fish art

Grade 1

Grade 1 marks an important transition period as students leave kindergarten behind and settle into the life of the Lower School. Students begin to develop the key skills and knowledge they need to move into deeper thinking and questioning.

In a warm and happy learning community, students care about each other and each other’s learning, and are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes.

Grade 1 offers the Primary Years Program of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. In this student-centered curriculum, learning is inquiry-based, ensuring that each student’s strengths and interests are at the forefront of the learning experience.

Students may study Spanish, French, or Mandarin. Additional language offerings and Mother Tongue language classes are available upon request.

Peek Inside the Classroom

On any day, you might find our Grade 1 students:

  • Teaming up with older student buddies from Grade 3 to program robotic bees ― “bee bots” ― to complete mazes
  • Working together to create claymation videos showing the lifecycles of falcons, salamanders, parrot fish, and cobras
  • Taking a field trip to beautiful Stone Barn Farms to learn about plants and animals
  • Becoming “Mathletes” and developing math skills at their own pace through an online learning program called Mathletics
  • Leading their own student-parent conferences to show parents all that they’ve learned!

Explore the Curriculum

In first grade, students begin to develop the underlying skills and knowledge they need in order to move into deeper thinking and questioning. Students are given opportunities to learn and problem solve collectively, as well as individually. Our goal is that children will start to feel responsible for their own learning and behavior.

We believe that all students learn most successfully in a safe, nurturing environment, one in which students care about each other and each other’s learning — an environment where students are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes.

Units of Inquiry

The Units of Inquiry examine the concepts of identity, geography, and expression through arts and poetry, life cycles of plants and animals, shelter, and conservation. Through questioning, hands­-on experiments, reading, writing, and other research, students come to construct meaning and understand large themes within each unit. Students analyze their knowledge by thinking about how things function, why they are like they are and how and why they may change. They also develop social, communication, self­-management, and research skills by embarking on larger group projects. They gain knowledge that is relevant and of global significance, and develop attitudes that we hope will lead to international­-mindedness. Students strengthen their ability to see things from different perspectives, and reflect upon their own responsibility in the personal choices that they make.


Students participate in a reading workshop as a part of the balanced literacy framework that is used throughout the school day. Whole group lessons occur regularly, during which students are taught the skills and strategies they need to navigate a variety of genres of books. Students are also split into small groups to work closely with their teachers, giving them the support they need to work towards individualized goals. Students also read independently and are taught how to select books that are appropriate for their skill levels. Teachers assess students periodically throughout the year to determine their progress.


First grade is an important and exciting year for writing. It is often the first time that students move beyond the mechanics of writing, start to put their own opinions and ideas on paper, and begin to think about the content and quality of their writing. Throughout the year, during the different units of study, students learn to write for different purposes and in many different genres such as poetry, persuasive, expository, and creative writing. Students are also exposed to and start using similes, metaphors, alliteration, and senses in their writing.


Mathematics in the first grade at Dwight is a year of introduction. We begin the year focusing on and conducting a comprehensive review of the basic number facts that students have learned in kindergarten. The topics include counting, place value, and comparing numbers. After a solid review, we move into addition, subtraction. Then students explore geometry and fractions. Later in the year, we explore money, measurement, and time. Finally, students learn to organize, compare, and interpret data by using various types of graphs. Throughout the year, we teach our students a variety of strategies for solving word problems. Students use math manipulatives and math games in order to fully understand the answers they reach.

World Language


All students in the PYP are required to study at least one language in addition to English. Learning these languages is seen to be an important element in preparing young people for citizenship in the developing global community.

Students in French, Spanish, and Mandarin are exposed to the culture of the target language and develop the necessary skills to become active users of the language at the end of their school career. Students in grades 1-­5 learn language through a variety of ways including songs, games, role-­playing, and cultural activities.

Chinese (Mandarin)

In first grade, the goal is for students to continue to feel comfortable speaking and hearing Chinese. The curriculum focuses on correct pronunciation, basic vocabulary, numbers, months, weather, colors, animals, food, and family. Students learn how to recognize and write simple, familiar Chinese characters. They learn how to ask for simple information. Chinese culture is explored through arts, music, and storybooks, and the celebration of Chinese New Year.


In first grade, the goal is for students to feel comfortable speaking and hearing Spanish. Students learn the alphabet and gain the ability to sound out both familiar and unfamiliar words. An emphasis is placed on correct pronunciation so that a native speaker would be able to understand them. Students learn how to have a conversation about themselves including their name, age, origin, birthday, and likes and dislikes. Emphasis is on a basic vocabulary of numbers, months, weather, colors, animals, food, and family. Students will experience some Spanish traditions throughout the year as they celebrate “Día de los Muertos,” “Three Kings Day,” and “Cinco de Mayo."


In first grade, the goal is for students to feel comfortable speaking and hearing French. Students learn the alphabet and gain the ability to sound out familiar words. An emphasis is placed on correct pronunciation so that a native speaker would be able to understand them. Students learn how to have a conversation about themselves including their name, age, origin, birthday, and likes and dislikes. Emphasis is on a basic vocabulary of numbers, days of the week, weather, colors, animals, food, and family. French culture is explored through songs, music, storybooks, and performing short plays.

Visual Arts

First grade students continue to develop their fine motor skills. The emphasis is on creating and building artwork independently. They begin by painting self­-portraits during their unit of inquiry, Who We Are. Inspired by the work of Lucian Freud and Frida Kahlo, they study the dimensions of the face. They also start experimenting with color, while figuring out how to mix different shades of brown to create the subtleties of skin tones. First graders experiment with three­-dimensional form and texture during their Sharing the Planet unit. Channeling the works of Louise Nevelson and Marcel Duchamp, they create their own sculptures made from homemade paper and found objects. In the second half of the year, first graders are introduced to the concepts of space and composition, as they begin to understand how to create the illusion of dimension and space during the How We Organize Ourselves unit. Students revisit the elements of line, shape, and form when they learn how to draw diagrams of animals by breaking their forms into simple lines during their inquiry into life cycles in How the World Works. Finally, students are introduced to the principles of emphasis and contrast when designing and creating maps during their final unit, Where We Are In Place and Time.


First graders sing songs in a variety of languages and styles. Students begin to learn and apply the principles of music notation (traditional and nontraditional) and sight-reading. Students work on their compositions individually and in groups by using technology tools and compositional techniques. Special emphasis is made on collaborative and creative projects. During our instruments unit, students enjoy performing their djembe rhythms in a drum circle. The primary goal for the first grade is to allow students to experience the joys of ensemble performance and collaborative, spontaneous music making.

Throughout the year students have the opportunity to present their musical talents in Community Meetings, Holiday and special assemblies, Community Outreach Projects, and Winter and Spring Concerts. The IB Learner Profile is at the center of our rich musical life in Timothy House and is an integral part of our music curriculum.

Physical Education

In the first grade, physical education focuses on teaching students important movement fundamentals related to health, fitness, and well­being. Students explore and develop the ability to solve problems individually or in pairs, and begin to identify different roles and responsibilities in small group activities. Students are taught sports­-specific skills and techniques in a variety of games­-related activities. Through these games and activities students are familiarized with the concepts of teamwork and cooperation. First grade students are exposed to different stimuli and respond through movement to express feelings and moods using imagination and original ideas. They explore and develop traditional gymnastic skills and interpret and answer movement tasks by putting simple movement sequences together. Students are aware of the importance of daily exercise and explore, use, and adapt a range of movement skills. They focus on the connection of “body and exercise” when looking at physical changes in relation to exercising during their interdisciplinary studies.


Students in first grade are introduced to the library as part of their scheduled classes. They participate in activities that support recognizing the difference between fiction and nonfiction and begin to learn the parts of nonfiction books that are tools for finding information. They also begin to learn the organization of materials within the library. A love of literature and the understanding that the library is a source of information is of primary importance. First graders borrow books from the library and enjoy sharing a variety of fiction and nonfiction stories that support their PYP Units of Inquiry.


First grade students will be introduced to technology that complement the PYP Program of Inquiry. A variety of media will be integrated into the classrooms to help students create and present their ideas. In the beginning of the year, first graders learn appropriate behavior and use of equipment and begin to learn basic skills.

Students in the first grade will begin to that understand technology is the process of communicating and sharing information. Students are introduced to programming language through fun little floor robots called bee­-bots. These programmable robots help students to learn control, sequencing, and directional language. Another noteworthy unit in first grade is, How the World Works. First graders create claymations to explore the interdependence of living things. Students document their own learning process by creating a digital eBook using Book Creator. Students use various media that allows them to express their ideas as a part of classroom learning.

Meet the Faculty

Click here to meet the faculty!


Martha Hirschman
Head of Lower School
(212) 724-6360 Ext 220


Chris Beddows
Associate Head of Lower School,
PYP Coordinator
(212) 724-6360 Ext 510



Maryll Spahn
Director of Admissions
Grades K-6


Liliana Rodriguez 
Associate Director of Admissions
Grades K-6


Melissa Andolina 
Assistant Director & Enrollment Manager, K - 12
(212) 724-6360 Ext 207