First Grade

Friendship, family and community are themes woven into the first grade year. Since our girls either come to first grade from our kindergarten or outside RPCS, it is essential to teach the skills for solving conflict, finding positive ways of communicating ideas, and building respect for everyone’s diverse interests in order to cultivate solid relationships to last for the years ahead. The girls build on the idea of knowing the RPCS community by exploring the community at large. Students are encouraged to look outside of their classroom and find ways to understand and impact the world. Exploring the neighborhood, or the Backwoods, and completing community service projects teaches responsibility outside of ourselves. This is the year that reading starts to come to life and with it the world opens up! Girls leave first grade with the communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills needed to succeed in second grade and beyond. 

Junior/Senior First Program

Roland Park Country School is delighted to offer a Junior/Senior First Grade program to provide greater flexibility and individualized growth for our girls over time. We recognize that not all girls develop skills at the same pace and learning can be as individual as the students themselves. Previously, a younger student was placed in Pre-First, proving limited options and flexibility for fluid grouping throughout the year and a move directly to second grade for those students who were academically, as well as socially and emotionally ready. For most girls, the first-grade year will prepare them for a more academically challenging second grade. For some of our girls, the need to spend more time building independence and honing social and emotional skills is critical. In order to provide an alternative path from our first grade to second grade, we have introduced this program to provide the gift of time to students who would benefit. Junior/Senior First allows a broader array of custom learnings solutions through a two-year rotating curriculum and offers a strategic advantage for our girls at this important developmental age. The decision of a move from Junior to Senior First, or from Junior First to second grade would be made in collaboration with families during the winter of the first grade year, considering the individualized development of each student.


The goal of our literacy program is to develop confident and self-motivated readers and writers. Individual girls’ needs are met as skills are introduced and developed. Grade one girls will focus on increasing phonemic awareness necessary for sounding out new words, building reading fluency with a guided reading program, increasing comprehension skills through discussion and modeled story sequencing, and developing communication skills through the writing process. 

First grade girls will focus on: 
●    Listening and speaking skills
●    Mastery of letter/sound correlation
●    Sight word practice
●    Spelling patterns 
●    Leveled reading with “just right” books
●    Introduction to more genres and choice in reading
●    Writer’s Workshop – creative story telling that builds confidence and foundation
●    D’Nealian handwriting – letter formation
●    Mastery of basic sentence
●    Poetry, non-fiction paragraphs


The Lower School math program is founded on best practices and research-based mathematics education. The goal of the program is to help our girls construct deep conceptual understanding, build strong problem-solving skills, and develop computational fluency. From the earliest age, students are driven to develop a clear number sense that gives them confidence and power over numbers and computation. They analyze mathematical relationships, build their geometric and numeric reasoning and draw conclusions from this deeper thinking. An emphasis on understanding allows students to construct meaning and think flexibly about procedures that are efficient and effective. It is our hope that our approach to math instruction will empower our girls to feel increasingly confident about their mathematical ability and understanding.  This confidence and depth of understanding will expand their future possibilities in all STEM fields.

During the first grade year, the emphasis is on developing strong number sense, understanding patterns and relationships, and practicing flexible thinking when solving problems. Lessons include: 
●    Exploration of the language of numbers
●    Building on number sense                                                            
●    Introduction to money, measurement, tangrams, geometry attributes  
●    Addition and subtraction equations and expressions 

Social Studies

The purpose of the Lower School curriculum is for students to understand their place in the global community and in historical time. Starting with understanding self and family, students progress to understanding local community, city and state, country and global. Geography and research are integrated throughout the curriculum. An emphasis is placed on the power of the individual to impact the world in which we live. 

The goal of our first grade social studies curriculum is to look at these enduring understandings: 

•    Individuals exist within, are impacted by, and in turn affect collective groups. 
•    One individual has significant power and obligation as a citizen. 

Activity revolves around a study of community, goods and services, impact on the environment, and community service. Students create a butterfly garden and study the migration of butterflies, they create maps and explore the greater Roland Park Community, and they learn about the differences they can make on the environment and community through service opportunities. 


All science units in grades K-5 derive from the Next Generation Science Standards and engage girls in the areas of life science, earth and space science, physical science, and engineering design. Units are hands-on and performance-based and strive to enhance our girls’ natural curiosity. As girls explore the science content and how it connects to the natural world, they develop key learning skills, including communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving, resilience and flexibility.

Learning is extended to the outdoors while working in the Lower School garden or visiting the Backwoods. Our garden program teaches basic skills in growing and harvesting plants, caring for the environment, and encouraging individual wellness. First grade girls harvest food and herbs early in the year for the Annual Harvest Feast. During science class the girls study: 
•    Life cycles of plants and animals 
•    Physical features of plants and animals
•    Engineering challenges based on animal adaptations  


The music program uses a combination of Orff and Kodaly teaching methodologies. The Kodaly method is based primarily on singing and follows a child-developmental approach to learning basic rhythms and intervals. For example, children learn quarter notes and eighth notes first since these rhythms can be related to their walking and running paces. These rhythms are also the building blocks of most of the folk songs and games we play in class. The Orff method utilizes singing, moving, speaking and various instruments (both pitched and unpitched). The Orff instruments provide an ideal medium for texture and color exploration and provide a visual representation of pitch relationships that becomes especially useful when learning to read music. Playing in an instrumental ensemble requires focus, cooperation and an ability to hear one’s part within the whole. As children progress through the program, they begin to improvise and compose their own music and accompaniments to poems, rhymes and simple folk songs.

During the first grade year, students:
•    Learn how to differentiate high/low sounds and beat versus rhythm                              
•    Are introduced to quarter/eighth notes and rest 
•    Begin xylophone work, pentatonic improvisation                                                                 
•    Participate in two concert performances per year                                                 


The Lower School art curriculum covers many of the skills necessary for meaningful self-expression. These skills include: use of shapes, both geometric and free form, understanding the color wheel, and qualities of 2D and 3D design, as well as composition, using balance and spatial relationships. The Lower School curriculum also takes on an historical perspective that includes art units inspired by famous artists and varied cultures. Some examples of these artistic influences include Warhol, Chagall, Kahlo, Matisse, and Monet, as well as cultural inspirations from the Ancient Egyptians, Greco-Roman Bas Reliefs and mosaics, Native American artifacts, Peruvian weavings, and African tribal masks. Art movements are also incorporated into the curriculum units, such as: Pop Art self-portraits, Surrealist paintings, Impressionist landscapes, and Cubist compositions. Students in Lower School are encouraged to utilize artistic expression within a variety of media and techniques to extend their learning inside and outside the classroom. Media that are explored include everything from painting, drawing, and collage to beading, building, and sculpture. Students at RPCS can stretch their imaginations and intellects thanks to their involvement in the Visual Arts.

During the first grade year, girls are introduced to a variety of artists’ mediums and forms of expression. They learn hand-building techniques with clay. Artist studies include: Amate animal art from Mexico, Art of Eric Carle, Maori art, self-portraits through history, and Tiffany stained glass.


The Lower School dance program introduces emerging to developing techniques, and students evolve throughout the various levels of instruction. Using a variety of dance styles such as pre-ballet, ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, partner work, and choreography, the dancers mature in their overall knowledge of many styles and forms. Emphasis is placed on motor control skills, spatial and motor awareness, muscular development, core conditioning, stretching, yoga, and posture. Dance classes are specifically designed to support multiple learning styles. Dancers work together in ensembles, to engage in and connect with problem solving activities, teamwork and leadership skills.  

First grade girls experience dance three days out of the 10 day cycle. They receive an introduction to basic ballet (pre-ballet) and learn to focus on breathing, movement, posture, spatial awareness and core conditioning. Girls practice performing as an ensemble for the Spring recital. During the first grade year, there is a special performance with the Roses Repertory Dance Company, the Upper School’s dance troupe.                              

Physical Education

First grade classes meet five days out of 10 for 50 minutes. The main emphasis of the physical education (PE) program is individual skill development and cooperative interaction. PE in the Lower School strives to provide the best opportunity for physical activity for students. The goal is to develop healthy, responsible students who have the knowledge, skills and mindset to work together in groups, think critically and participate in a variety of activities that lead to a sustainable healthy lifestyle. The students explore and refine basic movement patterns and are exposed to exploratory and discovery experiences involving body awareness, spatial orientation, basic body actions, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, rhythmic movement, and an introduction to team sports such as badminton, soccer, tennis and basketball. Yoga is also introduced to first grade students as part of overall mindfulness and well-being. 

World Languages

Three languages are offered in the Lower School: Chinese, French and Spanish. In K–2, students practice each language with an emphasis on oral communication reinforced through songs, games, role playing, language-based websites and a broad survey of the representative culture. In grades 3-5, students focus on one language, utilizing a variety of learning tools such as total physical response, Symtalk, poems and plays. Writing and reading skills are developed with the support of books, audio and interactive technology. Girls choose their focus language as they enter third grade. Chinese and one Romance language are offered each year. The Romance language could be Spanish or French, depending on the student’s year of entry. 

First grade girls are given exposure to three languages during the year. Classes are taught five days out of the 10 day cycle for 30 minutes. Projects, games and performances at our Lower School morning meetings showcase their learning. 

Informational Literacy/Technology

With over 11,000 thousand books in the Lower School library and an iPad for every student, girls are given endless access to thoughts, ideas, stories, and research that are both current and timeless. Girls in grades K-5 receive weekly instruction in using the library for research and literature appreciation. Library classes provide exposure to many kinds of literature genres and monthly book clubs provide enrichment opportunities for young readers.  

RPCS believes that technology can foster and ignite some of the most creative ideas. With our 1:1 iPad program and a dedicated Innovation Lab, we provide students with endless ways to be curious and creative. Our technology program provides tools that are completely integrated into our classrooms and supports learning across all content areas. This integration provides students with purposeful access to research tools, digital libraries, content specific apps, and creative tools. Our Innovation Lab provides a dedicated makerspace filled with state of the art 3D printers, building tools, green screens, and materials for students to design and develop their ideas. The Lower School has a dedicated technology integrationist to help provide instruction and support for students, as well as, learning opportunities and technology integration planning for our faculty.  

Values, Character Education and Social Emotional Learning

At each grade level of the Lower School, girls’ social and emotional intelligence is intentionally developed. This attention to the whole child is woven into every activity, not just a once-a-week course. Through the use of Responsive Classroom and The Toolbox Project curricula, girls in grades K–5 learn how to recognize the traits in themselves and others that lead to healthy relationships and a sense of personal well-being. Toolbox lessons are taught by the Lower School counselor to give the girls access to the 12 tools within themselves that build self-regulation skills. The Responsive Classroom approach fosters respect and empathy. In addition, daily morning meeting time is used to build an understanding of unique qualities of culture, race and circumstance that enriches our community. Our girls leave Lower School with a moral compass, prepared to see the good in others and appreciate the good within themselves.
•    First grade girls gain practice with the 12 Toolbox tools: breathing, quiet/safe place, listening, empathy, personal space, using our words, garbage can, taking time, please and thank you, apology and forgiveness, patience, and courage. 
•    Through Responsive Classroom, the girls develop classroom expectations and practice being a good citizen. They learn to express themselves and solve conflict through listening and conversation. In addition, first grade girls are tasked with using self-advocacy skills to ask for help and request personal space. Morning meeting time builds community and empathy for each other. 
•    Lunch as a classroom is a time for the girls to explore the ideas of healthy eating, make colorful choices on their plate, hold respectful conversations, and use quiet time to listen to stories of individuals that made a difference in the world. 

Special Events

The grade one experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:
●    Fall harvest feast
●    January dance with the Roses
●    Poetry festival
●    Community walk to learn about goods and services
●    Spring harvest feast