First Grade Survival Guide

First Grade Survival Guide


This survival guide will serve as an introduction to the wonderful and exciting world of first grade!  We want to make this the best possible first grade experience for you and your children.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that your children are successful and proud of themselves in first grade.

Curriculum Highlights

The first grade curriculum is multi-faceted and provides students with the skills, concepts, and knowledge necessary to move on to second grade.  Our schedule includes English language arts (ELA) and math time daily.  ELA and math are discussed in greater detail below.  We incorporate our social studies and science curriculum into daily center activities.


In science we will be studying animals and plants, the sun, the moon and weather, how sound and light can be used to communicate, and how people use tools to solve problems.  Our science time will include many hands-on activities to help students explore these concepts and develop their science and engineering practices.


In social studies our class will be learning about national holidays, famous Americans, patriotic songs and symbols, and American landmarks.  We will also focus on traditional folk and fairy tales from around the world.


Your child's teacher will provide updates on the units of study in all academic areas in her monthly newsletters.



Focus on ELA


Our language arts time is organized into three parts each day.  The parts include: Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, and Word Study.


The district has phased in the use of Readers' Workshop over the past few years.  This type of reading instruction is not based upon a particular program.  Rather, teachers have been trained in new instructional models and strategies and are implementing a curriculum that meets the Massachusetts Frameworks and the Common Core Standards.  During Readers' Workshop the teacher models and instructs the children in a range of reading strategies and comprehension skills.  After each day's focus lesson, the children independently read books they have self-selected while the teacher meets with individuals and small groups.  Readers’ Workshop ends with sharing time when the children have the opportunity to talk about the books they are reading.  In the Readers’ Workshop model students spend most of their time reading, discussing, and responding to trade books at their own instructional levels. 


We use the Lucy Calkins writing program to teach Writers' Workshop in our classes. During Writers' Workshop our class will learn to write fictional narratives, how-to books, poems, nonfiction chapter books, and persuasive reviews.  Each day the teacher leads a brief focus lesson which is followed by the children writing.  During this time the teacher conferences with and instructs individuals and small groups of students.  Writers’ Workshop ends with sharing time when the children share their writing in a variety of formats.


Word Study is an important part of first grade.  During Word Study direct instruction in phonics, spelling, and handwriting occurs. Several times each week we do an activity with letter tiles called “Making Words” (based on Patricia Cunningham’s Systematic Sequential Phonics They Use).  Some other activities that occur during Word Study include: rainbow writing, memory match, and word sorts.  In addition, literacy activities are woven into our morning center activities on a daily basis. 




Focus on Math

Our school district has recently adopted Everyday Math 4 and will begin implementing it this fall.  This program meets the requirements of the Massachusetts Frameworks for mathematics and the Common Core Standards. 


At the first grade level Everyday Math 4 includes plenty of time for students to explore materials and play games that will help them to understand mathematical concepts at a deep level.  Whole class and small group lessons include mathematical discussions during which students learn how to explain their thinking orally.  These discussions with peers, partners, and the teacher are an extremely important part of the curriculum.  In their written work students are taught how to explain and provide reasons for their answers using pictures, numbers, and words.



Discipline Policy

In first grade we strive to highlight good behavior, and we seek to minimize negative behavior that takes away from the learning environment.  Each class discusses the class rules and the consequences of breaking them during the first few days of school.  The first grade rules are:


1.  Treat others kindly.

2.  Be respectful.

3.  Listen when someone is speaking, and raise your hand if you have something to say.

4.  Work quietly.

5.  Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself.

6.  Share with everyone (except food).


First grade consequences include:


1.  A student losing points on Class Dojo.

2.  A student losing recess time.

3.  A student having a note sent home.

4.  A teacher calling a parent to discuss problem behavior.

5.  A student being sent to the principal's office.

6.  The principal calling a parent to discuss problem behavior.


All three classes have rules and consequences posted prominently in the classrooms.  We also use Class Dojo to help children recognize both their strengths and the areas in which they need to work towards improvement.   Your child's teacher will share more information during Open House and on her website.  Please contact your child's teacher if you have any questions about discipline in his/her classroom.     



Report Cards and Conferences

Your child will be receiving a standards-based report card in December, March, and June.  The report cards were adopted several years ago in an attempt to provide more accurate and thorough information to parents about how their children are doing in the classroom.  They will allow you to see how your child is progressing along in the first grade curriculum.  Report cards also include a space for comments that will allow teachers to provide additional information about each child's progress.  In addition to three formal report cards, you will receive brief, interim progress reports halfway through the second and third trimesters.


We will be having formal parent conferences in October.  A sign-up sheet will be available during Open House for you to indicate a time that works best for you.  Your child's teacher will be in touch with you in early October to schedule your conference.

Special Classes


We have special classes every week.  The classes include physical education, library, technology, art and music.  Your child's teacher will post the schedule for her class on her class website and include it in her monthly newsletters.   


Please make sure that your child wears appropriate footwear on physical education days.  Mr. Queenan is our physical education teacher. 


Your child's library book will be due on the same day each week.  Your child's teacher will let you know which day to return books.  Mrs. Lamar is our librarian.


In 2017-18 we will be having music, art, and an additional technology period all year.  Mrs. Roderick is our music teacher.  Our new art and technology teachers will be announced on the school website during the summer or early fall.



Birthday and Classroom Celebrations

Birthdays are a big deal in the world of first grade.  We celebrate in the classroom by singing “Happy Birthday” and allowing the birthday boy or birthday girl to be the “line leader” all day.  (Weekend, vacation and summer birthdays are celebrated on a school day close to the actual date.).  In order to comply with school policy, students are not allowed to bring in food treats on their birthdays.  However, students are welcome to bring in another treat (pencils, stickers, etc.) to celebrate with the class.  If you are sending invitations for a party into school, we can only hand them out if the entire class (or all the boys or all the girls) is invited.


The regulations regarding food distribution in schools have gotten very strict during the past few years.  The first grade classes celebrate holidays by making crafts and playing games.  We do not serve any food.




Lunch and Drink Break


Students are able to purchase lunch from the cafeteria each day.  You may use the lunch envelopes provided by the school to send in lunch money or you may pay online.  It is helpful if you send in a lunch envelope on Monday for the entire week.  Please review the lunch choices with your child on the days when he or she will be getting lunch.  For our morning drink break you may send in a beverage for your child (juice box/pouch, water bottle, milk, drinkable yogurt, etc.).



Scholastic Book Orders

Each month your child's teacher will send home a Scholastic book order flyer.  This flyer contains many quality pieces of literature that are perfect for your first grader.  Please do not feel obligated to buy any of the books in the flyer.  If you choose to order, there are two options.  One is an online option where you can sign-in to your teacher's class page and pay using a debit or credit card.  A letter with the instructions for this ordering method will be attached to the monthly flyer.  You may also fill out the form on the back of the flyer and send it, along with a check made out to “Scholastic Reading Club,” into school by the due date stamped on the order form.  All books are delivered to the school, and the teachers will distribute them to the students. 


Absences and Dismissal Changes

Please call the school if your child is going to be absent or late.  If your child must be dismissed early or if your child’s dismissal routine is being changed for a day, please send in a note in the morning explaining the change.  If your child needs to be dismissed early, your child’s teacher will forward the note to the office, so they will not be surprised when you arrive.  Please DO NOT skip sending in a note and call the school or ask your child to tell us instead.  For obvious safety reasons we cannot make dismissal changes based on a conversation with a child.  If an emergency arises during the school day which will affect your child’s dismissal, please call the school to discuss the situation.


Also, please remember that first grade is real school, not preschool or daycare.  Unless they are sick, students need to be here every single day.  Please try not to schedule appointments or vacations during school time.

Sight Words

Students will be assessed periodically on the first grade sight words.  Often, these words are words that cannot be sounded out.  The goal is to have students achieve automaticity with these words and recognize them in print with ease.  Some children will master the words quickly, but others need daily practice.  If your child's assessment indicates the need for more practice than we can provide in school, you will receive materials to practice at home.  Frequent short practice sessions (4-5 times per week for about ten minutes) are most effective.  Creating and reading sentences with word cards or playing games like “Go Fish” or “Memory Match” can really help to reinforce the words.  Learning sight words can help your child become a stronger reader.





Research has consistently found that most homework assigned in first grade does not help children to become stronger students.  However, research supports our belief that students benefit from daily reading at home.  At Aitken School first graders are expected to read for 15-20 minutes each night.  For many years we assigned reading logs to ensure that students actually read.  However, the reading logs themselves do not benefit students' academic growth.  Last year we instituted an “honor system” for reading.  The system seemed to work because our students made phenomenal progress in reading during the year. 


As the year progresses, we will introduce Reflex Math in school.  This program has an optional at-home component.  More information about Reflex will be distributed by your child's teacher in the early fall.

Organization and Study Skills Expectations

We have developed a list of organization and study skills expectations for first graders.  These are things that we expect your child to be doing independently after being given proper instruction.  Your help at home with some of these skills is greatly appreciated.


First Grade Organization and Study Skills


  1. Unpack backpack in the morning.
  2. Unpack folder and put materials in the correct place.
  3. Hand in homework and notes/envelopes for teacher.
  4. Get and start morning work.
  5. Identify and finish incomplete work.
  6. Keep shoes tied and zippers zipped.
  7. Keep cubbies and work space organized.
  8. Collect mail and folders at the end of the day.
  9. Pack backpack and get in the appropriate line to go home.


Please help your child to become comfortable with these expectations.  We will be practicing them frequently at school, too.


Independence in First Grade


We are working on encouraging independence in the classroom.  Please help your child learn to tie his or her shoes and zip his or her own zippers.  We will tie shoelaces until December; after that the children should be able to do it themselves. 


Classroom Supplies

Thank you for providing your child with the requested supplies on the list sent home over the summer.  If you need another copy of the First Graders' Supply List, please let your child's teacher know. 


Below is a list of common items that we can always use in the classroom.  Anything you can send in will help to keep our classroom stocked with items we use on a regular basis.  Many items can be found at the Dollar Store.  Thanks for any contribution you can give.



Baby wipes

Clorox or other cleaning wipes

Facial tissues

Post-It notes

Glue sticks (lots & lots of glue sticks!)

Twistables crayons and colored pencils

Ziploc bags (all sizes)

Colored and manilla card stock

Decorative stickers


Communication with Your Child's Teacher

Good communication between home and school is essential.  We will do our best to keep you informed about what is happening in first grade.  Please empty your child's folder regularly and check it for important notices.  Please read our monthly newsletters and check our websites.  If you are interested, all three first grade teachers participate in the Class Dojo program.  More information about Class Dojo will be shared at Open House and on the teachers' classroom websites.  Above all, please do not hesitate to contact your child's teacher with any questions or concerns you have this year. 


You can reach us in any of the following ways:


Send in a note with your child.

Email us at the address below.

Call and leave a message with the office (508-336-5230).

Call and leave a message on your teacher's voice mail (508-336-5230); see extension below.



Mrs. Sharon Ahern

(508) 336-5230 x5108


Ms. Maryellen Lane

(508) 336-5230 x5106


Mrs. Jessica Trudeau

(508) 336-5230 x5109

If you do not hear back from us within 24 hours, please call again or send in a note.  (Sometimes we have glitches with our technology, and we don't always get messages.)


How to Sign Up for Class Dojo


Class Dojo is a behavior management and communication system which we use in first grade.  Each child has his/her own unique access code.  Your child's teacher's will provide you with the information you need to sign up for the parent and student components of Class Dojo.  Signing up for the parent component will allow you to monitor your child's “Dojo points” and to communicate with your child's teacher via text messages.  Signing up for the student component will allow your child to customize his or her Dojo monster.  If you have any questions about Class Dojo, please don't hesitate to ask your child's teacher.