First Grade - Aspen Country Day School
First Graders working at tables in their classroom

A magical year when children grow by leaps and bounds, First Grade is a time for trying new challenges, solidifying skills, and building the competence that leads to academic and social-emotional confidence.


In their daily homeroom classes, First Graders are building the foundational skills to become strong readers and writers, mathematicians, scientists, geographers and historians, and world language speakers.

Language Arts

First Graders continue to engage in one-on-one reading instruction, but they also begin developing the listening and interpreting skills necessary to become active members of literature groups. Students continue to use the workshop model to build writing skills and craft original stories. Children are introduced to a formal spelling program in First Grade. They also practice public speaking, presenting a variety of projects to audiences that may include their classmates, students from other classes, and parents.

From the report card course description: 

In First Grade, we support literacy development with a systematic and explicit Orton-Gillingham phonics program. This multi-sensory approach combines a strong literature program with organized, direct instruction to meet the needs of the emergent reader. Students are introduced to a formal spelling program which focuses on both phonics patterns and red (sight) words. Every day students rotate through literacy centers where they participate in small-group guided reading instruction, word work, and independent work. They also begin developing the listening and interpreting skills necessary to become active members of literature groups. The First Grade reading program helps students develop into successful readers by combining phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension skills.

Students write weekly in a journal and practice freely expressing their ideas. We use a Writing Workshop model to help students become strategic, metacognitive writers who use specific processes to achieve their writing goals. We focus on writing about Small Moments which introduces process and structure to their craft. We use mentor texts and mini lessons to encourage students to generate original ideas, plan for writing, add detail to bring their stories to life, then edit and publish a Small Moment collection. Students are also introduced to several types of poetry and work to create their own poems.


First Graders continue to develop their numeracy through their understanding of addition and subtraction, building their understanding of place value, and laying the foundation for word problems. Students also increase their abstract reasoning through their study of geometry and measurement. Aspen Country Day School uses the Bridges math curriculum throughout Lower School.

Course description from the report card:

Our goal is for students to develop a sense of numbers and how they relate to one another. We accomplish this through simple organization, counting forwards and backwards, grouping and counting in 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s, quickly identifying the number of items in a set without counting (subitizing), and seeing combinations of numbers in different ways on number racks, ten frames, and dominoes. In First 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 2D and 3D shapes
  • Fit shapes together to make other shapes, solve puzzles
  • Work with time, fractions, and measurement


First Grade Science focuses on insects and animals preparing for winter, the arctic and Antarctic, the food chain, and fossils. These topics are woven into the language arts curriculum by providing content for story writing and presentations. First Graders are also introduced to reading maps and globes as a means to understand how adaptation to various habitats is influenced by geography.

From the report card course description:

We focused on animal classification, adaptations, insects, and animals preparing for winter. We began by finding out about The six major groups of animals and their characteristics. Our study of insects included observing the life cycle, anatomy, and behavior of ants, ladybugs, and butterflies. Next we began our study of animals and their winter challenges. We learned how local animals hibernate, migrate, or adapt to survive the mountain winters. We will finish the semester with a unit on wool. From sheep to sweater, the children will learn how wool is made into sweaters and rugs. The First Graders will experience carding, dyeing, spinning, and weaving wool from local sheep.

World Language

First Graders have one semester of French and one semester of Spanish language study. The emphasis is on speaking and listening. Students build their vocabulary base through a variety of hands-on activities. Topics include: animals, numbers, colors, shapes holidays, and common phrases. First Graders begin their study of culture by becoming familiar with important holidays.


As they become more confident in their skills, First Graders find more ways than ever to bring their creative ideas to life. Art, music, drama, and technology classes offer plenty of opportunities for guided explorations of different modes of expression. For most of these classes, children walk with their teacher to the arts buildings by the ponds.


First Graders work with texture, line, shapes, colors, and patterns in a variety of projects. They are introduced to water color and direct observation drawing. They develop their understanding of 3D by making penguins in conjunction with a science unit.

From the report card course description, fall semester:

We began looking at prehistoric, African, Aboriginal, and Native American art to learn basic skills: pencil holding, following directions, identifying symbols and patterns, and using the five elements of drawing. We practiced paper orientation and use of space. More recently we began studying individual abstract artists and their work to learn about lines, shapes, primary colors, color value, vertical/horizontal/diagonal, abstract vs. realistic, and expression of emotion in art. These are the artists we have studied and replicated: Piet Mondrian, Kandinsky, Paul Klee. We combined some of our art time with science to create beautiful weavings.


First Graders develop range and strength with their voices in solo and choral music. Songs and activities include rhyme, pattern, and numbers to reinforce what they are learning in the classroom. First Graders also learn about various cultures and genres through songs, movement, and music literature. They reinforce their understanding of dynamics, tempo, rhythm and music theory through the use of various instruments.


First Graders begin to study the tools of acting: expression, gesture, and posture. They express feelings as the improvise scenes involving objects and animals. The First Grade performs The Tempest in the Lower School Shakespeare Festival. Students also engage in a variety of activities and games to cultivate their imaginations and help develop creativity. First Graders are also introduced to the role of choreography in performance.

Outdoor Education

Children have two expeditions per year starting in Kindergarten, building skills and memories for a lifetime. They keep an outdoor ed journal that comes along on each trip. Experiences in the outdoors, on the fields, and in the gym deepen students’ understanding of the five core values of our school: character, respect, responsibility, community, and perseverance.

Physical Education

Teamwork and sportsmanship come first as children play games and learn skills to foster a healthy lifestyle and a sense of fair play. First Graders develop gross motor skills and confidence as they build spatial and body awareness. They learn proper techniques for throwing, catching, kicking and hitting balls, as well as balance, through completing obstacle courses and other challenges. Highlights of the program include canoeing on the ponds and skiing with classmates.

Outdoor Education

First Graders travel to Chapman Lake above Ruedi Reservoir in the Fryingpan River Valley. They often experience some challenging cold temperatures, an excellent opportunity to develop perseverance. Students practice their bouldering skills as a foundation for later climbing trips. In the spring, First Graders spend two nights at Colorado National Monument. They camp under the stars and are always proud when they complete a challenging hike. The trip features many other activities related to their science curriculum.

SIgnature Programs

In hands-on projects like the Small Moments Publishing Party, children write and illustrate their own detailed narratives about memorable moments in their lives, then share them with an adoring audience of parents and teachers. First Grade is full of small and large moments of learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Projects & traditions

First Graders change in so many ways over the school year. That’s evidenced not only by their increasing sense of responsibility and poise, but also by the remarkable number of teeth they tend to lose in this year of growth! Highlights of the year include field trips, celebrations in the classroom and around campus, and many special projects.

Class meeting

Learning to be a good friend and responsible citizen is part of the journey in First Grade. Students gather for a weekly class meeting with Lower School Counselor Mary Stokes. In these engaging sessions, that focus on social-emotional learning, they have an activity that relates to the theme of the month, from “Integrity” to “Courage.” Class meeting is also a dedicated time to review and put into practice the core values of the school that children learn on outdoor education trips: character, respect, responsibility, community, and perseverance.

Community service partner: Shining Stars

Over the years, our school has forged an important partnership with the Shining Stars Foundation. This began at the initiative of former Country Day First Grade teacher Suzi Zedlacher, whose late son Stefan (class of 2000) remains dear to our hearts. ACDS First Graders cheer on the young pediatric cancer patients who come to town for a week’s respite. They also help raise funds for the children’s holiday with bake sales and letter-writing campaigns.