Grade One

Grade one brings together boys from either our Kindergarten or Prep-One programs and outside schools. The skills necessary to form good relationships - how to solve conflict, find positive ways to communicate ideas, and build respect for everyone’s diverse interests - weave into all subject areas. Boys leave first grade with the communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills needed to succeed in Lower School and beyond.

In Grade One, your son will study:

Language Arts

Grade one boys 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 reader’s workshop strategies, and developing communication skills through the writing process. Handwriting is taught and practiced daily.


During the first grade year the emphasis is on building a strong foundation in numeration and number theory. Units for the year include: sorting/patterns/attributes, addition and addition strategies, subtraction and subtraction strategies, addition and subtraction relationships, tangrams, place value/skip counting, two digit addition, greater than/less than, basic fractions, time, money, and measurement. Problem solving and critical thinking are large parts of the first grade curriculum.

Social Studies

The idea of what it means to be a community is expanded upon from the Prep-One and kindergarten years. The boys explore their own campus and learn about the individuals that make it function. They learn about goods and services while exploring the community beyond Gilman in Roland Park. Holidays and religions that our community values are discussed and celebrated. Units of study include American Presidents, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Ruby Bridges. A unit on Tall Tales is followed by an interdisciplinary unit on Westward Expansion. This unit builds on the themes of geography- location, place, and movement and culminates in a day-long celebration of learning known as “Pioneer Day.”


First grade boys explore waves and sound as they use drums, tuning forks, prisms, boxes and other tools to create various waves they can see and feel. They study seven basic habitats and use technology and recycled supplies to create their own planet complete with herbivores, carnivores, and decomposers, similar to habitats found on Earth. Another unit takes them from space to earth. They explore the atmosphere, weather, water cycle, and plants along the way. The unit concludes with a recycling project which focuses on how to be better stewards of our world.


The philosophy and work of Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), Hungarian composer and music educator, provide the foundation for the lower school vocal program. The boys develop musical skill in pitch, rhythm, form, and harmony and learn a large repertoire of songs with an emphasis on American folk songs. They grow in competency as choral music performers and music readers, and they listen to classical and folk music from around the world. Folk dancing and children’s musical games are an important component of the lower school program.  Twice a year, all students highlight their performance skills in concerts that include singing, dancing, and instrumental playing.  In addition to their own personal skills and performance, all students are exposed yearly to a concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Students learn to differentiate between high and low sounds and identify the difference between beat and rhythm. They are introduced to several solfège notes throughout the year, including so, mi, la, and do. The students begin to read this limited note set on a five line staff and use the “do clef” to begin to discover the different placements of the home note, do. Additionally, the note values of quarter notes, quarter rests, and eighth notes are an integral part of their music literacy throughout grade one.


The art program encourages the student to express himself creatively and explore the world from an artist’s vantage point. The lower school art program aims to foster the creative growth of each individual student while exposing him to a wide range of art styles and forms. Through engaging and fun instruction our students are exposed to many aspects of art.  Students learn to use art vocabulary, as well as respond to and  appreciate art. The art program Includes drawing, painting, collage, constructing, printmaking, and ceramics.

The first grade art program explores a variety of artists and mediums. The boys begin the year expanding their art vocabulary to include the term “highlight.” Shape, form, and color are then introduced as aspects of good sculpture. The boys create a mixed media monster sculpture in paper mache. A study of French painter, Henri Rousseau, provides inspiration for the boys winter project. The First Grade boys use craft paper and tempera paint to create their own dramatic tropical landscapes. The boys continue working in mixed media to create “Jasper Johns-like” American flags. To introduce the boys to working with clay, they work on simple hand building techniques and create a “pinch pot” with a lid. Dazzling colors are used to glaze the artwork before it is taken home.

Physical Education

The lower school physical education curriculum includes physical education, aquatics, and athletics. Aquatics instruction starts in the Prep-One year and continues through Fifth Grade. Kindergarten through Fifth Grade receive a spiraling program of individual and group experiences. Sportsmanship, cooperation, and skill development are given high priority in all elementary grades. Specific traits of the Gilman Five are reinforced such as humility, respect, and excellence.

First grades boys receive 45 minutes of instruction eight days out of the ten day cycle. Homerooms rotate through swimming every four days. The aquatic component stresses water safety, coordination, and skill development.

Design and Woodworking

The Design and Woodworking program is designed to include hands-on instruction and learning. The objective of the program is to expose the students to the art of craftsmanship, teaching them how to use basic tools and follow a specific set of instructions to produce objects that are both useful and beautiful. Projects build sequentially based on students’ age and skill. As the ability to manipulate tools gets better, the projects increase in degree of difficulty. This program further builds skills such as perseverance and patience. Safety is a top priority and emphasized in every class.

First grade boys become acclimated to the shop. They learn to follow pattern designs, shape and texture wood with rasps, hammer and nails, and join wood pieces. Keeping physical balance while accomplishing tasks with manipulation tools like a hand saw, file, and abrasive paper is practiced. Examples of projects include making a small log cabin.

French or Spanish

The Modern Language program includes French and Spanish. All boys in a grade study the same language. After Kindergarten, they study that assigned language for the rest of their lower school years. Classes meet six times during a ten day cycle.

The lower school’s foreign language courses are taught using activities that will develop listening comprehension and conversational skills. Culture is used to deliver the content of different curricular units, and exposure to a variety of cultures that speak Spanish or French is an integral part of the program. The goals of the program are to expose the students to the language, to help them develop basic conversational skills, and to introduce them to the language used in its cultural context.The environment of the class is of one of neutrality and at no moment is there a preference for one culture or another.


With over 18,000 books, and access to multiple databases and digital content the lower school library, also known as the William Passano Library, offers the boys a rich, global collection of contemporary materials to explore. Students enjoy the library daily, as a space to research and for reading. Weekly classes with the librarian allows the boys to delve into research, explore what makes an award winning story or illustration, and learn about genres that may expand their reading experiences. Additionally, the librarian collaborates with the classroom teachers to support and enrich studies covered throughout the academic year. Building curious, confident, and avid readers who love reading is the goal of the library program.

Grade One boys will explore the features of distinctive illustrations in books and continue to make meaning from the text and supporting art. Students also engage in a literature study of tall tales and folktales.

Special Events

The grade one experience is highlighted by a number of special events including:

  • Presidential Parade
  • Mitten Story Presentation
  • Camden Yards Tour
  • Pioneer Day
  • Grade Five Big Buddies
Camden Yards Tour
Camden Yards Tour
Camden Yards Tour
Pioneer Day
Pioneer Day
Pioneer Day
Pioneer Day
Presidential Parade
Presidential Parade
Presidential Parade
Presidential Parade
Presidential Parade
Student-Teacher Ratio  
Kindergarten 7-9:1
Prep-One 7-9:1
First 15-17:1
Second 15-17:1
Third 15-17:1
Fourth 15-17:1
Fifth 15-17:1