First Grade Weekly Classroom Lessons

Below you will find the lessons we are doing each week in the classroom.  Additionally, you will see that for many lessons I have attached corresponding videos.  During the 2020-2021 school year I was unable to go into the classroom for my lessons, but I was able to create videos for the lessons to send home to students starring my cats Fiona and Logan.  The videos were a big hit so I have included them for families to watch at home so you can hear the same vocabulary and ideas that I am teaching the students in the classroom.  I hope you find them useful and entertaining.

*In first grade I spend several weeks reviewing information from kindergarten.  So for lessons related to big problem/small problem and big reaction/small reaction, you may want to visit the kindergarten page if you'd like to see the lessons broken down and more thoroughly explained.

**Due to conferences, holidays, and other events, classrooms will be on different lessons as the year progresses.  If you would like to know which lesson your student's classroom is currently learning, please just e-mail me and let me know 😊

Lesson 1:  Students listened to the story Whole Body Listening Larry at School.  This means that:

  • Eyes are looking at the person talking
  • Ears are listening to follow the directions the first time
  • Mouth is closed and our voice is off
  • Arms are still
  • Legs are still
  • Body is calm
  • We are using our brain to think about what the person is saying
  • We use our heart to pay attention to how the people around us are feeling

Whole body listening is language that is used all throughout first and second grade.  Hopefully your child can tell you or show you what it looks like and sounds like.

Corresponding video(s) from 2020-

               Whole body listening quiz-

Lesson 2:  We reviewed the idea of expected behaviors and unexpected behaviors for kindergarten.  I emphasize not thinking of behavior so much as good or bad, but more of are we doing what is expected in different situations.  We talk about how when we do what is expected people enjoy being around us, but when we do something unexpected that people usually feel uncomfortable and they may not want to be around us at that time.  With the teacher, we talk about different school routines and what is expected in different situations, as well as what is expected for how we treat each other.

Lesson 3: Review of Big Problem/Small Problem from kindergarten.  As a class we review the 3 things that make something a big problem in school (which means we want them to get an adult for help).  Those 3 things are when someone is hurt, something is broken, or something is scary or dangerous.  For 1st grade I add a fourth thing that makes something a big problem, if someone is hurting our feelings over and over. 

I also review using small reactions for our small problems instead of big reactions.  Big reactions are yelling, screaming, crying, kicking/hitting, whining, and pouting. We review the 4 small reactions I want them to try using at school; a shrug, a quiet sigh, snapping their fingers, or saying “oh well,” or “maybe next time” in a calm voice.  I also encourage the students to come up with their own small reactions.

               Big problem small problem 2020 introduction video-

               Big reaction small reaction 2020 video-

Lesson 4: Solving Problems non-verbal.  I explain to the students that this year we are going to break up our different ways to solve small problems into ways where we talk to solve a problem and ways where we don’t talk.  I explain that verbal means talking and non-verbal means not talking.  We review and practice the 4 non-verbal ways to address a small problem.  I also try to emphasize to the students that solving a small problem is not always about trying to prove you’re right and someone else is wrong (even when we know they are wrong).  Sometimes it’s just about trying to keep yourself and the situation calm instead of arguing.

               Solving small problems non-verbal 2020 video-

Lesson 5: Solving small problems verbal part 1.  We review Make a Deal and Please Stop from last year.  I heavily emphasize the importance of using a calm voice when solving a problem and we practice using our calm voice repeatedly.  We do a lot more role-playing in first grade to try and give the students as much practice as possible using these skills in situations that may come up during the school day.

  • Make a Deal- If you and another student want the same thing (whether that is to go first in a game or you both want the same item), instead of arguing try to make a deal where you each get something you want.  Examples given are typically “Can I please have the game/toy for 10 minutes and then you can have it for 10 minutes?”, or “You can have the game today if I can have it tomorrow?”  Another popular deal is “Can I please go in front of you in line right now and then you can go in front of me on the way back?”
  • Please Stop- Students are taught to use a calm voice and asking someone to please stop doing something that may be bothering them.  We role-play different scenarios and I emphasize to the kids that they should say exactly what they want the other person to stop.  Example: “Can you please stop talking to me while I’m doing my work.”

Make a Deal and Please Stop review 2020 video-

Lesson 6 Solving small problems verbal part 2.  We review and practice Apologizing and Talk It Out to solve small problems.  Talk it out is very difficult for most students at this age, so this is the one we do the most amount of practicing and role-playing. 

  • Apologize- I talk to students about how we all make mistakes or do things sometimes that bother other people even though we didn’t mean to upset anyone.  When that happens the best thing to do is apologize right away.  We practice using the calm voice to say sorry for what happened.  I really emphasize to students to not just say sorry, but to say exactly what they are sorry about.  Calm voice is also heavily emphasized so the apology sounds real.
  • Talk It Out- I teach the kids that there are two parts to Talk It Out.  Step 1. Tell the other person how you feel using an “I” message.  Ex. “I feel upset that you cut in front of me in line,” or “I feel sad that you took my toy from me.” Step 2. Tell the person what you would like to happen to solve the problem.  Ex. “Can you please go behind me in line,” or “Can I please have my toy back.”  Once again, using a calm voice is heavily emphasized. *In 2020 I did not include using an “I” message in the video, but it is something we encourage the students to use.

Apologize and Talk It Out review 2020 video-

Lesson 8-  Big Reaction/Small Reaction review.  We review how we want  Big reactions are yelling, screaming, crying, kicking/hitting, whining, and pouting. We review the 4 small reactions I want them to try using at school; a shrug, a quiet sigh, snapping their fingers, or saying “oh well,” or “maybe next time” in a calm voice.  I also encourage the students to come up with their own small reactions.  In first grade we also role-play different classroom problems that come up and using small reactions in those situations.  The students generally find this lesson very amusing and enjoy showing off their small reactions.  This is an easy lesson to adapt for home.

Big reaction small reaction 2020 video-

The following lessons utilize a virtual zones of regulation room that I created in 2020. Please click on this link to access the rooms.  My Zones of Regulation - Google Slides

The Zones lessons in first grade and kindergarten are very similar, however, in first grade we go much more in-depth when discussing our emotions and calming strategies.


Lesson 9: Zones of Regulation part 1.  I introduce the idea of the 4 zones of regulation: blue, green, yellow, and red.  I equate each zone to an energy level (instead of an emotion).  Blue zone is low energy, green zone is just right for being calm, focused, and learning, yellow zone is too much energy for focusing/learning, and red zone is out of control.  I explain the red zone to the students, but I also explain that I expect them to be able to stop themselves from getting into the red zone at school most of the time so we don’t focus much on that.  This lesson emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with being in the blue or yellow zones, but that when it is time to work or time to listen that we need to get ourselves back to the green zone so we can focus. *This lesson uses slides 1-5 from the virtual zones rooms. Click on the cartoon Mr. Kramer in slide one to hear the lesson and then click on the people and cat in slides 2-5 to see examples of people in the different zones.

Lesson 10: Zones of Regulation part 2.  This lesson introduces different strategies to move from the blue zone to the green zone and the yellow zone to the green zone.  As a group we watch some short videos that show different strategies to try and then we all practice them together.  I encourage students to try out a lot of different strategies to see what works best for them.  I also remind them a lot that they are responsible for noticing what zone they are in and doing something to get into the green zone when it is time to focus, not their teacher or another adult.  This lesson also introduces the virtual calm room I created so that teachers and students can visit that room whenever they want. *This lesson uses slide 7 in the virtual zones room and the virtual calm room. Click on the different pictures to see videos of strategies for moving into the green zone.

               Virtual Calm Room-Calm Room - Google Slides

Lesson 11: Zones of Regulation part 3. This lesson finally connects emotions to the different zones.  We click on different emotions and see 3 adults and my cat Fiona demonstrating that emotion and then students are prompted to guess at what zone the emotion is in.  If there is disagreement on what zone the emotion is in, we discuss as a group and talk about how much energy different students feel like they have during the emotion.  This lesson encourages more self-reflection and a reminder that we are all different and it is okay if we feel like we are in a different zone for an emotion than other people, as long as that self-reflection is happening.  *This lesson uses slide 6 from the virtual zones room.  Click on the different faces to see examples of that emotion.

Lesson 12: Child Safety Matters Part 1-1.  Please go to the child safety matters page for more information. Child Safety Matters Lessons - Ginther Elementary School (

Lesson 13: Child Safety Matters Part 1-2.  Please go to the child safety matters page for more information. Child Safety Matters Lessons - Ginther Elementary School (

Lesson 14: Flexible Thinking Part 1.  I talk to the students about what it means to be flexible and we discuss how it can mean both how something or someone moves (ex. stretchy) or that it can mean how we think and behave when something doesn't go the way we want.  I then read the first half of the story My Day Is Ruined by Bryan Smith.  I focus on the character's big reactions in the story and if that is actually making him feel better, and we discuss how using flexible thinking to make the most of something helps us to stay calm and focus on the things in the day we enjoy instead of what we don't like that we have no control over.  The lesson ends by going over the four steps to use flexible thinking:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Realize some things are out of your control-If the thing you are upset about is out of your control, move to step 3.
  3. Change your plan- Come up with a way to make the most of the situation.  You don't have to love your new plan, but figure out a way to get through the moment by making the most of it and getting to the next part of your day.
  4. Accept the change- Don't focus on how you didn't get to do what you originally wanted, just try to enjoy your new plan as best as you can and move on with your day.

Lesson 15: Using Flexible Thinking Part 2.  We review the four steps of flexible thinking and what was happening in the story.  I then finish the story and we spend some time talking about how to use flexible thinking in the room.  Typically we talk about what to do if you can't play the game you want or with the friend you want, what to do when you start to get frustrated with school work, and what to do if you wanted something (like a prize, a bee buck, to be first in line, etc.), but didn't get it.

                                                       Flexible Thinking 2020:

Lesson 16: Perseverance Lesson 1.  I talk to the students about how in the middle of the school year that sometimes I see students who stop trying their best to solve small problems on their own, do their work, and be good listeners.  I also talk about how it is normal to have times where it is hard to do our best, but that's where persevering through our challenges becomes so important.  That it is when things are hard or we're tired, that we really need to make sure we keep trying our best.  I then read the story The Little SnowPlow by Lora Koehler.  During the story we talk about how the characters treat each other, how trying our best means practicing to get better, and not giving up when things are hard.                        

                                                     The Little SnowPlow 2020:

Lesson 17: Empathy 1.  I introduce the concept of empathy to the students.  There are many ways to describe empathy, but this is what I use when talking to the students “The ability to understand what others feel and express that understanding in a caring way.”  I give examples of someone telling me about their day and me picking out the main emotion of their story and expressing that I understand how that person might feel.  I encourage the students to use the phrases "It sounds like you're feeling..." or "It looks like you're feeling..." as a simple way to sum up how they think a person is feeling.  I also explain that there is nothing wrong with guessing wrong because it still shows that they care.  We also practiced saying something caring like "I hope your day gets better," or "congratulations" depending on what the person told them.

Lesson 18: Empathy 2.  I explain how emotions and colors are often connected and that understanding our own emotions and what colors we associate with them can also help us to get better at noticing other people's emotions.  We spend a couple minutes looking at how illustrators use colors in stories to convey emotions before I ask student to help me define some emotions like worry, embarrassment, and proud.  We discuss what feelings go into those emotions, are the pleasant or unpleasant, and then what color do we associate with them.  I leave a sheet with the students with different emotions on it for them to color based on how those emotions make them feel.

Lesson 19: Empathy 3.  I read the story Jamaica's Blue Marker by Juanita Havill.  In this story Jamaica is having difficulty with another student in her room named Russell.  Russell ruins one of her drawings and we also learn that he is frequently unprepared for class, doesn't have things he needs, and is mean to other students at times.  As I read the story I point out h0w the illustrator uses colors to convey emotions and I keep asking the students what they thing of Russell and if Jamaica or Russell are using empathy (i.e. thinking about themselves or others).  Eventually we learn that Russell's family has to move away and Jamaica has a change of heart and starts to consider how Russell must be feeling about not having the things he needs and then suddenly moving away from friends and family.  The students in class usually change how they feel about Russell too.  At the end of the story Jamaica and Russell are both using empathy and it completely changes their relationship for the positive.

Lesson 20: Accepting everyone.  I read the story The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss.  A lot of this story is just about making the kids laugh with the funny words and how silly the characters are being, but I also ask the students about whether being different makes us better or worse than other people.  We spend some time talking about how we are all different and that none of that makes or better or worse than anyone.  What matters is how we treat each other.  Eventually the sneetches realize this at the end of the story.  In first grade I also talk a lot about the character of Sylvester McMonkey McBean and how he uses the Sneetches by convincing them they have buy something to feel good about themselves.  I then connect this idea to commercials that try to convince kids they need to buy specific games, toys, and clothes to make people like them.

Lesson 21: Empathy 4.  I talk about improving our emotional vocabulary and bring a worksheet called Feelings Families.  On the worksheet there are four houses; mad, sad, scared, and happy.  At the top are words that go in those families.  We look at some of the words (such as furious) and talk about which family it goes in and if it is more intense or less intense than the main word for the house.  The idea is to help students learn a wider variety of words for their emotions to better communicate how they feel.  An example is asking students to use annoyed instead of angry if they are only a little mad.

Lesson 22: Empathy 5. I talk to the class about how we communicate with each other and how important tone of voice, facial expression, and body language are we talk to someone.  That the words we use are often less important than how we say it.  I go over body language clues and facial expression clues to look at to figure out how someone is feeling.  We then look at a series of pictures of adults in the school showing different emotions and I have the kids try to guess what the emotion is using only the facial expressions and body language. 

Lesson 23: Empathy 6.  This lesson is all about improving listening skills.  I call the lesson "empathetic listening."  I explain to the student how important it is to be a good listener when someone is talking to us, especially if it is something important to the person talking.  I teach them 6 things to do to use empathetic listening:

  • Look at the speaker
  • Nod your head to show you’re listening
  • Think about the words and feelings of the person talking
  • Match feelings/facial expressions
  • Do not interrupt
  • Show an interest by asking questions about what was said.  Do not talk about yourself.

I then role-play using this skill with the students and have them take turns practicing with each other.  

Lesson 24:  Perseverance 2.  I read the story Don't give up Little Duck by Christine E. Stout.  This is a cute story about a duck who can't fly yet, but dreams of flying with all the other ducks.  The other animals on the farm mostly tell her that she'll never be able to fly, but she keeps trying anyway.  A few other animals encourage her to keep trying when she is close to giving up and eventually Little Duck learns to fly.  I emphasize both perseverance and how we treat the people around us and what an impact that can have on their behavior.

Lesson 25: Child Safety Matters Lesson 2-1.  This is another lesson from the Monique Burr Foundation.  It begins with a review of the 5 safety rules from earlier in the year and then begins a new discussion about bullying.  The lesson covers the topic of what is bullying (repeatedly hurting someone with words or actions), what is a bystander, and what is an upstander.  Students are encouraged to get an adult for help if they or someone else is being bullied, and that telling an adult is not tattling.  We also discuss being a bystander, who stands by and watches someone being bullied and does not help, versus being an upstander, who tries to stand up for the person being bullied by asking the bully to stop, taking the target someplace else (ex. "Come with me.  I want to show up this cool game."), or getting help from an adult.

Lesson 26: Child Safety Matters 2-2.  This half of the lesson talks about online safety.  It talks about how we still use the 5 safety rules online. 
Know What's Up:  Never give out your personal information when you are online.
Spot Red Flags:  Red flags online are things like someone asking for your personal information, someone saying mean or inappropriate things to you online, someone sending you links to other websites, or someone sending you inappropriate pictures.
Make A Move: Turn off or put down the device and go find a safe adult to tell them about any red flags you spot online.
Talk It Up: Tell your safe adult what the red flag was that you saw.  It is okay to interrupt an adult to tell them about a red flag.
No Blame, No Shame:  No matter what happens, you will not get in trouble and you didn't do anything wrong.  The person who caused the red flag with their behavior is the person who did something wrong.  It's very important to tell an adult about a red flag.  Do not let anyone make you feel like you did something wrong or that you should not tell an adult.  Talking to an adult you trust is always what is best.

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