First grade instructional programs in Palo Alto schools are committed to helping each child meet the academic and intellectual competencies expected at this grade level and become an active, engaged learner in a classroom setting. The following summary of the instructional program provides an overview of the first grade year. The first grade program builds on skills and knowledge children have learned in Kindergarten and at home. It encourages critical thinking, creativity, and respect for self and others. The manner of instruction—motivation, grouping, pacing, reinforcing and reteaching—is determined by each teacher as he or she works to meet individual student needs. Expectations are, of course, modified or expanded to meet a child’s needs and abilities.

Curriculum standards are what all grade-level students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a school year. Key standards of kindergarten education are highlighted below. All K-5 teachers will continue efforts to fully implement the California Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by making strategic instructional shifts in both English Language Arts and Mathematics. Instruction will be adjusted to best meet the needs of all students.

In first grade, each student will . . .

Language Arts

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language Arts

As part of the shift to the Common Core State Standards, students will be working toward College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards (CCR) in language arts. These anchor standards describe the skills of graduating twelfth grade students, and are all included in the specific kindergarten through fifth grade standards at the appropriate developmental level for each grade. There are ten standards for reading, ten for writing, six in the area of listening and speaking, and six in language. These standards include reading closely for deeper meaning, analyzing details, interpreting and using evidence, integrating and evaluating content from various multimedia sources, writing routinely over extended time frames for different purposes using different forms of technology (including the internet), and more.  For a list of the specific 32 kindergarten through 5th grade language arts College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards


  • decodes grade-level materials
  • comprehends grade-level materials
  • reads grade-level materials with fluency
  • retells a story including characters and beginning, middle, ending
  • compares and contrasts experiences of characters
  • knows and uses informational text features
  • asks and answers questions about the main topic and details in a text
  • explains major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information
  • identifies similarities/differences between 2 texts on the same topic
  • identifies meaning of words in a variety of texts

Writing/Word Work

  • writes upper and lowercase letters legibly
  • uses capital letters (names, beginning of a sentence) and ending punctuation (period, question mark)
  • uses phonetic spelling and some spelling patterns correctly
  • spells and uses high-frequency words correctly
  • uses descriptive words in writing
  • writes narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details, and provide closure
  • writes opinion pieces including name of topic/book, an opinion and reason, and closure
  • writes informative/explanatory texts including some facts about the topic and closure


  • actively listens to speaker
  • follows multi-step directions
  • makes relevant comments and questions during discussions

The major shifts in mathematics education for all grade levels are the Standards for Mathematical Practice.  These standards are the same for kindergarten through 12th grade students.  The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should focus on in developing their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education.  The 8 Math Practice Standards emphasize the importance of students’ ability to explain and apply mathematical concepts to solve a range of complex problems. The 8 Math Practice Standards also emphasize how to precisely construct viable arguments to support their own reasoning, and critique the reasoning of others.

Math Practice Standards

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

For more information about the Common Core Math Practice standards visit

Operations and Algebraic Thinking

  • adds and subtracts within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10
  • knows the corresponding subtraction facts for addition facts (sums to 10) and commits them to memory
  • determines the unknown whole number in an addition/subtraction equation
  • represents equivalent forms of the same number using physical models and number expressions (to 20)
  • creates and solves story problems involving addition and subtraction

Number and Operations in Base Ten

  • counts, reads, and writes whole numbers to 120
  • counts and groups objects in ones and tens
  • identifies one more than, one less than, 10 more than, 10 less than a given number
  • compares and orders whole numbers to 120 using the <, >, and =

Measurement and Data

  • compares the length, weights and volume of two or more objects by using direct comparison or a nonstandard unit
  • represents, compares, and interprets data by using pictures, bar graphs, tally charts and picture graphs


  • identifies, describes, and compares triangles, rectangles, squares and circles
  • creates and combines 2-D and 3-D shapes to make new shapes
  • partitions circles and rectangles appropriately identifying them as halves, fourths, and quarters

Problem Solving and Mathematical Reasoning

  • makes decisions about how to set up a problem: determines approach, materials, and strategies
  • solves problems and justifies own reasoning by drawing, writing or verbalizing answer

Data Analysis and Probability

  • represents, compares, and interprets data by using pictures, bar graphs, tally charts and picture graphs
  • sorts objects and data by common attributes and describes their categories

In science, PAUSD uses the Full Option Science System (FOSS) program K-5. The program features a life, earth, and physical science hands-on unit at each grade level.  Teachers strive to integrate reading, writing, and math within science. By focusing on informational writing and non-fiction text science aligns more closely with reading and writing.  California has adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and PAUSD is currently exploring these new standards and who they will affect teaching and learning.



Life Science

Earth Science

Physical Science


Animals 2 x 2


Wood and Paper


Plants and Animals

Air and Weather

Solids and Liquids


Insects and Plants

Pebbles, Sand and Silt

Balance and Motion


Structures of Life/Baylands

Sun, Moon and Stars

Matter and Energy



Solid Earth

Magnetism and Electricity


Living Systems

Water Planets

Mixtures and Solutions

Scientific Process Skills

  • Perform investigations to answer a question or test a prediction
  • Record observations and data with pictures, numbers, or written statements
  • Draw accurate diagrams with labels
  • Make new observations when discrepancies exist between two descriptions of the same object or phenomenon

Physical, Life, and Earth, Science standards encountered through participation in units of study: Solids and Liquids, Plants and Animals, and Air and Weather

  • Know different plants and animals inhabit different kinds of environments and have external features that help them thrive in different kinds of places 
  • Know both plants and animals need water, animals need food, and plants need light
  • Know roots are associated with the intake of water and soil nutrients and green leaves are associated with making food from sunlight
  • Know how to use simple tools (e.g. thermometer, wind vane) to measure weather conditions and record changes from day to day and across the seasons
  • Know that the weather changes from day to day but that trends in temperature or rain (or snow) tend to be predictable during a season
  • Know that the sun warms the land, air, and water
  • Know solids, liquids, and gases have different properties
  • The properties of substances can change when the substances are mixed, cooled, or heated

Palo Alto Unified School District adopted Social Studies Alive! by Teachers Curriculum Institute. This program is aligned with the California History Social Science Frameworks and the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

This program truly engages students in learning. Student will be an active participant instead of a passive observer by experiencing history through imaginative teaching practices that include dramatic role playing, creative simulations, dynamic group projects, and writing from a historical perspective. Student’s program contains exciting lesson games, audio tools, and drawing activities, as well as an Interactive Student Notebook.

Social Studies Alive! My School and Family introduces the structures of schools and families. Students learn how to get along with classmates, follow school rules, and identify people who work at a school.

Visual and Performing Arts

Visual Arts

  • Begin to identify the elements of art in the environment, and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape, form and texture
  • Mix secondary colors from primary colors and describe the process
  • Create artwork based on observations of actual objects and everyday scenes
  • Select something they like about their work of art and something they would change

Music and the Performing Arts

  • Read, notate, listen to and describe music
  • Sing songs with accuracy and use hand percussion instruments to play rhythmic and melodic ostinatos
  • Sing and play songs from diverse cultures
  • Make judgments about the quality of a musical performance
  • Describe how music communicates ideas and moods


Physical Education
  • Improve in balance, locomotor, hand-eye coordination, ball skills
  • Increase body strength through physical activities
  • Participate in group games
  • Demonstrate good health practices (e.g. nutrition, exercise, rest, health care)
Library Media Program
  • Information Literacy: Students learn to find, evaluate and use information in meaningful and responsible ways
  • Library and Information Usage: Students learn to practice ethical and responsible behavior
  • Literature Appreciation: Students learn to choose, enjoy and respond to a wide variety of literature