Renaissance School First Grade Overview

First Grade is a time of exuberant growth and learning! At Renaissance School, First Graders develop as readers, writers, scientists, and mathematicians through thematic study of the seven continents and their inhabitants. The First Grade teacher builds on the natural excitement for learning that First Graders bring to the classroom and provides abundant opportunities for students to explore, ask questions, and delve deeply into subject matter.  

Field trips help forge strong connections between what students learn in the classroom and the real world. For example, students visit the Green Mountain Audubon Center as well as the Birds of Vermont Museum for an in-depth study of birds during the unit on birds of the world, and while studying fish as part of a thematic unit on Asia, students visit a local fish hatchery to learn about the life cycle of native salmon. Students produce and display their first research project as they study types and characteristics of mammals.

We ensure that all First Graders continue to grow into strong early readers with explicit instruction paired with a rich literacy environment full of individual reading choices. A highlight of First Grade literacy is when students use the writing process to create original stories, and then read them aloud to an audience of parents, teachers and family members at the Author’s Breakfast. Students practice their oral presentation skills and often beam with joy after they confidently stand in front of a group to read their piece. Because First Graders are so social and love to work with their friends, the teacher uses partner reading and other cooperative activities to facilitate learning.

Children in First Grade are growing rapidly and need frequent activity breaks during the day. The teacher acknowledges this by building in periods of stretching and moving around to “get the wiggles out,” recognizing that students who are growing so rapidly need to move around frequently. The Renaissance First Grade classroom is a busy places of eager and enthusiastic exploration!


First Graders become more proficient readers as they practice reading strategies in whole-class settings and with partners in reading groups. The joy of reading for pleasure becomes apparent over the course of the year as students progress from simple decoding to really enjoying what they are reading! Students explore reading and writing within different genres such as biography, fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The teacher helps students to think deeply about what they read in order to enhance comprehension. Students learn many rules and tricks for spelling and grammar, and apply these skills to their writing. They learn to craft original stories with a problem, solution and resolution, and take immense pleasure in writing creative fiction. First Grade is where students initially learn how to use the writing process, a skill that they will carry with them throughout school and beyond. Students practice neat and legible handwriting in order to successfully communicate using written language.  


In First Grade, students practice automaticity with addition and subtraction problems, setting the stage for more complex concepts and skills. Through the use of various math games, manipulatives and other hands-on activities, students become more comfortable with math concepts and skills. First Graders have daily practice with number sense through the use of calendar math activities. Students learn to solve simple word problems, and use everyday objects to understand the concepts of estimating and probability. First Graders delve more deeply into geometry, exploring symmetry and other characteristics of geometric shapes. Fractions are introduced in First Grade; students learn basic concepts such as numerator and denominator, halves, thirds, fourths, and whole, and learn how to use data from a chart to make a fraction. Students continue to explore concepts of time and money in more complex ways, and they study units and methods of measurement, including linear, weight and volume.


First Grade science is organized around the study of the seven continents and the animals and plants that inhabit each one. Students study animal families including mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and arachnids. They learn to identify and explain differences between animals and their habitats, and can identify which animals live on each continent. Two field trips help to bring this study to life: students visit the Vermont Audubon Center and the Birds of Vermont Museum during their unit on birds of the world, and they study the life cycle of native salmon during a trip to a local fish hatchery. Within the context of these topics, students explore the ideas of cause and effect, and use scientific reasoning to make logical predictions. Animals living on Shelburne Farms provide ample opportunity for students to observe various types of mammals in their farm habitats. Students produce their first research project in First Grade, employing graphic organizers and other strategies to organize their thoughts as they progress through the writing process to final draft.  

Social Studies

By exploring the people, customs, lifestyles, and traditions present on each continent, students gain respect and appreciation for the diversity of the human family. First Grade students are exposed to our wonderfully diverse world through the use of literature and engaging classroom visits by people from other countries. First graders learn ways in which the physical environment affects family life around the world, and are able to compare and contrast family life on other continents to life in the U.S. Students take part in many traditions throughout the school year, and many enjoy participating in the annual Renaissance International Dinner.  

Social, Emotional and Life Skills

Our First Graders love to learn; they are open to learning and growing in all areas of their lives. In First Grade, students practice self-regulation and patience, for example, waiting respectfully for their turn to contribute to the discussion during Morning Meeting. They learn how to express their feelings in appropriate ways and how their actions impact others. Empathy for peers and others is a skill that is openly taught, modeled, and practiced. The First Grade teacher helps students learn to persevere when faced with a challenge; this essential skill is taught, reinforced and celebrated throughout the year. The Growth Mindset--showing flexibility and resilience when faced with obstacles--is a critical skill for academic and social growth, and students learn and practice this skill in all areas of First Grade, from math class to the playground. Students learn to respect their classroom environment by taking responsibility for both the school’s materials and their own belongings. First Graders are always excited to learn and practice the important life skill of tying their own shoes!