What to Expect in 1st Grade

Here are the skills your child should have at the beginning — and by the end — of the school year.

By Evelyn Ngeow
  • Grades: 3–5

By Evelyn Ngeow

 

In addition to dealing with boundless energy levels and intense emotions, children entering 1st grade will face new responsibilities in school. Your child will learn to adjust to a longer school day, take more ownership of his homework, and learn to get around by himself.

 
Skills Required at the Beginning of 1st Grade
Skills Acquired During 1st Grade
Homework

 
Skills Required at the Beginning of 1st Grade
A healthy sense of self-esteem and a readiness to learn will help your child make a smooth start. Her teacher will expect her to be able to do the following:

 
Reading

  • Recognize and write all of the letters of the alphabet in upper and lowercase forms
  • Write her first and last name
  • Identify sounds corresponding to vowels and consonants
  • Uses initial consonant sounds and sound patterns to read words (for example, f + an = fan; r + an = ran)
  • Read several sight words, including names of colors
  • Retell a story including details
  • Put events of a story in order
  • Write simple sentences using sight words and phonics skills

Listening and Communication

  • Listen attentively
  • Raise her hand and wait to speak
  • Follow and repeat spoken directions
  • Engage in question-and-answer dialogue with classmates and teachers
  • Works as a team on projects or problem-solving
  • Relate stories, songs, or poems heard on tape to others
  • Focus on the lesson being taught

Math

  • Sort and classify objects using one or more attributes
  • Recognize and write numbers up to 100
  • Tell when one number is greater or less than another
  • Count orally by ones, five, and tens to 100
  • Name ordinal numbers first through tenth
  • Perform simple addition and subtraction
  • Understand spatial relationships (top/bottom, near/far, before/behind)
  • Compare quantities by estimating, weighing, and measuring
  • Uses graphs to gather information
  • Recognize patterns and shapes
  • Tell time to the nearest half-hour
  • Count money
  • Recite the days of the week and the months of the year

Every child learns at a different speed and in a different style, so don’t worry if your child hasn’t yet mastered every skill on the list. Remember, too, that most children are rusty after a summer off, and teachers expect to spend the early part of the year in review.

 
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Skills Acquired During 1st Grade
The emphasis remains firmly on developing your child’s reading and math skills, but lessons in art, social studies, science, and physical education may be incorporated as well. Although some skills will resemble those your six year old learned in kindergarten, keep in mind that 1st grade is mostly about mastering lessons previously taught. Generally speaking, your child will be expected to:

 
Reading

  • Expand sight word vocabulary
  • Recall the sequence of events in oral and written stories
  • Discuss story elements such as plot, character, events, and setting
  • Understand basic punctuation (capitalize first letter of a sentence, use periods and question marks, etc.)
  • Identify the main idea and details in a story
  • Print legibly
  • Recognize single and plural forms of nouns
  • Write in complete sentences
  • Differentiate between fiction and nonfiction stories
  • Memorize and correctly spell between 130-150 words

Math

  • Understand greater than, less than, lighter than, heavier than, the same as, etc.
  • Recognize and write numbers up to 100
  • Count by 2s, 5s, and 10s to 100
  • Mentally add numbers to 10
  • Add and subtract to 20
  • Add and subtract with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters
  • Tell time to the hour and half hour
  • Recognize shapes
  • Identify, describe, and reproduce patterns with number, shapes, colors, or words
  • Uses simple graphs to record information
  • Recognize simple mathematical symbols (e.g. “+”, “=”, “>”,”<”)</li>
  • Read thermometers and use measuring tools like rulers

Social Studies

  • Locate the United States, the seven continents, and the four oceans on a large map or globe
  • Construct and interpret simple maps with cardinal directions and map key
  • Demonstrate awareness of current news
  • Participate in group decision making
  • Understand traditions that reflect American ideals and influences from diverse cultures within the nation
  • Create charts and timelines demonstrating an understanding of past and present
  • Recognize shared values and goals as students in the same community, despite differences in backgrounds

Science

  • Use tools such as a magnifying glass, ruler, and balancing scale
  • Learn the basic needs of living things by caring for animals in class
  • Conduct simple, hands-on experiments
  • Explore the senses — hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste
  • Explore the life cycle of living things, such as frogs or butterflies

Other Subjects
Art: Mix primary colors to make secondary colors and describe the process
Music: Use hand percussion instruments to learn rhythmic patterns
Physical Education: Improve eye-hand coordination, balance, flexibility, and ball handling

 
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Homework
Your 1st grader’s homework usually won’t take more than 20 minutes to complete, but the amount of time he spends at his desk will dramatically increase from kindergarten. Assignments should be challenging, but only enough to encourage your child to do the most he can on his own. Homework may include:

  • Worksheets with math problems or phonics drills
  • Flashcards with spelling or sight words to be memorized
  • Daily reading — the most important homework — whether assigned or not

Set a regular time for your child to complete her homework, whether immediately after school, after a snack, after playtime, or after dinner — what matters most is that she establish a routine. Make sure distractions from the television and computer are kept to a minimum. Ask your child if she understands the assignment, then encourage her to work on her own and to consult you if she has any questions. When finished, review her work and point out any mistakes, but don’t supply the right answer. If your child errs a second time, work it out with her. Have your child slip the completed assignment into her backpack in preparation for school the next morning.

 
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June 1, 2005

 

  • Subjects:
    Child Development and Behavior
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