True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.
— Nikos Kazantzakis

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the foremost professional association for early childhood development, defines early education as birth through age 8. First graders, usually ranging in age from 6-7, should still be taught according to early childhood development standards. Therefore, we developed the first grade curriculum to meet the unique academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of our six and seven year olds.

Our academic curriculum values children's fascination with how things work, allows them to begin understanding and interpreting multiple perspectives. Developed around interdisciplinary themes, the curriculum will allow students to connect complex, seemingly different ideas.  For example, literacy, math, social and emotional learning, and physical development – in addition to science – are all used to teach about habitats. Children will use a variety of resources, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, observations, shared experiences, and manipulatives to understand various issues related to habitats. They will discuss habitat erosion and focus on conservation in Lend-A-Hand, widening their view of community and their role in it.  In addition to a thematic curricular approach, play-based, small group instruction will allow our teachers to differentiate for each child.  While our curriculum is thematic and interdisciplinary, all children will receive a solid foundation in all academic areas.

Literacy and numeracy - reading and writing - is embedded in the curriculum to help our first graders make sense of their world and solve complex problems. Children in first grade enhance their language development through both whole language and phonics. We help them transition from beginning readers to fluent readers. A strong foundation means they will be able to understand what they read as they read it. Comprehension is key!

"Close reading" is an instructional strategy we use to support this work. Students delve deeply into a selected reading. Over the course of the week, they will focus on separate aspects of the piece such as vocabulary, supporting details, points of view, and central ideas. Students then transfer their new understandings to their own writing. They will write more detailed pieces at this age, taking their writing through the writing process in Writer’s Workshop. These complex analyses carry over to their math skills, as well. Our first graders keep math journals to help them problem solve using a variety of approaches. This Cognitive Guided Instruction approach promotes a flexible, conceptual understanding of numeracy instead of a linear, rigid approach that promotes repetition of number facts.  At Magical Journey, our goal is for children to maintain their innate intellectual curiosity. 

First graders’ social and emotional skills are still developing and need explicit support. They are still working on self-management skills, but begin to turn their focus outward. They become more aware of others’ feelings and behaviors. With this in mind, we help them look at situations from various perspectives.  Children at this age also learn to manage relationships with others.  To do this effectively, they need appropriate ways to manage conflict. Our first graders will continue to hone their social awareness and relationship management skills through the general curriculum, Mike Sissel’s Leadership Development, and Lend-A-Hand.  As their brain development begins to allow for a heightened awareness of right and wrong, they also gain a greater sense of social justice. Psychological changes in the brain allow grade-schoolers to begin drawing moral distinctions based on internal judgment. Before this age, kids obey the rules to avoid getting in trouble. Now they can see the difference between right and wrong. This year, we also focus on responsible decision-making. If we nurture children's natural empathy, they are more likely to become agents of social change. Compassionate, empathic students not only treat others better, they make better choices - when they know better, they do better.

The formative early childhood years, from birth through age eight, should be a magical journey of discovery. From the first day of school until the last, Magical Journey’s first graders are encouraged to build upon their natural tendency to ask questions. Academically, it helps them investigate the new material and become problem-solvers. Socially and emotionally, it helps them create compassionate positive solutions to complex problems.

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