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Welcome to first grade at shady side academy junior School!






First Grade Overview




Language Arts/Balanced Literacy 

The goal of Balanced Literacy is to help children become readers and writers who enjoy and value literacy. 

Balanced Literacy is a framework designed to help all students learn to read and write effectively.  The program stands firmly on the premise that all students can learn to read and write.  This balance between reading and writing allows students to receive the teaching needed in order to succeed, while allowing students to work at a level that is not frustrating for them.

Teachers implementing Balanced  Literacy use an integrated approach to teaching language arts. The Balanced Literacy framework consists of a number of elements that provide massive amounts of reading and writing on a daily basis.  These authentic opportunities for reading and writing are arranged on a continuum based on more or less teacher support.  Some reading and writing tasks are modeled by the teachers and others are accomplished with he support of the teacher, leading to a few that are done independently by the child.

Balanced Literacy provides many opportunities real l life reading and writing experiences in a child-centered classroom. Children read and write each day independently and in group settings (both large and small).  Balanced Literacy classrooms focus on four different types of reading experiences:

  • Reading aloud to children
  • Shared reading-whole class
  • Guided reading-small group
  • Independent reading


First Grade uses the Wilson Fundations program as a complement to their balanced literacy approach.  This program is designed for children to gain phonemic awareness and phonics skills through direct, multi-sensory instruction.  Fundations provides all students with a foundation for reading and spelling.  Fundations instruction emphasizes phonemic awareness, phonics-word study, high frequency word study, fluency, vocabulary, handwriting, spelling, and some comprehension strategies.   


The First Grade is proud to utilize the Writing Workshop approach to writing instruction. Founded by guru, Lucy Caulkins, in cooperation with Columbia University Teachers College, this program allows young writers to develop their skills in an environment that encourages risk taking.  Daily blocks of writing allow for mini-lessons, time to write as individuals, sharing with peers, and examining mentor texts.  Writing genres being explored this year include: narrative (small moment) stories, informational ("teaching books") texts, poetry/songs, writing reviews, and the creation of fiction.


The first grade mathematics is "Math in Focus/Singapore Math" from Houghton Mifflin.  This year, first graders will focus on:  building problem solving skills and strategies, counting, comparing, and writing numbers to 100, adding and subtracting one-digit and two-digit numbers. classifying and sorting shapes and patterns, measuring length and weight, and using calendars, time, and money.

 Social Studies

The first grade social studies program focuses on the following themes:  friendship, North American Harvest, Patriotic Symbols, Canada, Winter Olympics (2014 only), Famous Americans, and Mexico.


Teacher Biography: 

  My name is Jen Keller and I have been a classroom teacher for 25 years. Fourteen  of those years have been spent here at Shady Side.  My classroom is a busy and colorful place that enables children to challenge themselves as readers, writers, and problem solvers.  Together, with my partner teacher, Carol Hendershot our curriculum touches on many high interest topics that children eagerly embrace.  I look forward to working cooperatively with you and your child to make this school year a fun and productive experience. 


Contact information:

Jen Keller

SSA Voicemail: 412-473-4408

E-Mail:  jkeller@shadysideacademy.org    *Preferred method of contact*


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