Reading, writing, spelling, and phonics are closely related, supporting one another. In first grade, the goal is for students to enjoy literacy, and to read and write for authentic reasons.

Reading Curriculum
First Grade uses a variety of literature selections to support the reading program. Guided reading books are used for leveled reading instruction. In addition, students read supplemental materials such as The Scholastic News and weekly poetry selections. Each first grade has a well stocked classroom library for independent in-class reading (Read-To-Self and Read-To-Someone) and DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) at-home reading. Students engage in many kinds of reading during the day. Shared reading is generally taught whole class, guided reading is taught in small groups, and read to self is independent reading. Please read the entries below for more information regarding the reading and phonics instruction in first grade.
The Phonics Dance 
The Phonics Dance is not actually a "dance", but a program that uses movement and rhyme to teach students individual sounds and letter combinations. Ginny Dowd, creator of the Phonics Dance, stresses Six Steps to Literacy Learning in the Primary Grades:
Sound Attack ~ Daily review and introduction of consonants, short and long vowels, and variant vowel sounds
Word Wall ~ Daily review and introduction of high frequency words in association with Language Arts concepts
Creative Writing ~ Student writing (both fiction and non-fiction) composed on a daily basis in correlation with weekly themes
Student/Teacher Conferencing ~ Revising and Editing - immediate feedback on student writing with emphasis on structure, spelling, and punctuation
Word Training ~ Teaching the eyes to look for big "hunks" and "chunks" and parts of words in the decoding process
Reading ~ Daily practice - guided, independent, choral or partner reading with literature that is teacher chosen or student selected
Readers' Workshop

Readers' Workshop is a time dedicated to reading ~ students learn a variety of reading strategies, they explore different genres, they develop an understanding of concepts of print, and they share reading experiences with their classmates.  The structure of  Readers' Workshop encourages students to take responsibility for their own reading. Teachers teach mini-lessons, meet with students in small groups (guided reading). and periodically conference one-on-one with students. Children are then expected to put literacy lessons into action during their independent workshop time. The components of Readers' Workshop are:  Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, and Word Work. Throughout the week each student will work on all of these components at some time. Read to Self is a daily expectation. The literacy CAFE menu provides a way to assess students participating in Reader's Workshop, and it uses the acronym CAFE to help children understand four important components of literacy learning. The CAFE "menu" lists specific strategies to help children improve in each of the these 4 areas.
C ~ Comprehension - I understand what I read. A ~ Accuracy - I can read the words. F ~ Fluency - I can read smoothly with few errors and understand what I read. E ~ Expand Vocabulary - I know, find, and use interesting words.

Writing is an opportunity for children to show what they have learned in phonics, spelling and reading. Children write daily for a variety of reasons. They may write a journal entry, a Star of the Week book page, a response to literature, or a list of facts. "First Grade" spelling (developmental spelling) is encouraged, as students will have the chance to edit writing as they make the transition to standardized spelling. When students use "first grade" spelling, they demonstrate their understanding of the spelling patterns they have learned. They also apply their knowledge of writer's words by correctly spelling commonly used words. Depending on the goal for that specific piece of writing, students conference with teachers to edit for mechanics, spelling, use of details, etc.

Writers' Workshop
 Under the guidance of Jennifer Jacobson, lower school teachers have adopted Writers' Workshop as a format for teaching writing. Writers' Workshop provides a structure for writing instruction and the students appreciate the independent aspect of Writers' Workshop. Because students choose their own topic, they are more invested in their writing. They feel like REAL WRITERS!
There are several components to Writers' Workshop: Teachers generally begin by reading a children's book as part of a mini-lesson. The class would then think about the book, focusing on one of these traits: Ideas and Content, Word Choice, Organization, Conventions, Sentence Fluency, and Voice. The class might then write a short story together, look at other writing samples, or participate in an activity designed to allow for practice in identifying and applying the trait. Next comes the kids' favorite part of Writers' Workshop - QUIET TEN. During this time soft music is playing and all students write. This is uninterrupted writing time, and it is a magical time of day in the first grade classroom! After this writing time most students continue to write independently, but some children will also be conferring with teachers or participating in a small group lesson. At some point during the week we also have Author's Chair - an opportunity for students to share their writing. Kids might share at any point in their writing - not just when a piece is considered to be "done". This allows peers to give feedback and ask questions that might prompt the author to improve his/her story in some way.

CA First Grade teaches the Handwriting Without Tears Handwriting style. We stress legibility and consistent shape, size, and spacing when forming letters. Fluency and flow are also stressed. Pencil grip and paper positioning are practiced and reinforced. Here is a link to the Handwriting Without Tears website: HWT 

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