1st Grade

In first grade, our goal is to actively engage students in their own learning process. We emphasize hands-on experiences that take into account individual interests and learning styles, and keep class sizes small so that teachers can cater to the needs of each child. We place great value on self-discovery, incorporating open-ended activities that foster skill acquisition and creative expression.

First graders are encouraged to become contributing members of their community. Children learn to listen and show respect for others, demonstrate compassion and empathy, and cooperate with peers. Teachers are guides and role models within a safe, loving and inspiring environment.

Program Overview

Cognitive Development

Language Arts


  • Recognizing upper and lower case letters
  • Demonstrating phonemic awareness
  • Using multiple strategies to construct meaning in reading
  • Identifying common sight words
  • Exploring word families
  • Expanding reading strategies

Expressive and Receptive Language

  • Understanding and responding appropriately to stories and discussions
  • Using prior knowledge to make meaningful connections
  • Participating in discussions
  • Sharing ideas with others during playtime
  • Engaging in conversation with adults
  • Listening to and reacting to the contributions of others


  • Expressing ideas through words and pictures
  • Forming letters correctly
  • Writing with phonetic/inventive spelling
  • Generating ideas for writing
  • Writing legibly using upper and lower case letters
Mathematical Thinking
  • Demonstrating an understanding of symbolic representations
  • Understanding the relationship between numbers and quantities
  • Understanding the concepts of addition and subtraction
  • Understanding place value through 1’s, 10’s & 100's
  • Estimating and measuring using nonstandard units such as unifix cubes and Cuisenaire rods
  • Solving visual and spatial puzzles using pattern blocks, tangrams and linker cubes
  • Identifying geometric shapes and their attributes
  • Creating and identifying a variety of shapes and patterns
  • Utilizing different strategies to solve problems involving manipulatives, words or pictures
  • Recalling addition facts to 10
  • Creating and discussing data in graphs and charts
STEAM Discovery Lab Program
  • Continuing a focus on the scientific method: questioning, hypothesizing, predicting, developing awareness, observing, challenging former beliefs and documenting observations and data
  • Developing familiarity with a variety of methods to devise strategies for tackling proposed queries and tasks
  • Using previous knowledge and experience in approaching new problems
  • Learning to work independently and collaboratively
  • Drawing inferences based on findings
  • Exploring recycling to learn what happens to glass, paper, plastic, metal and textiles transported to recycling centers, including a visit to a Brooklyn recycling center
  • Following the seasons and learning about the natural world through visits to Central Park
  • Exploring home construction by considering needed personnel, equipment and machines as well as visits to local building sites
  • Learning about food production, including requirements for plant growth, technology used in farming, packaging and transportation of food
Social Studies
  • Recognizing self and others as having shared and different characteristics
  • Identifying similarities and differences in patterns of living and cultures
  • Understanding different family structures and roles
  • Understanding how people affect the environment
  • Expressing beginning geographical thinking
  • Showing an interest in community service activities
  • Engaging in thematic units of study such as the mammal study
  • Exposure to Spanish vocabulary and phrases through movement, games, stories, and art projects
  • Exploration of culture through stories, activities and food preparation
  • Drawing and painting with attention to detail
  • Recognizing shapes in art
  • Creating representational drawings
  • Adding details to drawings
  • Mixing primary colors to create secondary colors
  • Exploring artistic styles through author studies and visits to art museums
  • In music, exploring musical concepts and terminology, Spanish language and other cultures through song
  • In theater/movement, playing roles, developing imagination and creativity and participating in ensemble work

Physical Development

  • Controlling and using small toys and manipulatives
  • Using scissors and other classroom tools
  • Holding a pencil correctly
  • Managing self with buttons, laces and zippers
  • Showing awareness of body location in space
  • Fostering positive emotional connection to movement
  • Learning to work together safely with respect for self and others

Personal and Social Development

  • Showing curiosity as a learner
  • Demonstrating creativity and inventiveness
  • Working well in small and large groups
  • Persisting with challenges
  • Attempting multiple solutions to solve problems
  • Sustaining focus and attention
  • Using a variety of materials to explore and express ideas
  • Following multi-step directions
  • Demonstrating self-confidence
  • Transitioning easily and adapting to changes in schedule and routine
  • Demonstrating initiative and self-direction
  • Managing emotions and behaviors
  • Showing empathy and caring for others
  • Interacting cooperatively with peers
  • Demonstrating positive ways to solve conflicts
  • Forming positive relationships with adults
  • Following classroom rules and routines
  • Using words to solve conflicts
  • Developing a sense of responsibility to the community

Routines/Weekly Schedule


  • Refining listening and speaking skills
  • Reading and discussing the daily schedule
  • Identifying the day and date on a monthly calendar
  • Practicing turn-taking
  • Increasing attention span
  • Making contributions to group discussions
  • Listening to and respecting the ideas of others
  • Introducing academic concepts and teacher directed activities

Work Time

  • Practicing new concepts, skills and using new materials
  • Participating in follow up activities related to all academic concepts
  • Working independently or in a small group with a teacher
  • Lengthening attention span
  • Practicing reading and writing
  • Seeing a task or activity through to completion
  • Participation in Math Stations
  • Engaging in one on one reading time with classroom teacher

Choice Time

  • Exploring the learning centers (e.g. blocks, writing center, math center, science area)
  • Encouraging conversations and the sharing of ideas
  • Practicing cooperative play
  • Developing individual interests, strengths and passions
  • Discovering new areas of interest
  • Strengthening friendships and developing new relationships

Outdoor Play

  • Practicing social skills
  • Interacting with students in other classes
  • Learning to share and take turns using outdoor equipment
  • Developing gross motor skills
  • Taking appropriate risks
  • Participating in group games


  • Singing, dancing and movement games
  • Developing coordination, rhythm and different ways of moving
  • Playing and handcrafting musical instruments
  • Learning Spanish songs and culture
  • Participating in an ensemble performance

Physical Education

  • Developing spatial awareness
  • Encouraging cooperation and good listening skills
  • Practicing responsible social behavior in a physically active setting
  • Practicing ball handling skills
  • Developing cardiovascular and muscular fitness through use of fundamental motor skills.

2nd Grade

The engaging 2nd grade curriculum and strong student-teacher relationships support individual and community growth.

Students spend most of their day with a cluster or main teacher who teaches language arts, mathematics and social studies. Classes in science, Spanish, music, theater, library and physical education are taught by specialist teachers.

Program Overview

Language Arts

Reading instruction in second grade utilizes a personalized balanced approach based on the individual student. An emphasis is placed on developing independence, reading for meaning and building stamina. Students participate in interactive read-aloud as well as shared, guided and independent reading. Students are given guidance and are encouraged to choose books independently for their daily reading in school and at home. Specific reading skills and strategies taught are determined by the strengths and needs of each student. Explicit instruction is provided through group lessons and individual reading conferences. Students enjoy responding to their own reading, discussing books and offering recommendations to others. Second grade writers engage in meaningful writing experiences that allow students to take their ideas through all stages of the writing process. Children are excited and empowered by communicating their ideas with wider audiences through the written word. Students generate their own ideas, plan, organize and draft their writing before further developing their work through elaboration, revision and editing. Writing mechanics, spelling and handwriting instruction is based on students’ strengths and needs. Specific skills and strategies are taught through demonstration, shared writing and individual writing conferences.

Through shared and independent writing projects, children are exposed to a variety of genres that include both narrative and non-narrative structures. Second graders write signs, letters, lists, information books, persuasive reviews, poetry and stories. A strong emphasis is placed on writing with purpose and audience in mind. Students share their writing with their peers, other classes, and during “Meet the Author” events where families are invited to read and talk about their children’s work.


The second grade mathematics program features a series of investigations, which are revisited with greater complexity throughout the year. Particular emphasis is placed on developing an understanding and some comfort with addition and subtraction. Students also explore place value, the base ten number system and numerical patterns like skip counting and multiples. Several activities introduce the essential vocabulary and concepts of geometry in a fun, puzzle-solving context. Buildings, floors and rooms provide a context for understanding multiplication and division as second graders use skip counting and repeated addition to calculate the number of rooms in buildings of varying dimensions. Students consider the number of chairs that could be placed around and on top of different sized tables as a context for understanding perimeter and area.

With every topic and skill covered, students begin with tangible, scale representations of the numbers they are manipulating. Through games and building activities, students reinforce their understanding of math concepts while beginning to develop ease in performing calculations. Eventually students move from concrete, one-to-one representations to the more abstract, shorthand representations of written numbers and operation symbols. Our primary mode of engaging with math concepts and skills is through games. In the context of gameplay, students have a strong motivation to practice operations repeatedly and with greater efficiency over time. Many of our games also leave room for strategy as students learn to use the logic of the game to improve their odds of winning. Eventually, we approach each concept in a more traditional written form to develop students’ ability to communicate their work and solutions.

Social Studies

The primary focus of second grade Social Studies is an exploration of New York City's essential features. Students are exposed to the city through a variety of resources. They gain a comprehensive vision by visiting museums and historic sites, reading age-appropriate texts and participating in experiential activities, discussions and collaborative projects. Major units of study include skyscrapers, mapping, transportation, architecture, communities and neighborhoods, boroughs and city landmarks that include the iconic emblems like the Little Red Lighthouse, Grand Central Terminal, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge. Each unit is reinforced by participation in hands-on projects. Students plan and paint a city block, design and create original buildings, and create model parks and cities. They use a variety of resources including maps from the NY Aquarium and zoos and museums, fiction and non-fiction books, maps, videos and web-based sources. Field trips play an integral role in supplementing class work and visits have included the Skyscraper Museum, The Little Red Lighthouse, Queens Museum of Art, Center for Architecture Foundation, the NYC Transit Museum, Highline Park, Circle Line Tours and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.


Students meet twice per six-day cycle in Calhoun's Discovery Lab for projects that focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) objectives. Using thought-provoking materials, students devise strategies to tackle suitable challenges, make predictions, manipulate materials, document and share observations and draw conclusions. Students engage in both independent and collaborative activities. Topics of study include rocks and minerals, magnetism, weather, electricity, engineering and astronomy.


Students meet four times per six-day cycle with a native Spanish speaker experienced in theater and dance. Through movement, song, stories and games, students joyfully learn Spanish vocabulary and phrases. Collaboration between subject teachers and the Spanish specialist connects themes that students are exploring in their classes with Spanish vocabulary, including writing Español in their journals. Students are also exposed to many aspects of Spanish culture while learning the language.


The second grade year in the art class is a year of exploration and discovery. Students are introduced to new materials and techniques. They become familiar with the art studio. Students are acquainted with the location of materials, which allows them to be independent young artists with a command of their environment. Second grade art students begin the year drawing self-portraits. They are encouraged to incorporate details in their work. After the frontal view is complete, students are challenged to turn the paper over to create drawings of the back view. They were comfortable with the frontal view. However, the back view presented an interesting confusion. It made the students think. This is a classic assignment, which challenges the student to move from the familiar to the unknown. Second grade students also explore color. They enjoy listening to the classic children’s book, "Little Blue and Little Yellow" by Leo Lionni. After discussing primary and secondary colors, students go on “color hunts.” Color samples are cut from magazines and glued to cardboard to create individual Color Wheels. The poem, "Color" by Christina Rosetti is also read to the second graders. The completed Color Wheels will aid in future color-mixing for painting activities.

Students explore shape repetition through stamp printing activities. The basic weaving technique, creating the “over-under” alternating pattern, is introduced. The second weaving activity presents a higher level of complexity. Students are encouraged to construct their own looms and experiment with the weaving technique. Second grade art offers several painting experiences. Students create original sunflower paintings inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s sunflowers. Students are particularly invested in a puppet-making project. They constructed cardboard stick-puppets with movable appendages. Students use fabric and yarn to realize their creative visions. Paper bag puppets are also created. Art skills are taught sequentially and built on experience. During the year, students will have experiences with drawing, painting, printmaking, weaving, design, fabric arts and collage. When class work is complete, students enjoy pursuing personal interests. Drawing and construction with blocks continue to be favorite activities.

The art studio is a special place where every child is free to experiment with materials, take risks with his or her work, gain confidence in their abilities and develop skills in problem solving. It is a place where every child’s artwork is displayed and every child’s effort is celebrated.

Physical Education

Our physical education classes focus on fitness, skill development, confidence, sportsmanship and wellness. In line with Calhoun’s mission, students are challenged to be active and engaged while experiencing and learning new games, activities and drills. Students participate in a combination of cooperative and competitive games, which provide them with the confidence and skills they will utilize in all aspects of life. The focus in the second grade is on locomotor movements, spatial awareness, personal skill development and cooperation. Second graders also start their journey towards personal goal setting with fitness evaluations (cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility) and will continue this work throughout their Calhoun career. As students grow, elements of competition are slowly added to the games. Students are encouraged to learn and follow rules, work together and develop strategies.


Students express themselves through movement, speech, singing and instrument playing. In movement, second graders learn to skip, gallop and articulate their hands, feet, legs and arms in the manner of the Dalcroze method and the philosophy of Isadora Duncan. Developing a sense of self in space and building a repertoire of movements to express oneself are main goals. Students move on to organized folk dances, which also incorporate music theory concepts such as steady beat, meter, form, fast/slow and high/low.

Recorder instruction begins in second grade. Embouchure, holding the recorder with the left hand on top, covering the holes completely and playing in tune with one another, as well as b-a-g repertoire leading toward the C Major scale by the end of the year are explored. Singing begins with games, matching pitch, and exploring the full range of the young voice. Students prepare for musical programs throughout the year. These include: Hauntcert, Winter and Spring Sings, MLK assembly and Grandparents’ Day. Students combine singing, movement and instrument playing with pitched percussion Orff instruments (xylophones, metallophones and glockenspiels), along with many unpitched percussion instruments to accompany folk melodies and orchestra stories. Fieldtrips often include Backstage at the Ballet at Lincoln Center, the New Victory Theater, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Students joyfully create music together four times during the six-day cycle in a unique way at Calhoun: two classes as a cluster, a grade-level sing-along and a Lower School Assembly.