Curricular Highlights: First Grade


Lake Bluff Elementary School District 65 utilizes a balanced literacy approach. A balanced approach uses a variety of reading, writing and word work instruction, and practice opportunities for students in order to expose them to the rich world of literacy. An essential component of balanced literacy is called “workshop”. Our understanding and implementation of workshop, in District 65, is grounded in the research and practices of Lucy Calkins and her colleagues from the Teachers College, Reading and Writing Project who have developed the Units of Study in both Reading and Writing to guide us.

Reading and Writing Workshops are conducted daily to allow for students to receive personalized learning by engaging with and producing high volumes of both fiction and nonfiction texts of their choosing.  Because all lessons begin with explicit, direct teaching points, workshop prioritizes time for students to be immersed in independent reading and writing work, while teachers provide focused, differentiated instruction in smaller groups. As a result, workshop challenges students to develop the habits and dispositions of lifelong readers and writers.

1st Grade Reading

In Reading, first graders are exposed to stories and texts across genres.  Student learning will be focused on:

  • Strengthening decoding skills in order to read increasingly challenging words
  • Deepening comprehension and improving fluency while reading fiction and nonfiction books
  • Developing strong literal understandings of stories and beginning to think inferentially about characters and lessons learned
1st Grade Writing

In Writing, first graders produce 3 types of texts:

  • The narrative units ask students to tell a focused story by zooming in on one, small moment.
  • The informational unit calls for students to teach about a topic part-by-part.
  • The opinion unit asks students to state an opinion with reasons.

1st Grade Phonics

The goal of phonics instruction is to support kids’ progress as readers and writers. In phonics, first graders are exposed to whole group and small group experiences to support their ability to understand the relationship between letters and sounds. Phonics work is infused with a commitment to giving first graders opportunities to take risks, try again, talk, explore, pretend, more, play, question, invent, sing and laugh. Phonics instruction is incorporated throughout the literacy blocks and school day. To help first graders meet the ambitious expectations placed before them as readers and writers, they’ll need instruction in phonics that will enable their success across the curriculum.

1st Grade Handwriting

Children who master handwriting are better, more creative writers. The earlier we teach children to master handwriting, the more likely they are to succeed in school, and write with speed and ease in all subjects. During handwriting instruction, we use fun, engaging, and developmentally appropriate instructional methods to enable children to master handwriting as an automatic and comfortable skill.
Handwriting Without Tears is: 
  • Developmentally Appropriate
    • Developmentally appropriate lessons promote quick success.
  • Multisensory
    • Multisensory teaching addresses all learning styles.
  • Unique Letter Order
    • Innovative letter order promotes easy learning.
  • Physical Approach
    • Unique physical approach builds good writing habits


Mathematics instruction in District 65 provides the opportunity for all students to have a rigorous, engaging, and accessible curriculum which focuses on developing students’ deep understanding of mathematics concepts. In order to achieve this, students engage in a high level of discourse and are exposed to multiple strategies in order to solve complex problems. The backbone of this instruction comes from Bridges 2nd Edition which has been developed by the Math Learning Center after years and years of research in the field of elementary mathematics instruction.

1st Grade Math

In 1st grade, students focus on addition and subtraction, place value, and shapes. Throughout the year they:

  • Add and subtract with numbers to 20, including with story problems
  • Become fluent with addition and subtraction facts to 10
  • Count to 120 and learn about place value (ones, tens, hundreds)
  • Identify, sort, and draw shapes
  • Fit shapes together to make other shapes, solve puzzles, and talk about fractions
1st Grade Science

1st grade students examine and make connections about space patterns through exploring day and night, seasons and lunar phases.

First graders engage in a variety of light and sound challenges that will allow them to determine how shadows are created, explore the movement of light and sound, and investigate how certain materials affect light and sound.

First grade students study plants and animals and design experiments to determine what makes something living and how to increase an organism’s chances of survival.

1st Grade Social Studies

In first grade, students focus on how people live, learn and work together. 

What Are the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens?

First graders investigate aspects of good citizenship. They learn about why we need rules and laws and how rules and laws relate to getting along with others. They develop an understanding of the importance of respect for others. Children are also introduced to the idea of voting in our society as well as the concepts of rights and responsibilities.

How Does the Past Shape Our Lives?

First graders discover how their lives have been affected by all that has preceded them. They compare how aspects of daily life, including school, transportation, work and leisure activities have changed over time. Children inspect different cultures and traditions from around the country and the world. They consider how all of these aspects of life have impacted and shaped our lives and communities today.

Why Do People Work?

First graders investigate goods and services and the difference between them. They learn about trade and why it is important. students analyze different kinds of jobs that people do and tell how work has changed over time. Finally, students explain the difference between wants and needs and explore making choices about what to buy.