First Grade

First graders continue to learn by doing and adding a broader repertoire of skills across their academic disciplines. Learning and practicing fundamental concepts continue to be the bedrock of their learning; students receive thorough and deep instruction in math concepts, handwriting, vocabulary building, and reading skills. Lessons go well beyond the practice of those skills by creating avenues for students to demonstrate their understanding and expression of them. Whether it is writing and publishing their own book in language arts class or creating their own musical fantasy matching moods and images to a piece of music, teachers create lessons and projects where students explore content and create their own representation of it. First graders demonstrate confidence, creativity, and expression in their spring main-stage musical production. In science, students observe, collect, record, and analyze data through the studies of invertebrates, chemistry and forensic science.

List of 10 items.

  • Reading/Language Arts

    First graders continue to develop their abilities in phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Our approach to teaching reading balances direct phonics instruction while building a lifelong love of reading. All first grade teachers are trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach and explicitly teach phonics patterns following a phonics sequence. In addition, we devote time to building reading comprehension skills while exposing students to books from a wide range of genres and cultures. We engage students through activities such as partner reading, readers' theatre, independent reading, and group discussions. Students continue to develop their handwriting as well. As writers, first graders continue to work in the Writing Workshop model, learning grammatical constructions as they author original pieces in genres such as opinion, information, and narrative. Students learn the formal writing process to develop their pieces. They begin with brainstorming, then produce drafts that are edited and revised, and finally published as final works.
  • Math

    The first grade math curriculum helps students develop the strategies needed to understand numbers in their world. Focusing on topics such as computational skills in addition and subtraction within 20, whole number relationships, and geometry, students engage math problems through use of hands-on manipulatives, games, and whole and small group instruction. Visual models, such as ten frames, bead racks, and open number lines support students’ numeracy and conceptual understanding of math. While students are assessed through unit tests, they also engage in projects and experiences that help math come alive for young students excited to see the world this way for the first time.
  • Social Studies

    First grade social studies builds on the discussions of community explored during kindergarten. Starting with activities that address green spaces in the community, first graders examine a number of localities, including hiking and exploring around Cabin John Creek. They observe characteristics and traits of the spaces around them, along with the environs surrounding Norwood School. Addressing questions like, “What is a green space and how is it important to a community?” and “How does history shape a green space?” students explore the immediate campus and take several field trips as they explore their community. Students also use maps, satellite images, and pictures to identify green spaces and make their own campus maps as they build their understanding of the topic.
  • Science

    Through hands-on activities, first graders continue to explore the world through the scientific process. Students develop their observational skills in a unit on invertebrates, noting lifecycles and physical characteristics. In the chemistry unit, students classify liquids based on certain characteristics and explore states and changes of matter. In the unit on forensic science, students arrive in class to discover a roped-off crime scene; someone has stolen a fictitious teddy bear and students must work together to solve the crime using a series of forensic tests and other clues. By immersing themselves in the experimental design process, students learn the content by experiencing the scientific process.
  • Spanish

    Through the use of thematic units, storytelling, movement, games, music and art, first grade students are immersed in the Spanish language and acquire a variety of vocabulary and expressions.  As students learn greetings, how to state feelings, and understand classroom directions, they make puppets to stage conversations with classmates.  Students continue to build their vocabulary and conversational abilities around topics such as colors and numbers, parts of the body, family members, household vocabulary, and clothing.
  • Art

    In the Lower School, the art curriculum enables students to gain confidence, knowledge, experience, and appreciation for a wide variety of art ideas and materials. Throughout their experiences in art class, students are introduced to a sequential program which emphasizes process while exposing them to the elements of art. Media covered include drawing, painting, ceramics, collage, sculpture, and printmaking. As students develop as artists, teachers emphasize the development of personal expression, imagination, curiosity, and careful observation. Students apply these concepts and techniques while making connections, problem solving, and developing self-confidence and their personal artistic voice.
  • Music

    The First Grade music program is devoted to instilling a joyful sense of music and music making in every child. The goal is to develop students’ aesthetic sensibilities by increasing musical understanding through activities involving performing, listening, and creating. First Graders use a variety of multicultural folk songs, chants, and recordings to delve into the world of music through irresistible activities including: playing rhythm instruments, playing xylophones, figuring out mystery songs (music reading), dancing/movement, dramatization, and improvisation on the tone bells. First Graders particularly enjoy ample opportunity to create stories/dances/pantomimes to match the structural and expressive qualities of listening selections. In addition, the First Graders perform in the Lower School Winter Concert and in their own age-appropriate and adorable staged musical program in the spring.
  • Physical Education

    In the Lower School, students are introduced to basic loco-motor skills and activities that develop hand-eye and hand-foot coordination, spatial awareness, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Each year builds on the skills, games, and experiences from the previous year. Going beyond the games and activities, teachers process the experiences with students individually and in groups, asking questions like, “Can a self-win also be a team win?” and “What does it mean to be a good sport?” In the lower grades, students learn the mental and physical foundations that will help them succeed in later experiences on and off the field of play. 
  • Library & Technology

    First graders develop an appreciation for the role illustrations play in developing the story in picture books. They are introduced to Early Reader books and begin to learn basic library skills. The students continue to use iPads and coding robots to support curricular goals. 
  • Life Skills

    As part of our commitment to the whole child, Norwood School’s Life Skills Program introduces students to age-appropriate information about personal and community health and well-being that will help them lead happy, healthy lives and make positive contributions to their community from early childhood through adolescence and beyond. Some of the topics for lower school students include friendships, self-esteem, being inclusive, bullying, conflict resolution, peer pressure, responding to teasing, and safety. At all ages, the program establishes skills and strategies for lifelong well-being and promotes caring for the well-being of others. Throughout the program, teachers emphasize the important role students’ own family members play in guiding goal-setting, problem-solving and decision-making.
A Week in the Life of a Norwood First Grader

Each morning starts with a community gathering to focus on the value of the month and to prepare for the day ahead. First graders then enjoy a balanced schedule combining reading, music, Spanish, PE, math, science, art, recess, language arts, social studies, and library.

Homeroom Teachers

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Sarah Cali

    Sarah Cali 

    First Grade Homeroom Teacher
    College of Wooster - B.S.
  • Photo of Julia DiTillio

    Julia DiTillio 

    First Grade Homeroom Teacher
    Georgia Southern University - B.S.Ed.
    Clemson University - M.Ed.
  • Photo of Dana Egan

    Dana Egan 

    First Grade Homeroom Teacher
    Bank Street - M.Ed.
    Boston College - B.A.
  • Photo of Holly Simpson

    Holly Simpson 

    First Grade Homeroom Teacher
    Haverford College - B.A.


  • Team Teaching
  • Hands-on Learning
  • Child-centered Classrooms
  • Buddy Bookworm
  • Squid Dissection
  • Forensic Mystery Festival
  • Writing Workshop
  • Book Publishing Parties
  • Service Learning Projects
  • Buddy Gatherings
  • Winter Concert
  • Spring Musical
  • Field Trips
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.