1st Grade


At Summit, students in kindergarten through fourth grade engage in reading, writing, math, spelling, character education, social studies, thematic studies, and presentation skills with their primary grade level teacher. Concepts in all areas focus on hands-on, experiential learning. Additionally, elementary students study the following subjects with specialized teachers in dedicated classrooms:

  • Art
  • Music
  • Spanish
  • Technology
  • Science
  • Physical Education
  • Library


The Summit School of Ahwatukee elementary math program is based on Math Expressions by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

This program offers students a broad background in math concepts, reinforced through a significant amount of dynamic, hands-on, interactive activities.

This Mathematics program is distinguished by a number of features which include:

Real-life Applications Throughout each unit, real-world situations are incorporated. Numbers, skills, and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to contexts that are relevant to everyday lives. The curriculum also provides numerous suggestions for incorporating math into daily classroom routines and other subject areas.

Problem Solving A variety of problem-solving approaches are emphasized to allow students to investigate and understand mathematical concepts. Problems are formulated through everyday situations and are solved by interpreting results and applying learned strategies. As a result, confidence is acquired in using mathematics meaningfully.

Balanced Instruction Each lesson includes time for whole-group instruction as well as small group, partner, or individual activities. These activities balance teacher-directed instruction with more opportunities for open-ended, hands-on explorations, long-term projects, and ongoing practice.

Multiple Methods for Basic Skills Practice Numerous methods for basic skills practice and review are provided. Summit emphasizes learning through a wide variety of math games, written and choral fact drills, mental math, math boxes (daily sets of review problems), homework, and timed tests.

Emphasis on Communication Throughout the curriculum, students are encouraged to explain and discuss their mathematical thinking in their own words. Opportunities to verbalize their thoughts and strategies give children the chance to clarify their reasoning and gain insights from others.

Home / School Partnerships For grades first to third, daily home learning provides opportunities for family members to participate in students’ mathematical learning. Take-home packets are provided for most lessons in grades four to six.

Summit School of Ahwatukee Mathematics inspires deep understanding, critical thinking and confidence in Preschool through Eighth Grade

Summit School of Ahwatukee mathematics curriculum is designed to meet the needs of students who have varying backgrounds, knowledge and skills.  The three main goals of the program are to develop mathematical skills, to foster an attitude toward mathematics that encourages subsequent learning and application of mathematical concepts and skills, and to prepare students for high school, college and careers that will require a strong mathematical foundation.

Summit’s Core Standards for Mathematics are based on Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, Mathematical Practices and Math Progressions.  These standards define what is to be learned by the end of a school year or course. The math curriculum, materials and activities are developed by educators, aligned to the standards, focused on important math skills and concepts, well-articulated across all grades and intended to be responsive to the unique needs and interests of Summit School of Ahwatukee students.

Scroll below the graph to read more about the mathematics curriculum materials, student assessments, differentiation, and home learning by grade.

Math Progression_Summit School of Ahwatukee_a sequence chart

PRESCHOOL: Using research-based activities from the Erikson Institute’s Big Ideas in Early Mathematics, preschool students develop strong foundational numeracy skills that align with Summit Core Standards. Numeracy is embedded daily in all core content areas, and is also introduced through large and small group activities.

GRADES Kindergarten – 5th: Foundational skills and concepts are taught using Math Expressions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

GRADE 6: Foundational skills are extended to prepare students for success in Pre-Algebra and Algebra using Digits (Pearson).

GRADES 7 & 8: Coursework is sequenced to prepare students for success in high school mathematics using Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry texts (McDougall Littell).


At Summit School of Ahwatukee, our mathematics classes foster an environment where students are seen as mathematicians and leaders. Each class, or mathematical community, encourages mathematical discussion among the students. In our math classrooms, students communicate their thinking, analyze the suggestions of others, justify their conclusions, respectfully debate a mathematical idea and defend their reasoning. Participating in these types of discussions allows our students to further develop their mathematical language and communication skills, take ownership of mathematical ideas and gain a deeper understanding of the mathematics being discussed. Our lively and enthusiastic math classes create an environment where students understand the importance of mathematics in their life and future careers.


Throughout the school year, students at Summit are being assessed, formally and informally, to identify their mathematical strengths and areas for improvement. For example, at the beginning of each math unit, each student completes a pre-assessment that assesses the mathematical concepts for the upcoming math unit. The data from the pre-assessment enables the teacher to identify which specific skills each student has already grasped, the skills to which they need more exposure and concepts the students have not yet been introduced. Identifying the students’ prior knowledge allows each teacher to differentiate the unit’s lessons according to the students’ needs.

In addition, students are frequently informally assessed during math lessons so that the teacher can adjust future lessons according to what each student needs further practice or instruction.

Assessments are an important component of Summit’s mathematics program as the formative and summative assessments provide teachers, students and parents with feedback on each child’s mathematical progress and growth.


Another central component of Summit School of Ahwatukee’s mathematics program is differentiation. Our teachers provide learning opportunities that keep each student’s individual academic needs, interests, learning style and readiness in mind in order to ensure productive student growth.  For example, when a student needs to be challenged with a specific math concept, Summit teachers will provide enrichment activities for that student. Enrichment activities and flexible grouping strategies allow students to expand their learning by studying the particular concept in more depth, and applying the math skills to new situations. Activities that involve accelerating students into above grade level textbooks or out of grade level groups are not used in Summit’s elementary classes as students in these grades are developing a strong mathematics foundation so that they will experience success in later mathematics courses.


Summit students are given opportunities to reinforce classroom math learning at home, beginning in kindergarten.  Our home learning assignments support and enhance our academic instructional programs. Math home learning assignments typically include two components: practice and application of current math concepts being studied, and cumulative review of previously taught math concepts. The math home learning assignments are not only beneficial to the students but to parents as well. Communicating with your child as they complete their assignment, or after they complete it, gives a parent an understanding of how the child is doing mathematically.

Because we value family and leisure time, most of Summit home learning is designed to take place four nights per normal week, Monday through Thursday, and not on weekends, holidays or breaks.

Language Arts / Writing

In First Grade, We are Writers!

The goal of the Summit School of Ahwatukee language arts program is to help children see that writing doesn’t have to be a hard process and that it has real world application. Students will use a number of techniques throughout the year to help them become better writers.

Creative Writing: The emphasis is on writing for real purposes (letters, lists, cards). Students use a variety of materials in our creative writing bin.

Writer’s Workshop: This time focuses on using the writing process (brainstorm, outline, rough draft, edit with teacher, and final copy). Children create a story, non-fiction piece, song, or poem. They use rubrics to check their writing to ensure they have applied skills that were taught previously in mini-lessons.

Journal Writing: This writing style centers on personal responses to questions such as “Where in space would you travel to?” or “Why should you not be afraid of spiders?”

Beginning Reports: Students learn how to organize facts to create a report on a subject related to the current theme.

Poetry: The emphasis focuses on using descriptive language and phonemic awareness to write about a topic from the current classroom theme.

Conventions Check: Through writing practice and reinforcement of conventions, students gain skills to write and edit their own work.

6 + 1 Trait® Writing: This is a comprehensive, reliable, teacher-friendly and student-friendly method of teaching and assessing writing. Expectations are clearly stated through rubrics utilized by children and teachers to ensure that they are meeting the expectations. Whether it is a poem or a report, students are held accountable for producing their best writing every time. The traits include conventions, ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and presentation.


The goal of the Summit School of Ahwatukee literacy program is to develop lifelong readers who read for a variety of purposes and to grow strategic readers who are able to employ techniques in order to understand what they are reading. Our balanced literacy program provides individualized attention and instruction to every student.

Students thrive in small reading groups of three to six children. They read books specifically chosen for them at their current instructional level.

In kindergarten and first grade, a reading specialist and two instructional assistants join the classroom teachers as part of our reading program. Many of our elementary teachers carry a reading endorsement, obtained by taking coursework specifically related to teaching methods for reading instruction.

As a result of our small reading groups and the individual attention it allows, there is no limit on what children can achieve. They develop strong comprehension skills and strategies for deeper thinking, as well as a lifelong love of reading.

Social Studies

Through an integrated thematic approach, the topics covered in the first grade social studies program include simple economics, geography and basic map reading skills, histories of various cultures, famous persons, American and state symbols, and special holidays.

Art - Named Best in the United States

The Summit School of Ahwatukee art curriculum is based on the Vitruvius Program. This art, architecture and design program enables students to use their creative intelligence to express ideas and concepts in tangible forms. As students engage in work based on real and imagined projects, they deepen critical thinking, narrative problem solving, spatial reasoning, and visual perception.

Design and architecture projects bring an important dimension of thinking to the program. The students learn to find reasons for their work outside of artistic self-expression, becoming divergent thinkers, and gaining a foundation for understanding a changing world.

By studying works from history and the present, students understand how art and design have made significant contributions in the shaping of culture. Students see that their creative work is part of a continuum with other artists, architects, and designers. Critiques develop the ability to observe, discriminate, compare, and contrast creative works. Students learn how to use critical language to interpret work and explain their understanding of its purposes.

The Vitruvius Program curriculum was developed with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

In 2011, this exceptional program was named the best art and architecture school curriculum in the United States, by the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) and winner of the National School award. Summit represented the United States in the UIA Golden Cubes International Competition in Tokyo.

In 2009 Phoenix Magazine recognized the Vitruvius Program as one of the top five education programs in Metro-Phoenix.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art invited the Vitruvius Program at Summit School to create two different exhibitions for their young@art Gallery.

The first exhibit, Bridges: Connecting Earth to Sky, displayed from October 2010 to January 2011, and included architecture and design work from each Summit student in kindergarten through sixth grade. The second exhibit, Cycles From Fields to Cities, displayed from February through April 2013, also includes student works from Finland, France, Russia and Sweden, features designs from third and fifth grade Summit students. The architectural project was co-created by Summit art instructor Kathleen Kupper. This project asks children from many countries to think reflectively about the current state of their city’s design, and challenges them to share how they would reconstruct and reconfigure old and new elements. Artworks range from architectural models and drawings to animations.


Music is an important cornerstone of the liberal arts program at Summit School of Ahwatukee. Students have the opportunity to play instruments, sing, and compose. The music department also orchestrates the Winter concert for the school.

The music curriculum involves participation in hands-on musical explorations that incorporate thinking musically, creatively, and critically. Students develop a comprehensive, basic foundation of musical understandings, skills, and experiences that will enable them to choose and pursue enriching musical experiences beyond elementary school.

Musical experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national (MENC) standards will include:

Performing: Singing, Playing Instruments, Improvising

Creating: Composing, Arranging, Improvising

Listening: Listening, Analyzing, Describing music, Evaluating music and music performances, Responding to music through Movement

Musical Context: Understanding music in relation to history and culture, Understanding relationships between music and other arts and disciplines outside the arts

Experiences will be structured as whole-class, small group, and individualized activities. Concepts explored will include: • Tone Color (timbre) • Duration (rhythm) • Musical Controls (volume, tempo, articulation) • Pitch (melody, harmony)


Spanish language experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national foreign language standards include:

Communication: Respond to simple commands, perform short plays, poems, and songs, and express and react to a variety of feelings.

Culture: Participate in age-appropriate cultural activities and recognize how the target language and its culture add to the richness of our own cultural diversity.

Connections: Discuss topics in other school subjects in the target language (e.g. math: “más-menos”, science: “los planetas”, etc.) and present reports in the target language orally and/or in writing on topics being studied in other classes.

Comparisons: Make basic comparisons between the celebrations of the target culture and their own culture (e.g. Halloween and “EL Día de los Muertos”) and compare and contrast a variety of art forms (e.g. music, dance, visual arts, and drama) with their own culture through oral and/or written descriptions and/or performances.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee science program is taught in a state-of-the-art laboratory facility with science stations, microscopes, and all necessary tools to make science engaging and fun.

Hands-on, experiment-based science begins in our kindergarten science lab and continues through Chemistry and Physics in eighth grade.

Elementary students visit the science lab twice per week. Students’ analytical skills and critical thinking abilities soar through experiential learning, as they develop a love of science.

The first grade science curriculum is based on the following themes: Solids & Liquids; Investigation of Earth Materials; Plants & Animals; Weather; Balance & Motion.

For example, in the unit on Solids and Liquids, students handle viscous, translucent, and transparent liquids to gain a clear understanding of each type. They distinguish characteristics between solids and liquids and learn to classify solid objects by observable properties.


As part of their weather study, first grade scientists use the time tested kid favorite, bubbles, as a tool to observe the wind (air movement) around the school.  They discovered that the bubbles could show them the different directions and speeds of the wind in the different locations.  They also observed that the buildings around school affected the air movement.


First graders practice basic keyboarding skills in Tech Class. They learn how to access the school network to find programs and save documents to their personal folders. Word processing and simple research skills are further developed, and classroom theme web sites are used to reinforce the curriculum. First graders also start to learn about how to make PowerPoint slides, and also enjoy literacy and math activities.

Physical Education

Elementary Physical Education and Wellness at Summit follows closely with the Dynamic Physical Education Curriculum, created By Dr. Robert Pangrazi of Arizona State University, which is widely recognized throughout the world. The program has four distinct sections to each class: an instant/introductory activity followed by a fitness component and a sport and/or motor lesson that is then followed by a game. Other nationally-recognized components include AAHPERD’s Physical Best curriculum, the Cooper Institute’s Fitnessgram / Activitygram, and Project Adventure.

Thematic Learning

Thematic learning is an educational strength of Summit School. Throughout the year, each grade delves into many different topics of study that are reinforced through reading, writing, math, social studies, and whenever possible, include related projects within art, technology, music, library, Spanish, science, and even PE. Many of these projects have special “culminating events” allowing students to enhance public speaking skills as they present many facets of the project in group or individual presentations for parents and the school community. The following is an example of a first grader’s thematic learning project at Summit School of Ahwatukee:

Six-year-old “Architects” and “City Planners” Work on New Community Design

A ceremonial ribbon cutting officially opened the display of student’s three dimensional models of homes, a library, a school and other buildings necessary to sustain a community. The month-long project, by first graders at Summit School of Ahwatukee, culminated with the unveiling of their newly-designed community to a room packed with parents, teachers and school administrators, who applauded the achievement.

This community design project was inspired by the motivation of first grade teachers’ Lisa Rubin and Christine Odenkirk to engage students in practical applications of math, reading, social studies and art concepts. They kicked-off the project with a student-led brainstorming session to discuss what forms a community (e.g. businesses, service providers, entertainment venues etc.). Subsequently, they learned about mapping and zoning, and experienced first-hand that a community is made up of people working together and helping each other.

The second phase of the project centered on applying their math and art skills in the design of a map for their community: using a compass rose, and a map key to identify the products, services, and entertainment available to the future residents of the community. To facilitate the decision about what businesses and services would make sense next to each other, students studied democracy and voting. They learned that by being an active member of a community, everyone can join in the planning and make their ideas heard at town meetings and by voting. “Students learned first hand that they are an important part of a community, a first grade community.  They worked together and listened to each other’s ideas, and helped each other with a common goal in mind,” said Rubin.

Students also learned about economics; that people are buyers and sellers of goods and services and make choices because of limited resources, discussing the difference between basic needs and wants. “It’s exciting to watch and listen as the children begin to make connections from the learning taking place in the classroom to what they see and do in their personal lives outside the classroom,” shares Odenkirk.

The final phase took these creative six year olds into Summit’s art studio. Art teachers Kathleen and Selene Kupper, invited them to create three dimensional models and a layout based on New American Urbanism.  A town square formed the heart of the community, with public buildings surrounding it.  Neighborhoods open to communal spaces that create a strong sense of community: a place where you can walk or take public transportation.

“Students learned that by working together as a team – architects design better buildings; city planners layout spaces with the community’s need in mind, landscape architects develop parks and public spaces to be enjoyed year-round; and artists create welcoming spaces through public art,” said Summit Art teacher, Kathleen Kupper.  “Most importantly, students understood that a community is a place where citizens build friendships with neighbors and nature. A great lesson for all ages.”

Class Size and School Hours

Summit School of Ahwatukee has two first grade classes with a maximum of 18 students per class with one teacher. Students are escorted to art, Spanish, music, science, technology, physical education, and library. Student time in specialized classes allows classroom teachers to plan during the school day, evaluate work, and modify lesson plans when necessary in order to meet the needs of each child. Classrooms are open and ready to welcome children and parents at 8am. Class officially begins at 8:15. These fifteen minutes allow families to get to know each other, enhancing the community feel and fabric of our school. The school day ends at 3:15 daily.

First grade students enjoy daily morning and lunch recesses, allowing them breaks to refresh and prepare them for more learning. Children in all grade levels are encouraged to bring a morning snack in addition to a healthy lunch.

Get to Know - 1st Grade Faculty

Christine Odenkirk

First Grade Teacher

Christine Odenkirk began her career as an educator in 1998. She taught second, third and fourth grades in the Scottsdale Unified School District for six years, joining Summit in 2005. The first two years she taught the beautiful and inspiring kindergartners, and then Summit first graders captured her heart.

 Mrs. Odenkirk graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Elementary Education. She also minored in language arts and reading and has an English as a Second Language Endorsement, Reading Endorsement, as well as an Early Childhood Endorsement. Additionally, she is CLIP (Collaborative Literacy Intervention Project) certified. Mrs. Odenkirk is passionate about her craft and continuing her learning about best practices for teaching and learning.

Lisa Rubin

First Grade Teacher

Lisa Rubin is a Certified Elementary teacher and a CLIP Reading Specialist. She has an endorsement in Reading, Early Childhood Education, and Structured English Immersion. She attended the University of Phoenix to earn her teacher certification. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Southwest Missouri State University.

 Ms. Rubin joined Summit in 2001 and has taught kindergarten, first grade, and second grades, making first grade her home in 2003. Her career in education began in 2000, student teaching in second grade at Kyrene de la Mariposa. Ms. Rubin brings a positive attitude and a smile to school daily. She is dedicated to make learning fun and to help every child reach their ultimate potential.

Molly Danforth

Math Specialist, Kindergarten through Fifth Grade

Molly Danforth has over twenty years of teaching first through third grades. She has also earned the prestigious National Board Certification. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Gonzaga University, and a Masters in Education in 1997 from Northern Arizona University.  To expand her teaching skills Ms. Danforth has taken additional training in Cognitively Guided Instruction, Intel Math, as well as several other math courses, and has earned a Reading Endorsement in 2002 from Arizona State University. Ms. Danforth joined Summit in 2007 as a 2nd grade teacher and now serves as Summit’s Kindergarten – 2nd grade math coordinator, using her expertise to enhance classroom math instruction and assessments, and further Summit’s teachers’ professional development in mathematics.