What does a first grader need to know?
Most adults have only vague memories of the early years in school. So when parents and grandparents watch their little one …
Most adults have only vague memories of the early years in school. So when parents and grandparents watch their children leave to join the American education system, a natural question arises: What does a first grader need to know?
Education experts have a solid answer. If kindergarten is all about moving away from the game-based learning of preschool, then the first year is about fully entering the academic world.
“The overall goal of the first year is mastery of skills in all areas – social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic and physical,” wrote Rashi Sharma, relationship implementation specialist at the National Association for early childhood education, in an email. “It is essential that a first graders feel (confident) about their school life.”
Of course, there’s still plenty of time to have fun, and the best first-grade teachers make learning engaging. But by the end of the year, experts say there is a series of academic milestones contained in state and federal learning standards that a first-grader should generally master.
“If students are not competent and confident in their basic skills, they will build a wobbly house,” wrote Allison Blass, who taught first grade for 12 years in Queens, New York, in an email.
[READ: Virtual Field Trips for Kids: Worldwide Wonders.]
First year reading
While the classroom experience may vary depending on where students live, whether they attend public or private schools and other factors, education experts say first-graders should be able to read at school. at least 150 high frequency words by the end of the year. They should also be able to fluently read and understand grade school books.
More generally, a first grader typically completes the school year as a freelance reader, with improved skills in phonetics and reading comprehension. They also learn basic grammar skills, such as capitalization and punctuation.
“The first year is usually the year when students develop and consolidate their cognitive skills,” Sara Leman, literacy specialist at Reading Eggs, an online reading program, wrote in an email.
Leman says that by the end of the first year a student should be able to:
– Read with more ease and precision.
– Tell a familiar story.
– Describe and compare characters and events from different texts.
– Distinguish between narrative and non-fictional texts.
[Read: When Do Kids Learn to Read?]
Write in first year
Grade one children learn to spell three- and four-letter words and write clear, meaningful sentences. At the end of the year, students will form short paragraphs of three or four sentences or more. They can also write basic short stories.
In addition, they learn handwriting skills, such as how to write their name, as well as basic words and phrases. Leman says the following skills should be mastered by the end of the first year:
– Write a range of texts, including stories, informative texts and opinion pieces.
– Structure their writing according to the assignment.
– Write complete sentences using capital letters and end punctuation marks.
– Spell several words correctly at high frequency.
Mathematics in the first year
Education experts say that by the end of the first grade, a student can count, read, write, and sequence numbers up to 100. They also learn to compare numbers using the symbols for greater than, less than, and equal.
Grade 1 students also add and subtract small numbers, and they are introduced to the idea of place value by learning to add and subtract two-digit numbers. As part of this math learning, first graders also learn very basic measurements and geometry. They compare the length, weight and volume of objects. They measure the length using small tools, such as a paper clip or pencil. Teachers also explain how to identify, compare and describe basic shapes.
Leman says the basic math skills learned at the end of the first year also include:
– Count to at least 100, from any starting point.
– Represent and interpret simple data.
– Recognize and compose simple two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects.
– Divide a shape into equal halves and quarters.
[Read: 10 Fun STEM Activities for Kids.]
Read the time and read a calendar
Grade 1 students also learn how useful numbers and basic math are in their day-to-day lives. They learn to tell the time and to read a clock to the nearest half hour. They learn to understand concepts such as “in an hour” and to name the days of the week and the months of the year.
Additionally, grade one students learn to identify different coins, understand the value of each, and combine the value of each. For example, they can learn that four quarters are equal to one dollar.
Basic numeracy and math skills can be demonstrated as practical skills, Sharma says. An example lesson: “I had seven apples. I went to the store, and now I have nine. How many apples have I bought from the store? ”
Sciences and social studies in the first year
In the first grade, children also learn the fundamentals of science, such as collecting data and recording observations in writing, pictures and charts.
As part of this basic understanding of science, students learn the difference between living and non-living things, and the importance of the sun and the Earth. By the end of the first grade, education experts say kids will have a better understanding of:
– Weather models.
– Natural cycles such as ocean tides and the moon.
– The life cycles of plants.
– The characteristics of animals and living beings.
– The properties of solids and gases.
As with science, first graders also learn some of the basics of a social studies program. They learn about the symbols of the United States and important events in American history.
Sharma says that first-graders are becoming increasingly aware of current events and “knowledge of traditions and values from American and diverse cultures.” She says first-graders also learn basic geography, such as the ability to read a map and locate the seven continents, the United States, and the city where they live.
Social skills in the first year
On top of all of these academic gains, first graders develop dramatically throughout the year, both emotionally and socially, Leman says. At the end of the year, it is common for first graders to:
– Approach tasks with increasing independence and better concentration.
– Seek validation and approval from peers and adults.
– Make friends regularly.
– Be more and more aware of the feelings of others.
– Begin to understand that people have different points of view.
“The overall goal of the first year is to create independent, responsible and confident humans,” says Blass.
Resources for first-grade parents
There are many resources for those who want to learn more about what a first grader should know. Here is an example :
– School guide to reading and writing in the first grade
– Sylvan’s guide to what a first grader needs to know
– LeapFrog First Year Skill Checklist
– The Reading Rockets 101 Reading Guide for Parents
– The Seven Komodo Math Skills Your Child Will Learn in Grade 1
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