First & Second Grades

“Our teachers make everything so fun, but we still end up learning a lot!” --Second Grade student


Harbor’s first and second grade program is truly unique. Students “loop” from first to second grade with their peer group and teachers, learning in an environment where they are truly known and understood. This creates a classroom community where children feel safe taking risks while developing skills for future learning. The start of the second grade year is seamless, as teachers already know their students’ strengths, challenges, and interests.


The elementary years are a more formal time where children’s activities require a longer period of time to complete. This is an exciting time as reading and writing become a major focus of children’s lives and are integrated throughout the curriculum. Instruction in these subjects comes in varied forms - from reading and responding to the Morning Message, to instructional reading groups, to writing as a class or independently. Mathematics is formalized but contextual math investigations are also integrated into other subject areas like music and art; and science experiments may cross over into language, writing, math and art.


As the oldest children in the school, first and second graders shoulder greater responsibility. They are encouraged to see themselves as role models for the younger children and realize that teachers and other students have high expectations of them. They act as “buddies” to the Preschool children and serve as leaders in the school community.

Features of the First and Second Grade Program:

  • Students are encouraged to become self-motivated learners and critical thinkers.

  • Students are leaders in their community.

  • Developmentally appropriate integration of technology.

  • Individualized and differentiated instruction: Academic skills are acquired at an appropriate pace for each learner.

  • Experienced Educators: two expert teachers in each classroom, student-teacher ratio of 6:1.

  • Specials classes: P.E., Music, Library, Art, Spanish.

Curricular Highlights:

  • Mindfulness and Responsive Classroom methodologies.

  • Balanced literacy instruction includes Phonemic Awareness and Word Study, as well as Reading and Writing Workshop.

  • Handwriting: Continued instruction in handwriting and introduction to cursive.

  • Math instruction through the workshop approach: Everyday Math and Contexts for learning by Cathy Fosnott.

  • Programming and Engineering: LEGO Robotics, Circuitry.

  • Environmental Studies: Monarch Butterflies, Shad Restoration, Gardening and Composting, Anacostia Boat Trip.

  • Social Studies: City Planning Project, Continent Projects, Community Outreach.