Grade 1

first grade classroom
First grade language arts

First graders arrive on their first day of school eager to advance their reading abilities and build upon the skills they acquired in Pre-K and Kindergarten. They are emerging scientists, engineers and problem solvers, ready to put each new piece of information to use. First graders are industrious--building responsibility as they complete their first homework assignments, and gaining independence as they take on increasingly complex projects. The range of development in first grade is wide. Students work in small groups with teachers who differentiate instruction to meet each student’s needs.

Grade 1 Curriculum Overview


  • Demonstrate a concrete number sense and an understanding of place value in one- and two-digit numbers
  • Demonstrate competence in addition and subtraction facts to 12
  • Understand and recognize number patterns to use as a strategy for problem solving
  • Understand and apply data in various forms such as simple charts, graphs, and tables
  • Use standard measurement tools to measure length and temperature in whole units; time to the hour and half hour
  • Develop spatial awareness through use of various manipulatives (e.g. pattern blocks, tangrams, pentominoes)

Language Arts


  • Use knowledge of sound/symbol correspondence, including long and short vowel patterns, to accurately decode instructional-level text
  • Use and build sight word vocabulary to increase reading speed, fluency, and comprehension
  • Use and develop comprehension skills in order to enjoy, compare, and understand a variety of literary genres, including poetry, realistic fiction, fairy tales, and non-fiction
  • Read and follow simple instructions
  • Continue to build stamina in order to become enthusiastic independent readers


  • Use proper pencil grip to correctly and neatly form uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Use correct, basic punctuation and proper capitalization to write simple, complete sentences
  • Apply phonics and grammar rules to independent written work
  • Organize ideas to convey a clear message with a beginning, middle, and end
  • Use writing as a means of self-expression


  • Make and record observations
  • Draw, label, and understand a diagram
  • Use a scientific test to place things in categories
  • Study dirt, worms, and composting
  • Learn about animal adaptations through study of penguins
  • Understand the factors that affect weather and how they interact
  • Magnetism
  • Non-fiction book elements

Integrated Technology

Technology is used to thoughtfully support our curriculum and as a vehicle for children’s learning.

Students use iPads and Chromebooks to support classroom learning in reading (RAZ Kids) and math (IXL and Number Bonds). Students use IXL and various math games to support skill development through self-paced practice. We carefully communicate with families regarding suggested applications to use at home, and appropriate amounts of screen time for young children. Additionally, students use online resources in Library to develop early research skills related to classroom topics. Students also use various supplementary iPad apps to support learning in geography (Stack the States) and spatial relationships (Linkbridge). Tower’s early grades are intentionally focused on hands-on experiences and social/collaborative projects appropriate to the age of the children.

Social Studies

  • Appreciate the origins, evolution, and continuity of selected world traditions (e.g., Winter Solstice)
  • Use the idea of “firsts” to link concepts, experiences, and events presented in first grade
  • Participate in interdisciplinary experiences that demonstrate broad social concepts such as cooperation, efficiency, and division of labor.
  • Participate in the cultures and traditions of Tower School


  • Communicate using basic conversational skills
  • Retell a simple story using learned text
  • Learn introductory Spanish vocabulary, including: greetings, polite expressions, weather and calendar, numbers, colors, fruits, and family
  • Compare lost teeth traditions in Spanish speaking countries
  • Study unique cultural aspects of Peru
  • Explore Spanish and Hispanic culture through books, songs, and games


  • Learn about library organization, including how the Dewey Decimal System works
  • Begin to understand how an online catalog works to locate books
  • Practice elementary research skills
  • Share knowledge through storytelling and illustration
  • Develop a love of books and reading


  • Recognize, notate, and create with simple rhythms: quarter note, quarter rest, and eighth notes
  • Identify and demonstrate an understanding of 2/4 meter, 4/4 meter, staff, measure, bar line, and repeat sign
  • Identify and sing with accuracy the melodic notes so, mi, and la
  • Move rhythmically to music in the context of partner and group dances
  • Demonstrate independence and accuracy when singing rounds
  • Play barred and percussion instruments with sensitivity

Visual Arts

  • Utilize and read a color wheel
  • Identify hot and cold colors and experiment with the principle of contrast
  • Take a two-dimensional design and develop it into a three-dimensional form
  • Develop and practice observation skills for drawing
  • Explore different methods for making clay bowls, such as pinch-pot and stone-mold
  • Participate in a community critique using first grade art vocabulary


  • Trace outline of a shape pattern onto wood
  • Learn to use basic woodworking tools such as coping saws and wood files
  • Use rough, medium, and fine sandpaper
  • Choose color-finish combinations for wood projects

Physical Education

  • Perform specific locomotor movements with ease
  • Hit a target using manipulative skills such as kicking or throwing with proper form
  • Moving in general space while performing games or activities
  • Demonstrate the rules and boundaries expected for participation in the gym and on the outdoor field
  • Work cooperatively in small groups
  • Begin using rackets, paddles and sticks
  • Explore different strategies for traveling over mats, beams, boxes and ropes
What began as an experiment has become a favorite activity of our students. They return to class ready to learn, to share ideas and be helpful to one another


The Daily Mile

The Daily Mile


Christine McCarthy, MBA, M.Ed., Grade 5

As a child, I loved being a student and played "school" often in my free time (much to the chagrin of my brother and sister). When considering career options and college, however, I chose to pursue a few of my other interests...math and history. At Bentley, I earned a BA in history and an MBA with a concentration in Finance...

  • 5th Grade Team
  • Lower School Teacher
  • ServeUp!
Reading Specialist and student during reading instruction

I am a certified Reading Specialist for students in Pre-K-Grade 12, and have been teaching at Tower since 2013. Prior to teaching Tower students, I taught children in both private and public schools in New York City and in Boston's North Shore communities. In addition to teaching reading, I have taught preschool, Kindergarten and grade 4.

I earned an M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College at Columbia University's Graduate School of Education, and later, an M.Ed. in Reading from...

  • Learning Skills Teacher
  • Lower School Teacher
Adam Zois, M.F.A.,  Woodworking

I earned my Master of Fine Arts in Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design, and remain an active alumnus of RISD as a visiting critic for Cabinet Design courses. Additionally, I have been teaching guitar building since...

  • Lower School Teacher
  • Upper School Teacher
  • Visual Arts
Julie Walsh, M.Ed. Kindergarten

After graduating from Endicott, I taught at Glen Urquhart for a year, when an opportunity opened up at Tower. The moment I walked into Tower, fourteen years ago, I knew that I had found a special place...

  • Kindergarten
  • Learning Skills Teacher
  • Lower School Teacher
Russ Wells, M.S., Science & Health

I have been part of the mentoring group Big Brothers & Big Sister of Massachusetts Bay for many years, and have seen a once fifth grade boy become a fine young man – now 22 years old...

  • Athletics Coach
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Green Hornets
  • Science Teacher
  • Upper School Teacher
  • Well Being and Health Teacher

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