Preparing Boys for Life.

First Grade

First grade is an important year of foundational academic skills and aims to instill empathy, community, and excitement about learning. Boys spend nearly half of the school day in literacy and math instruction, and explore science, art, music, and physical education with specialist teachers. The classrooms are full of energy and curiosity as boys develop reading skills and strategies, express themselves in writing, delve into math, and immerse themselves in social studies. Through the use of Chromebooks, first graders integrate technology daily during literacy study, math, and social studies.



Our guided reading format allows boys to learn and practice reading skills and strategies, while encouraging them to be stretched at their individual level. Small instructional groups allow for multiple opportunities for students to practice strengthening decoding skills, fluent oral reading, and comprehension strategies. First graders also build phonic skills through the use of our Fundations program.

Boys become proficient writers by practicing their craft through our Writing Workshop program. Following the methods of Lucy Calkins, the founding director of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, boys learn to produce cohesive narrative, informational and opinion pieces with daily practice through individual mini-lessons.


Mathematics in first grade provides opportunities to be actively engaged while using concrete objects and pictorial/symbolic representations. Our teaching model of differentiated instruction supports individualized learning opportunities to meet boys at their level. They are encouraged to explore and enrich their skills and understanding of numeration, computation, and estimation, as well as mathematical reasoning and problem-solving while employing a hands-on approach.

Social Studies

We begin the year studying Benjamin Franklin, William Penn, and the Quaker traditions. The land of kings, castles, and knights highlights our second trimester, while our final months are spent developing a rich understanding of the people and history of Latin America. A year-long pen pal connection with the Sacred Heart School in Belize allows for conversations and exposure to a fascinating culture. Character development is woven into the social studies curriculum as boys contemplate important virtues such as courage, respect, and acceptance.


Boys learn the importance of the scientific attitudes of curiosity, critical thinking, and persistence as necessary traits for scientific investigation. They study the following units: Biological, Chemical, Physical, Earth and Space, and Health Sciences. Lessons include games, activities, and experiments where boys learn to practice the Scientific Method and hone their scientific attitudes. Topics include:

  • Animals: Survival
  • Health: Mental and Physical Health
  • Energy: Forces, Simple Machines
  • Space: Constellations, Planets
  • Earth: Soil, Rocks
  • Environment: Recycling, Pre-cycling
  • Plants: Structure
  • Weather: Storm


First graders explore elements of art, including depth, texture, color theory, line, and rendering. We aim to cultivate a love of creative exploration and expression through the following media forms:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Printing
  • Collaging
  • Sculpting


Favorite characters come to life in the Lower School library, where our boys develop a love of reading. While listening and responding to stories, the boys practice a number of important skills, including:

  • How to ask a question
  • How to think about their reading preferences
  • How to locate books within the library


The Haverford School uses the Kódaly approach to teach boys to read basic melodic and rhythmic notation through a rich variety of authentic folk music from America and around the world. Boys are actively engaged throughout the music lessons through singing, listening, moving creatively, and playing musical instruments. Foundational music elements are stressed in each lesson:

  • Understanding a steady beat
  • Playing and reading rhythm patterns
  • Developing a clear pitch and proper singing voice

Physical Education

Our Physical Education Department and sports programs not only promote athleticism, but camaraderie, sportsmanship, fair play, and good competition. The major areas of focus in the first grade program include:

  • Foot-eye and hand-eye coordination
  • Cooperative games implementing physical skills
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility

All activities in our curriculum are designed to foster the skills necessary for our boys to be successful in their athletic interests, develop character through sportsmanship and cooperation, and promote participation and enthusiasm.

First grade proved to be a transformative year for our son. Not only did he gain a tremendous amount of new knowledge, he also gained an amazing amount of confidence as a learner and a young man. The teachers were excellent; caring, knowledgeable, patient, and nurturing. Our son entered the year uncertain of his reading and math ability and now challenges his big brother to math quiz contests and tears through chapter books.Amber Dixon, parent