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What to expect in first grade

Learn about what to expect for your child in first grade.

By Miriam Myers

In your child's classroom

In first grade your child will become more independent and learn how to adapt to the school's routine. Donna Adkins, our teacher consultant, explains: "First grade is probably the most critical period in your child's education. It is a pivotal grade in which the foundation for the rest of the primary grades is set."

Building reading and writing skills

Most critical in first grade is the development of reading and writing skills. Your child will move from pre-reading skills to building crucial language skills in reading, spelling and writing. At home you can read stories aloud to your child often and ask questions such as "Who are the characters in the story?" "Where does the story take place?" "What happens in the beginning, middle and end of the story?"

Mastering math skills

In math your child will learn addition and subtraction facts, and how to tell time. She will count coins and identify patterns in numbers and objects. Practice these skills at home by asking your child to spot repeating patterns in her daily life and surroundings, such as designs in her clothing.

Assuming responsibility and routines

If your child attended a half-day kindergarten, first grade will mean attending school for a longer day. Talk to your child about "big kid" issues like packing a healthy lunch and how to treat other students on the playground. Adkins explains: "Since first grade is such a change from kindergarten, it becomes very important for parents to help their child set the stage for a great day. We know that we all feel poorly when we do not receive enough rest or do not eat properly. Children at this age do not know how much rest they need. It is up to the parents to ensure that their child learns these good habits."

In first grade your child will begin to assume responsibility and reinforce learning through homework. You'll want to prepare a quiet, organized work area and set aside time for her to do homework everyday.

You can use the summer before first grade to teach your child responsibility for a household chore. Adkins explains: "Choose a simple chore that that she can do without feeling overwhelmed. Start small and build. To raise a responsible child, responsibility must be cultivated early and continually."

Adkins adds: "Teaching your child independence is one of the most important jobs a parent has. One way to accomplish this is to develop daily routines that a child can follow. If a child knows that every morning when she gets up, she follows a particular routine for getting ready, then she can soon do it herself. In the evening, if your child knows the bedtime routine is to take a bath, brush teeth, read a story and get into bed, then not only is it easier to get her into bed, it is easier for the child to do it independently."

Comments from readers

"I have a similar issue as the post October 7th. I recently found out my kindergartener was told not to move ahead in her reading and not to try and sound stuff other herself. I am terrified to send her to first grade there. She literally is ending kindergarten knowing less words and has sloppier handwriting than when she started. "
"I'm not quiet understanding how school districts can be so different. My son went to White Pigeon (Michigan) last year for kindergarten and was expected to do all of the things mentioned, now that he's attending Elkhart Schools he's expected to not progress??? I think there is something wrong with this picture. I think Elkhart Schools need to up their expectations and actually try challenging some of there students and they just may find that the kids do better, because they aren't bored "
"would like to see more indepth information, possibly new ideas to parallel learning home. "
"This website is very helpful in coming up with ideas on how to prepare my 5.5 yr old for 1st grade. Good info. "
"i have a son in one of the five top schools this web; is very helpful thanks for the inf."
"Hi, I am a Grandmother of a child who is about to begin first grade at Elmwood. You have a wonderful website with lots of good information. I think it will help us so that we can reinforce and support the teachers of our little students at home. Thank you very much and keep up the fine work you are doing!"
"wonderful program thanks for the invite, Vickie Grandmother of one to enter first grade in the fall :))))"