First grade is a time of great exploration and growth. “The two overarching goals for Grade 1 are to build independence and problem-solving skills while supporting the overall growth academically and emotionally of 6-year-olds. Grade 1 is full of opportunities for learning and discovery, play and imagination. Our students develop these skills in the classroom and on the playground,” shares Janie Lubarsky, one of the Grade 1 lead teachers.
If you were to spend a day with the Rashi Grade 1 class, here’s what you might see.
Mornings in Grade 1 start with the Morning Meeting. Here’s how Lubarsky described it: “We meet every morning. It’s a chance for us to touch base as the whole grade community and the smaller class sizes community. It’s predictable every day with four parts. We have a greeting, share, activity and message. The children have an opportunity to get to know one another and get to know what their day is going to look like. There are times we also include academic components. Morning Meeting is critical for building the social-emotional piece our first graders need.”
Fitness & Health
Next up is fitness and health. Students run outside to spend an hour with Jen Shaw, who took advantage of the sunny weather last week. Some of Shaw’s goals for Grade 1 students are to practice sportsmanship, learn about what it means to be a courteous winner or loser and learn the correct technique for fundamental skills, using them in performance.
Grade 1 students were recently in the midst of their unit about apples, an example of the interdisciplinary nature of the Rashi curriculum. They observed apples up close, made connections to Johnny Appleseed in social studies and to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and learned about the stages of an apple tree in the four seasons of the year. Students even examined an apple slice itself! They sorted through the stages an apple goes through: from seeds, tree, buds and blossom to fruit. Demonstrating their knowledge gained, they colored and created a drawing showing the lifecycle of the apples. Rashi teachers iterate and observe students, customizing lessons to provide support or challenge as needed.
Snack is a quick opportunity for students to refuel, wiggle and practice their social-emotional skills. Students come back to class eager to return to learning.
The year’s theme for social justice has been “welcoming.” Stephanie Rotsky, director of social justice, and Sherman Goldblum, social justice assistant, read a story about a man who painted his house with bright colors and was different from his neighbors. They discussed with the students ways in which the neighbors were and were not welcoming to the new ways of doing things, and to their new neighbor. The new neighbor made a new friend who also did things differently. Students then drew a picture representing a unique way they might design a house.
Grade 1 plays on the playground, playing hide-and-go-seek, swinging from the uneven bars and going down the slides. For lunch, some students bring their own food, while others sign up for Pizza Thursday, organized by Yachad, Rashi’s parent council. Recess and lunch are also an opportunity for the children to utilize their social-emotional skills, with a teacher’s help as needed, as they practice waiting for a turn or simply navigating who plays what role in an imaginary game.
After lunch and recess, Grade 1 comes together to have a group meeting. With their teachers, students talk about what it means to be a part of a community, and what makes them feel that they matter. Here are some of their responses: “I feel great when my friends play with me.” “When I feel good is when I get included in games.” “I feel included when classmates try to teach me something new.”
Students learn about the weekly Torah portion, which recently was Noach. The class explored the story and began creating their own ark with Noah and animals by “two-sies, two-sies.” They sang songs and read “The Littlest Pair” by Sylvia Rouss. Students were tasked with realistically coloring in the animals that would go on the ark.
After Jewish studies there was a movement break. While it seems small, this moment exemplifies the work Grade 1 excels at: combining academic learning with what students need in the moment, which in this moment was to get out some wiggles and energy.
Next up is “Fundations.” Fundations is the literacy curriculum in Grade 1, which has a multi-sensory approach that focuses on decoding and phonics. Recently, students learned about “Q” and its buddy letter, “U,” and the sound it makes. They practiced writing Qs and Ys with their fingers using sky writing. For a Y, students traced from “plane line to grass line,” then “plane line to worm.” After that, students practiced writing Zs and Qs with paper and pencil.
Then there’s independent reading time!
Ari Marcovski, the Grade 1 Hebrew teacher, instills a love of Hebrew and learning in his students. Grade 1 students learn target vocabulary related to animals, clothing and parts of the body, all of which supports the science, social studies and wellness curriculum. Ari will soon begin teaching about vowels and reading words.
The day ends with a closing meeting. Students are given the opportunity to lead their class in “follow me” movements, tapping their heads and knees and snapping their fingers. It’s a wonderful way to end the day with calm and centering energy.
Students wipe off their desks, put their chairs on top of their desk and line up for the end of the day, eager to return the next day to see their classmates again and learn more!
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