The focus of a first grade language arts curriculum should be children's literature. It has a vital role in the development of language. It is a rich source for vocabulary and ideas. Teachers do not want pages of philosophy. They need a day to day resource to save them preparation time
Attitudes and skills related to language develop naturally in an environment where teachers and students share books and stories. Children in a First Grade classroom need to feel safe. They must feel free to be risk takers. This is very important when children are learning to read and write and experiment with language. Part of feeling secure is knowing the routine. Primary classrooms nearly always have well established routines and children like this pattern and repetition in their lives.
Year at a Glance
Begin to organize your year by deciding what units or themes you want to do. Assign them to a month. You may wish to correlate the units with Social Studies and / or Science. Remember this is just a plan. It is not written in stone and may be changed or added to, or deleted as necessary. For instance, if you wish to do a unit on grapes or apples, and you live in an area where those are in season in the fall, it would be more effective to plan to do that unit at the beginning of the school year.
Skills and Content
The next thing to slot into your year-at-a-glance plan is the skills and content where they would be most appropriate. For example, in September, you and the class visit an apple orchard. One of the activities arising out of this experience would be a thank you letter to the owner. A Grade one skill or expectation is "use a comma after a salutation in a letter or note". Another expectation that would be satisfied by this activity is " Communicate ideas, thoughts or feelings for specific purposes"
When looking at nursery rhymes or fairy stories as a unit, it would be prudent to emphasize the differences between fiction and non-fiction.
Author studies provide the opportunity to look at different kinds of books e.g. Eric Carle has produced a number of different shaped books, pop-ups, books with holes in them, expanding books. He has even produced sound effects in The Very Quiet Cricket.
September - Sample
Your September plan may look like this:
SEPTEMBER: Units : Colors. Apples.
Skills / Content:
- follow instructions
- present ideas in speech
- letter writing
- beginning sounds
- pattern books
- journal entries
Individual Assessment Sheets
In conjunction with the overview for the year, it is useful to prepare individual assessment sheets for each month. As you check individual work, you could have these available for anecdotal notes and assessment purposes. At report card time or for parent-teacher interviews these are extremely helpful.
September. Name ______________
- describes events, retells stories
- uses conventions of oral language appropriate to grade level
- uses conventions of discussions and conversations e.g. taking turns, listening politely to others
- uses initial sounds
- communicates ideas for a specific purpose e.g. letter writing, responding to an invitation
- makes journal entries
Tracking the Activities
In an activity based classroom, it is important to have an efficient tracking device. This one works well with first grade students.
Give each activity a color and have available colored strips of construction paper to match. On a chart have pockets with one for each student (old library card pockets work well). As the student completes an activity he or she receives an appropriate color 'ticket' to put in their pocket. This provides a wonderful visual tracking prompt for the teacher and the student. The goal is that by the end of the activity period there should be a ticket of each color.
As the students achieve the goal of a ticket of each color, you could provide a mini celebration. For instance, in September the students could dip a wand into bubble mixture and blow bubbles. Maybe the next month they could wave a 'wand' that has floating shapes and glitter in it (available in dollar stores).
Day by Day
Each day will begin with a story or literature selection and an input session. During this time the new activities will be introduced, new skills taught and activities reviewed.
After the input session, children will be working on their activities. At this time the teacher can then select small groups to work on guided reading, or call up students for individual reading conferences.
Parent volunteers or helpers are invaluable to use each day to listen to students read individually.
If children are immersed in good literature, it sows the seeds for them to become life-time readers and learners and a First Grade language arts curriculum needs to address this important fact.
- Author's own classroom experiences.
Literacy by Birch, Jane. Stanley Thornes Publishers Ltd. 1998