to construct new knowledge
  • they are presented with material at their appropriate level
  • they are taught through many modalities
  • they are interested in and find personal meaning in the curriculum
  • they have clear guidelines, expectations, and feedback
  • they have challenging, achievable goals
  • they have choices about their learning
  • they have authentic, experiential opportunities to learn and apply skills and concepts



Students read for a variety of purposes across subject areas throughout the school day. Our reading program focuses on student learning of decoding, comprehension, and fluency skills. Wired for Reading and Words Their Way focus on decoding and fluency, and seven “proficient reader strategies” are taught using a reading workshop model.

Word Study/Decoding using the Words Their Way curriculum allows students to study and understand letter patterns and word structure as they build phonics, fluency and decoding skills to use while reading. Wired for Reading teaches concepts and strategies that supports the study of letter patterns and word structure, providing a very kinesthetic approach.

Reading Workshop involves a mini-lesson in which reading strategies are taught, students practice these skills, and sharing of what they learned.

  • Mini-lessons are often in the form of Interactive Read Alouds, in which the teacher reads aloud, stopping frequently to model the use of reading strategies by “thinking out loud.”
  • Practice includes independent reading of self-selected texts, in which students read “just right” books independently. During this time, they are practicing decoding and comprehension strategies that have been taught during interactive read aloud and other reading mini-lessons. Practice also comes in the form of Buddy Reading, when students work on reading fluency and expression while reading a just-right text with a partner or small group. During practice,Guided Reading lessons will provide small groups of students with direct instruction to support their practice of specific decoding and comprehension strategies.
  • Sharing closes the workshop, when students share in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class.

Throughout the year, students will learn and practice these seven comprehension strategies:

  • Retelling
  • Making Connections (text to self, text to text, text to world)
  • Monitoring for Meaning (Using Fix-Up Strategies)
  • Visualizing
  • Making Inferences
  • Asking Questions

Additional components of our reading program include:

Read Aloud: During Read Aloud, the teacher reads aloud for the enjoyment of literature and to model fluent, expressive reading.

Literature Study: Students participate in reading discussions and are challenged to respond to text with an emphasis on interpretive thinking. This will possibly include the form of “book clubs” later on in the year.


As in Gan, students will participate in Writing Workshop to develop their writing skills. Our emphasis will be the craft of writing.

Frequent Writing

We will have writing workshop time three or four days per week, with each workshop lasting 45 minutes to 1 hour. Writing Workshop always begins with a whole-group mini lesson in which explicit, direct instruction on a writing skill will be given; a new skill will be added almost every day. After the mini lesson, students write independently while teachers confer with individuals and small groups of students whose writing needs may be similar. Writing Workshop ends with writers sharing their work with others.

Units of Study

Our yearlong writing curriculum is laid out by Lucy Calkins and Leah Mermelstein into a sequence of units of study. Each unit lasts approximately 1 month. Our units of study are:

  • Launching the Writing Workshop
  • Small Moments: Personal Narrative
  • Nonfiction “How-To” Books and/or Nonfiction Informational Texts (“All-About” Books)
  • Poetry

At the end of each unit, we will host a Writing Celebration to share the work that we are most proud of with our classmates and others. One important aspect of this work is that students — like “real” authors – write for an audience. At first, this audience will be for their classmates, and as the year goes on, for other members of the SJCS community, and for their families. I will put an invitation on the blog well in advance to invite you to family writing celebrations.

Word Study/Spelling using Words Their Way and Wired for Reading develops students’ spelling skills. As they study letter patterns and word structure, learn the physical aspects to distinguish letter sounds, and learn which sounds go with which letter patterns, students will improve their spelling. Spelling is very developmental; if you would like to learn more, please email haMorah Jenni for an article.

Handwriting Without Tears was developed by Jan Olsen, OTR, to help children develop key skills needed for writing legibly and with speed. The lessons are visual, tactile, auditory and kinesthetic. We use uncluttered black and white pages. Each child receives an individual handwriting workbook. We use movement to teach the letter formation as well as imaginary writing with large arm movements and visual cues. Workbooks build letter, word, and sentence writing skills. We will continue to work on handwriting throughout the year.


The use of Hebrew language is woven through all Judaic studies subjects and is a central element in the Sh’tilim curriculum. In addition to cultivating a love of the language, the main goals of our Hebrew program are to enable students to read, comprehend, and begin to express themselves orally and in writing using basic vocabulary. Hebrew is used both in and outside the classroom in order to cultivate communicative language skills. The TaL AM curriculum is a central tool for learning Hebrew in Sh’tilim. TaL AM is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning “curriculum, learning, Hebrew, and heritage.” TaL AM is a dynamic curriculum that integrates innovative research in learning and teaching methods and in education in general. The TaL AM curriculum is rich in learning materials including student workbooks, CD- ROMs, interactive posters, flash cards, big books, games, and a library of child-friendly Hebrew literature. Jewish content, Torah study, values, and concepts are also woven into the TaL AM curriculum. The vocabulary of the Jewish Year incorporates language specific to holiday observances as well as literary and Biblical narratives. The daily conversational component consists of language related to daily life in the classroom, at home, and outdoors. The Torah study and Shabbat tracks include language specific to Torah study. All of the tracks contain inter-related language that spirals through succeeding grades.


We use Everyday Mathematics as the core of our math instruction.


  • Developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project
  • Based on research about how children learn and develop mathematical power
  • Provides the broad mathematical background needed in the 21st century

In Everyday Math, you can expect to see:

  • a problem-solving approach based on everyday situations;
  • an instructional approach that revisits concepts regularly;
  • frequent practice of basic skills, often through games;
  • lessons based on activities and discussion, not on a textbook;
  • use of a variety of concrete materials (blocks, counters, etc) as a natural part of every day work, and;
  • mathematical content that goes beyond basic arithmetic.

Content emphasized in first grade focuses on six content strands:

  • Number and Numeration
  • Operations and Computation
  • Data and Chance
  • Measurement and Reference Frames
  • Geometry
  • Patterns, Functions, Algebra

Basic Facts

A child’s progress in math is severely limited if she/he does not master the basic facts. Our goal is that by the end of the year students will have mastered all the addition and subtraction facts through 10 + 10 (without counting on fingers). Basic facts practice is integrated into nearly every unit, and games are a great way to practice math facts in school and at home.


Friendship and Social Skills

In order to facilitate positive social experiences, we will teach social skills in many ways throughout the year. We focus on friendship skills and our school community in the fall. Friendship skills include how to make friends, how friends treat each other, how to invite others to play, and what happens when friends disagree.

Class Meetings

Class meetings are held to foster citizenship skills and a sense of belonging. Students practice the skills needed to participate in group decision making: taking turns, listening deeply, sharing ideas, compromising, and reaching consensus. In the class meeting setting, students develop strategies to problem-solve social situations, and brings problems from the classroom and playground to discuss and resolve. Students will learn to brainstorm solutions, and evaluate each suggestion before deciding which idea to try out. They learn to try out the solution they chose, and revisit it for evaluation and revision if needed. These interpersonal skills will be built upon throughout their time at SJCS.

Families and Food Around the World

Sh’tilim explores what humans eat around the world, what we need to eat to stay healthy, how we do that in our families, and what families around the world eat to stay healthy. A brief study of maps and globes will accompany our study of food.

Myths and Creation Stories from Around the World

We will continue our map studies as we learn creation stories and other stories about how the world came to be as it is, from the perspective of cultures around the world. Native story teller Solana Booth will visit Sh’tilim to the tell stories of Northwest Native peoples throughout the year.

Parshat Hashvuah (Weekly Torah Portion)

SJCS strives to enable students to cultivate a lifelong personal, loving, respectful relationship with Torah study. A central goal of Torah study is that students will understand Torah is not about what “was” in the past but, ultimately, about what “is” today. The path to reaching this goal requires both technical skills as well as emotional and spiritual connections for the students. Each week Sh’tilim students will examine the weekly Torah portion. We will focus on what is happening in the text, how is God involved in the text, what questions can be derived from the text, what mitzvoth are contained in the text, and what values or lessons can we learn from the text. During the course of study in Sh’tilim commentaries will be introduced and students will create their own interpretations of the text as well. Key Torah vocabulary and verses will be incorporated into Torah learning. Students will express and explore content, concepts, values, and mitzvoth through discussion, writing, artistic expression, and drama.

T’fillah (prayer)

Havdallah, Shaharit, and Torah services are part of our weekly schedule. On Mondays and Wednesdays (Havdallah and Shaharit) we join Kindergarten and 2nd grade. On Thursday (Torah service) we combine with 2nd grade for Torah service. Additionally we introduce additional paragraphs to the Birkat Ha-Mazon throughout the year. Throughout the course of the year the students study brahot (blessings). We “unpack” the meaning and purpose of brahot and examine various brahot and their applications. We take the opportunity to use the brahot that we are learning as a response to real life situations. We look at the braha formula and learn to differentiate between birhot ha-nehenin (brahot of appreciation) and birhot mitzvah (brahot said when performing a mitzvah).


The Sh’tilim holiday curriculum combines both experiential and cognitive learning. Sh’tilim students focus on the essence of each holiday, including the associated mitzvot, customs, blessings, and liturgy. We use the holidays as an opportunity to integrate relevant Hebrew language and Jewish Children’s Literature. Tal Am is utilized as an essential teaching tool for integrating Hebrew language into the holiday curriculum. Jewish Children’s literature is also a key component of the curriculum. Art, cooking, buddying with other classes, writing in English, making books in Hebrew, and working with partners to address discussion topics are some of the activities utilized for exploring the holidays.

Israel Studies

In the spring, our school-wide simulated Trip to Israel generates a lot of excitement and is much anticipated. We spend time preparing for our trip by looking at cities, land forms, and becoming familiar with the map of Israel. We also look at what’s in each city, what it is known for, and where it is located. We engage in a variety of geography and map skills activities that connect students to Israel and develop a greater understanding of the world. We emphasize our connection to the state of Israel and Israel’s importance to the Jewish People.


This year we will study two inquiry-based units and one integrated science unit. Students will study Organisms in the classroom in the late fall, Balls and Ramps in the science lab in the Spring, and learn about the environment, integrated across language arts and social studies, and with corresponding study in Hebrew. Students will have a range of exposure to different scientific areas throughout our five-year program, and specific units of study may vary each year.

What is Inquiry Based Science?

Research has shown that the best way for children to learn important science concepts is to actively construct ideas through their own investigations. In the science lab, this means making observations, asking questions, testing ideas, recording results, comparing data, building concepts and explanations.

Core Inquiry Based Science Concepts:

Students explore core scientific concepts in the science lab. All students work on being keen observers. This means that they use their senses to observe what they are learning. They look – noticing changes, colors, shapes, and behaviors. They touch – observing the temperature and feeling for texture and consistency. They smell – noticing differences between the materials and noting if there is an odor. They listen – noting how the sound relates to the materials. Then, they use their words to describe what they are observing by writing in their science journals and having discussions with other scientists. Students have been learning how important it is for scientists to record data and their observations in organized ways, using tables, anecdotes and illustrations. They make predictions based on prior knowledge and then compare the results to their predictions. Students learn that scientists use models in order to observe something that cannot be easily seen. In the lab lessons, they learn how to conduct fair tests. This means knowing which variables remain the same (controlled) and which variables are changed (manipulated).

1st Grade: Balls and Ramps – Spring Trimester in the Lab with Brooke Einstein

The ball is a universal toy that delights children of all ages. Children come to school having played with balls of many different kinds and in many different ways. This unit builds on that experience by asking children to extend their explorations of balls, how they roll and bounce, and what they do on ramps. Children explore the properties and characteristics of balls by observing, using, and comparing different balls. They make balls and in so doing learn about materials, size, and weight. They use balls as they bounce and roll them and experiment with them on ramps. Students learn about things that affect the way balls behave such as gravity, inertia, momentum, and friction. During this unit they are continuously engaged in exploration, discovery, and problem solving.


Listening and Appreciation

  • understanding that music tells a story
  • introducing major instrumental groups of Western orchestra
  • revisiting various classical composers, their work & childhood experiences
  • identify and begin to refine the specific qualities of music composition that elicit emotional/intellectual responses

Creative Expression & Movement

  • finding ways to use our bodies to connect to music qualities
  • experimenting with music as a catalyst to verbal & non-verbal storytelling
  • learning folk dances from around the world

Music Concepts

  • revisiting basic music vocabulary: steady beat, tempo, dynamics, up & downward movement of pitch
  • introducing steps and leaps
  • introducing note value through symbol identification
  • extending experiences with steady beat by moving, and/ or clapping in instructed patterns

Instrumental Production

  • practicing application of steady beat to use of hand percussion instruments
  • introducing application of note value to playing hand percussion instruments


  • extending sense of joyfulness in singing
  • increasing repertoire of songs
  • providing opportunities to perform within the class, as well as with the support of the larger school community


1st Grade students are welcomed into the art room every Wednesday after lunch recess, where we will explore many types of artwork and media. Please help your children remember that art is messy and to choose clothing that can get dirty. Smocks are available but students don’t always choose to wear them. Art is fun, of course, but it’s also hard work, and students sometimes get frustrated. Learning new things can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it’s a positive sign that children are actively engaged in the classroom. Below is a general outline of areas covered in art over the year of 1st grade. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I will be at SJCS on Mondays and Wednesdays during the 2013-14 school year. In case you’re wondering where I am the other days, I am at McDonald International School interning as part of my MAT studies in visual art instruction at Seattle Pacific University. I am looking forward to a great year! Morah Bibi. email:

Art Concepts

  • Introduced to art vocabulary as it relates to various media and processes
  • Elements of Art, introduced as they best relate to individual media experiences
  • Principles of Design, introduced as they best relate to individual media experiences
  • Introduced to the concept that the Arts reveal who we are
  • Introduced to the concept that the Arts are a means of Communication

Media and Skills

  • Drawing with pens, pencils and oil pastels
  • Painting with finger paints, tempera and watercolor
  • Collage with a focus on color groupings and textures
  • Printmaking with rolling, stamping and subtractive plates
  • Ceramics as learning what clay is and how it becomes ceramics
  • Sculpture and exploration of creating positive and negative spaces
  • Fiber arts as an introduction to the basics of sewing

Art Appreciation and Reflection

  • Understanding that art tells a story
  • Introducing major American, Mexican, European and Asian artists
  • Viewing and responding to artwork by familiar and new artists and learning about their lives and contributions
  • Introduction to self-assessment
  • Introduction to Visual Literacy

The Creative Process and Creative Expression

  • Using line, shape, color, texture, form and space to communicate ideas and feelings.
  • Selecting subject matter, using visual art elements to communicate
  • Following the creative process as modeled and creating own work that tells stories
  • Responding to master artwork by creating their own work



  • What is a Library?
  • Library behavior expectations
  • Book Care
  • Borrow v. Own
  • Shelf Markers
  • Parts of a book: Title, Author, Illustrator
  • Library sections: Everybody and READ


  • Latest WCCPBA (Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award): Students choose their nominee for the award.
  • Nonfiction Section of the library.
  • Fiction vs. Nonfiction
  • Parts of a book: cover and title page.
  • Spine labels for Everybody, READ, and Nonfiction.
  • Browsing v. checkout


Health Education plays a key role in the development of the whole child. Students will develop movement skills, the ability to work as part of a team, overall fitness, and build character. This year the curriculum will emphasize cooperative games, team sports, health and fitness, and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect through positive language and sportsmanship. By incorporating music and engaging activities, the program encourages students to be healthy and active, and fosters lifelong appreciation of fitness.

Daily Routine and Curriculum at a glance:

Students will start each session by entering the gym and sitting in their assigned role spots. At this time there will be a review of previous skills learned as well as an introduction of new skills that the class will be using in the day’s activity. Some of the units we will cover this year include soccer, various takes on dodge ball, softball, handball, gaga, basketball, volleyball, and cricket. PE class will conclude by students returning to their role spots where I will wrap up the day’s lesson. In addition, students in grades second through fifth will have fitness days once a week. These days will focus more on activities designated to increase the students’ overall fitness level rather than their skill level.

Dress Code: Running shoes and clothing that is comfortable for physical activity are a must. Look through your child’s wardrobe for a couple of t-shirts that can get dirty and sweaty and dedicate them to PE. Footwear such as boots and flip-flops are inappropriate. Remember to dress for PE on the right day. There is a handy reminder below.

Gan—2nd Grade: The focus for this group will be developing motor skills, eye-tracking, and balancing. Students begin learning games and start thinking about rules and strategies. The concept of good sportsmanship is modeled, reinforced, and practiced. 1st and 2nd grades have PE on Fridays.


In Kindergarten–First grade, children experience, practice, learn, and demonstrate all of the elements of movement: Body (body parts, action words), Shape (fantastic shapes, puzzle shapes with a friend or group, and changing the shape of the whole body while moving), Space (low/middle/high levels, directions in space, small/medium/big movements, spatial relationships of over/under/in front/behind/beside/around, straight/curved pathways) and Energy (smooth/tight/powerful/delicate/unhurried). During these lessons, students explore and demonstrate these skills using stories, props, movement exploration, working alone or with a partner as they play movement games and assess/coach one another’s skill development. In addition to making simple choreography projects, students begin to learn to read written movement notation for locomotor actions and directions as they develop their locomotor abilities. During these years the students learn to roll up and down through the spine, to stretch the legs fully, to point the toes while jumping and develop a strong proficiency to balance on one leg in varied positions as they learn about having a center and edges. Students learn a great deal about working with partners and learn a few simple folk dances, which coordinate with the movement concept they are studying.


There are three goals of homework in the first grade. First, the routine of homework will help students develop responsibility and independence as they learn to bring their folder home, do their homework, and return it to school each day. These skills will build throughout the year. Second, homework serves as a home-school connection, allowing your child a way to share with you about what they are learning in school. Please show interest in everything they bring home, and encourage them to share about what they are learning. Third, homework provides students practice with a given skill or concept, supporting their overall learning.


Hebrew homework packets are assigned on Tuesday and due on or before the following Monday. Homework assignments will usually involve reading, worksheet activities, and frequently copies of Tal Am songs that have been learned in class. Students are required to choose one or two activities that necessitate working at their learning edge. Students who need more of a challenge can choose the more difficult activities and may also do more than the required minimum.


General studies homework will build as the year does. At first, we are establishing the practice of bringing the folder to and from school, with skill-light tasks to do at home. After back to school night, homework will generally be assigned Monday through Thursday, and be due the next day it is assigned. Homework assignments should last around 10–15 minutes each night. There will be no General Studies homework over weekends or holidays. Homework will most often consist of math, word study, reading, and handwriting practices, with playing or enjoying the sun mixed in periodically.


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