Preparing Boys for Life

First Grade

medieval play by first-graders

First-grade students perform a musical as part of their study of medieval times.

Curriculum overview

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.

first graders with high school boy

As part of the Brotherhood Project, an Upper School student provides lessons on sportsmanship while playing kickball with first grade boys.

Areas of study


Literacy in first grade incorporates a comprehensive and developmentally appropriate program. Included in language arts is a step-by-step-approach that integrates reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and composition. Our small-group guided reading format allows boys to practice reading skills and strategies at their level. Teaching in a “center” format allows boys to move and use hands-on materials to build their skills and confidence as proficient readers. Our goal is to help boys learn – and love – to read.


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 boy-friendly, 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. Each unit is complemented with a field trip; locations include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, historic Philadelphia, and the Academy of Natural Sciences. 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.

Character and Citizenship

Recent first grade service projects have included designing games and activities for students with physical limitations, as well as writing to pen pals at a school in Belize. Fundraising efforts for the school have included a soccer tournament and gaining pledges from family members through doing household chores. Learn more about service projects at The Haverford School >

First grade at The Haverford School has been an incredibly important and course-altering year for our son. There is cutting-edge and informed pedagogy, but there is also an enormous emphasis on the whole boy. Every boy in first grade is treated as a scholar, an athlete, a musician, an artist, an engineer, and a kind and welcoming friend. The older Lower Schoolers and the Upper Schoolers who work with the boys frequently mentor this behavior in every interaction. The amazing first grade teachers have a seamless way of knowing how much time to spend on academic work and when to focus on social interactions and character development. We are so grateful that our son is leaving first grade with a solid ability to read, write, and appreciate math and science, but especially with a love of his friends and classmates as part of a very special community. Liz, parent