1st Grade Spotlight

When you first walk into Mrs. Joyner’s 1st grade classroom, you will immediately find yourself drawn to the beautiful artwork painted on her walls – murals depicting characters from Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s series, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

It is a classroom designed for young children who are discovering their own joy and love for reading, and there is perhaps no better teacher than Mrs. Joyner to guide them through this stage in their development at Carden.

As a Carden teacher with over 30 years of experience at Carden School of Fresno, Mrs. Joyner has taught many different grade levels. Yet she returns to 1st grade again and again to experience, as she puts it, “the incredible growth of the students.”

The 1st grade curriculum builds upon what has been learned in kindergarten, with a strong emphasis on language, spelling, and reading comprehension. As Mrs. Joyner stops at a shelf filled with student work, she selects a recent spelling test.

“We have been working on these words this week, a few words each day,” she says. “For the test, I dictate the word and the students will spell the word and write its Carden control.”

The students learn Carden controls as a way of mastering the sounds of letters and blends. The students practice these blends all year long, allowing them to confidently learn new or unfamiliar words when they are reading. It is a technique that rapidly expands their vocabulary and improves their reading comprehension.

Throughout her classroom, Mrs. Joyner has elements of learning that are designed not only to inform but to delight her students. They read, recite, and commit to memory a new poem each month, and during the school year they learn about many different types of birds.

Mrs. Joyner has a clock that plays a different bird call each hour, and in the back of the classroom, there is a piano. Children have been known to play impromptu lunchtime recitals.

And of course, there are the many pieces of artwork featuring Peter Rabbit and his friends.

“Each year, we read Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny,” Mrs. Joyner says. “If there is time, we will get to Squirrel Nutkin, too.”

We stop near her piano. Above it, three framed posters hang on the wall – gifts from a former student.

“Her nursery was decorated with those,” Mrs. Joyner says, smiling. “When she was in my class, her mother asked if I wanted them.”

Moving to the front of the classroom again, we come to a list of sentences written on the board. Mrs. Joyner points out that this is part of the students’ sentence analysis lesson for the day.

“They are doing so well with this,” she says. “When they can identify the who and the doing in the sentence, and even the what and the whom, then they really comprehend what they are reading.”

Sentence analysis is a critical component to the Carden Method, building on the early reading done by students in the kindergarten. As the students grow in Carden, they learn how to correctly identify the keyword of any sentence, create titles and keywords for paragraphs, and outline entire passages based on the most essential information.

In doing so, the students learn not only how to read, but why reading is so important to understanding. They learn to understand the author’s intent.

And this journey begins when they are six-year-old students in Mrs. Joyner’s 1st grade classroom.

This “incredible growth” that Mrs. Joyner experiences each year is what continues to excite her about teaching 1st grade students.

“When I began teaching 1st grade, I was not sure it was going to be the right grade for me,” she says, before pausing.

“But now, I wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else.”

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