At Columbia’s City Garden School, First Grade begins its journey into the land of letters – of writing and reading. Children learn in many ways, such as through movement, music, and poetry, but one of the fundamental ways a first grader learns is through the ancient art of storytelling.

The City Garden School first grade curriculum uses stories to introduce each letter in the alphabet, each number, and many other aspects as well. Stories create connections and context and enliven education in a very real way.

Fairy tales, the teacher tells, introduce each letter, which is presented pictorially. Eventually, students draw the letter in their main lesson books. For instance, the teacher might tell the fairytale of the magic fish to introduce the letter “F,” drawing the “f” in such a way as to show how the letter carries the shape of the fish. Introducing the letters in this way makes the very abstract idea of putting symbols on paper that represent sounds much more accessible. Even the children who already know how to read find the process delightful and get to know and appreciate each letter in a new way. During this block, the children begin to put the letters together into words, and the learning-to-read process is off to a successful start.

Our first graders are wrapping up the remainder of the letters with the vowels. For these, instead of merely describing a sound, we additionally relate it to a feeling. They heard a story of the moon and the feeling of surprise and delight it brings. The children drew an owl in the dark woods observing the moon, and with an “Ohh,” the owl hooted its surprise!

The “picture story” is a story told by the teacher while the children draw pictures in their Main Lesson books.

Stay up to date with City Garden School class updates on following blog posts!