The children are now moving into a phase of development in which they slowly become aware of their capacity to think and to use that capacity more and more consciously. The First Grade curriculum is rich in movement, music, language and thinking adventures of all kinds. The children are ready, at this time in their biographies, to take on the more abstract world of learning to read, write and work with written numbers.
Wisdoms carried in folk tales, nature stories and stories created by the teachers, are passed on to the children in First Grade. These kinds of stories are chosen since the characters in such stories tend to be simple representatives of certain human characteristics and thus accessible to a child of this age. The morality in these stories tends to be uncomplicated and clear-cut and provides a basis upon which the child can develop an ever more complex and differentiated picture of the world and its people. They have a simple morality and give the children an opportunity to begin to discern certain qualities in human beings. In their apparent simplicity, they offer the children a clear-cut idea of what is “good” and what is “not good.”
When the children are introduced to the letters of the alphabet, the teacher works from the sound to the abstract form – from the living movement of speech to the still written form. Thus each letter is embedded in a story in which this sound has an important part to play and similarities in shape to the form of the letter are sought within the story. It is of the utmost importance that the child forms a strong relationship to the sound before it dies onto the page.
In this way, it is the sound of the letter in the words used in the story that helps the children connect to what eventually becomes the abstract shape on the page. The love of speech and language is retained and the pictorial quality, which is now missing in Western script, is restored in the introductory phase.
Poems and stories are learned and when the children have been introduced to all the letters, they begin to write the texts that they know – thus correct reading of especially a non-phonetic language like English is made possible. The first experience of reading is a positive one. An added effect is that the children associate the act of reading with discovering the beautiful texts that they know in a written form.
Just as with the letters, the numbers are introduced in a context. Stories suggesting how human beings began writing down numbers are told, the quality of the numbers are introduced to the children, so that the relationship to numbers and counting is developed from a true understanding of what numbers are. The introduction of the actual symbol for the number comes at the end of a process of getting to know the use of numbers through the medium of stories.
The four processes are also presented to the children in such a way that they get a picture of the actual activity of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division before they work with the abstract form of : 30 = 5 x 6. From First through Third Grade, the children always work with whole numbers, as they still experience themselves as one with the whole, i.e. as being in complete symbiosis with the world and the adults around them. Great care is taken to help the children from the very beginning to think accurately and clearly.
The first multiplication tables are learned rhythmically, chorally and then individually.
Form drawing gives the children a chance to move through variations on the theme, “straight and curved lines." The children draw simple forms, mirror the forms, transform forms and begin to create symmetrical forms. The more consciously they move the forms the more beautiful they become. They begin to enjoy the ability of the human eye and hand to create forms on the page. Form drawing is one of the beginning experiences of geometry that the children will later study.