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Kindergarten through fifth grade: What your child should know

Keep tabs on your child's grade-by-grade development with this handy checklist.

By GreatSchools Staff

No two kids are alike, especially when it comes to hitting developmental benchmarks. But it helps to have a rough idea of which academic and social skills your child should acquire at his or her grade level. Learn more about your child's classroom in such subject areas as reading, math, and science — or check your state's academic standards to find out what students are required to learn.

By the end of kindergarten, you can expect your child to:

  • Follow class rules
  • Separate from a parent or caregiver with ease
  • Take turns
  • Cut along a line with scissors
  • Establish left- or right-hand dominance
  • Understand time concepts like yesterday, today, and tomorrow
  • Stand quietly in a line
  • Follow directions agreeably and easily
  • Pay attention for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Hold a crayon and pencil correctly
  • Share materials such as crayons and blocks
  • Know the eight basic colors: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, black, white, and pink
  • Recognize and write the letters of the alphabet in upper- and lowercase forms
  • Know the relationship between letters and the sounds they make
  • Recognize sight words such as the and read simple sentences
  • Spell his first and last name
  • Write consonant-vowel-consonant words such as bat and fan
  • Retell a story that has been read aloud
  • Identify numbers up to 20
  • Count by ones, fives, and tens to 100
  • Know basic shapes such as a square, triangle, rectangle, and circle
  • Know her address and phone number

Find out more about your kindergartner and reading, writing, language arts, math, science, technologysocial studies, art, music, and physical education.

By the end of first grade, you can expect your child to:

  • Work independently at her desk
  • Listen to longer sets of directions
  • Read directions off the board, although some children may still have difficulty with this
  • Complete homework and bring it back the next day
  • Sit in a chair for a longer period of time
  • Be able to see things from another person's point of view so you can reason with your child and teach her empathy
  • Relate experiences in greater detail and in a logical way
  • Problem-solve disagreements
  • Crave affection from parents and teachers
  • Have some minor difficulties with friendships and working out problems with peers
  • Distinguish left from right
  • Be able to plan ahead
  • Write words with letter-combination patterns such as words with a silent e
  • Read and write high-frequency words such as where and every
  • Write complete sentences with correct capitalization and punctuation
  • Read aloud first-grade books with accuracy and understanding
  • Count change
  • Tell time to the hour and half-hour
  • Quickly answer addition and subtraction facts for sums up to 20
  • Complete two-digit addition and subtraction problems without regrouping

Find out more about your first grader and reading, writing, language arts, math, science, technology, social studies, art, music, and physical education.

Comments from readers

"I have a daughter that is 5 and she can already do most of the 1st grade things. I home- schooled her for kindergarten. Maybe b/c I held a higher standard, but this seems so low to me for a kindergartner. "
"Too Extreme "
"we have freinds who home schooled all of their children. They now have two boys in annapolis and two girls at princeton.she gave me a great book called better late than early,a must read for any parent.she also used a cirriculum called KONOS because she said her little boys had springs in their bottoms(LoL). this is a very hand on cirriculum and I recomend it for parent with active children. "
"i really want to be smart at school i am actually but i wanna be more smarter like learn verbs adjetives nouns and adverbs and learn math i am actually not good at those things even science :( no fair !!! "
"This was the WORST page I have come cross of. Good job,!"
"People should create they're own teaching technique.They should be able to study what children like and what children listen to.They should be able to teach off of that.Not some word problem that kids think are boring.They hate school because they have to sit down in a class all day long. It's boring and annoying.I am a home-schooled child.I remember going to school and sitting in a classroom.It was extrememly un-fun and hard to listen and to stay still.They should come up with some fun learning tools. The brains of children everywhere are being effected with this.They just stop listening to the teacher.So they fail grades,don't graduate,don't get jobs and eventually become homeless.It is quite sad actually.So any teachers out there try to make it fun! Sincerely, A child."
"The degree to which children mature and learn varies vastly by child even within families. The fact that one child is reading by age 4 and another not until the third grade does not necessarily mean schools are terrible, nor that the latter child is stupid. Each child is different and our system of categorizing into grade levels based on their age may not be the best system. If a child is reading by age 4, then that child should begin concentrating on math, science, music or other discipline which may take much longer for that child to learn. The child still having trouble reading in third grade should be allowed to have a full day of reading assistance to address his needs without pressure of falling behind. Learning is not a race. We learn over an entire lifetime. Children at 18 are no longer prepared to succeed solo in our society. Boys seem less like men and our young ladies seem more like teenage boys. If we let them play more when they were 4, 5 and 6 instead of forcing early reading, or spend less time in seats as teenagers during the years when their bodies are the strongest and hormones are most aggressive to instead teach them physically challenging activities, we may create stronger, wiser, better adjusted adults able to meet the challenges of an occupation, marriage and family."
"To the person asking about letter sounds and teaching -- they are called phonics, and there is a wonderful book/guide that can help you teach your child to read. The methods used will not be a problem with the schools teaching; in fact, it can really help by closing any gaps. This book can help you as a parent teach your child to read using the 'reading rules.' The book is The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I highly recommend it. It is available on and the author is Jessie Wise."
"You may be qualified as a literacy specialist, but you wouldn't know it from the grammar and spelling contained within your post. Maybe its the standards of higher education that have dropped..."
"If you would like to know what your child needs to learn in each grade, go to your state education agency website (TEA - Texas Education Agency - for Texas) and look at the state standards. It will list information for each subject area and list specifics of what every child should know by the end of each grade level. (known as 'TEKS' on the Texas website) The lists above are only a small part of the knowledge your child should be gaining during the year. They are very general, not the complete list."
"It also is important for children to know how to tie their shoes, and use scissors properly, eh.. by either the end of first or second grade (at the latest I'm sure) However it might be good for them to at least know how to use scissors in kindergarden. (Art projects) Otherwise your list is very helpful and those are the only two things that I would add. "
"Wow, not much is expected of kids these days, it seems."
"While it's lovely that you read chapter books in Kindergarten is is VERY DEVEOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE to expect children to do so before third grade. A small percentage of children (like you and my nephew)will be advanced readers. BY NO MEANS should school have the same expectations of all students. Using yourself as a guide for what districts should be expectign is unwise. I am a licensed Master Degreed Literacy Specialist. "
"a good curriculum should also include music education objectives (i.e. a first grader should be able to read, write, improvise, and play quarter notes, 2-8th notes, quarter rest, and sol and mi). These are in compliance with the national standards for Music. Check out: for more information on what each grade should know. "
"I was reading chapter books at the beginning of kindergarten, at the age of 4!!!! Here, it says you should be reading chapter books after 3rd grade is over!!! Wow...Has America lowered its standards for schools?"
"It is interesting. I did a Google search to see where my son was with expert expectations. He just entered the first grade. After looking at the list, I feel pretty good about our public school here in Kentucky, regardless if we are one of the lowest ranked states in public education, because he learned and knows all the kindergarten list above. His classroom specifically worked on all that stuff, wanting them to accomplish it by year's end. I don't know if all the kids got there, but they did work on those things. He knows some of the first grader stuff already, but I like this list because it gives me things I can create as goals this year in case they are missed in the classroom. Thanks! "
"This website gave a pretty accurate description of 'what your children should know by year's end'. While it is not very detailed, I understand it is impossible to be very descriptive, as every school is different. In response to the comment posted on 8/03/09, your view of the dynamic between 'wealthy' schools versus 'needy' schools are way off base. I am a teacher in an inner city district but I live in a 'wealthy' district. Trust me, the state is not throwing any extra money our way. Everyone is getting 'left behind'. Don't be so quick to cast blame."
"This website gave a pretty accurate description of 'what your children should know by year's end'. While it is not very detailed, I understand it is impossible to be very descriptive, as every school is different. In response to the comment posted on 8/03/09, your view of the dynamic between 'wealthy' schools versus 'needy' schools are way off base. I am a teacher in an inner city district but I live in a 'wealthy' district. Trust me, the state is not throwing any extra money our way. Everyone is getting 'left behind'. Don't be so quick to cast blame."
"this is a great way to know what my child should learn thanks"
"This list isnt that helpful--just promotes anxiety among parents and children. My daughter learned more in preschool than in our public system's kindergarten and sadly the teacher did not help at all (not even telling me that my daughter was having difficulty in her class until I asked whether there was a problem when we saw our daughter backtracking in her skills and falling behind her peers). I mistakenly thought that I could rely on the teacher as an expert to guide my child and I in her learning. Unfortunately, the state sends money to 'needy' districts so the children in 'wealthy' districts get left behind unless the parents spend extra money to supplement their education (something that is presumed in our system--that parents with money can back stop the public schools) and apparently spend a ton of time quizzing the teacher continually on what is going on in the classroom."
"To those who are responding in horror that their kids don't know the stuff listed: Schools are not battery chargers!!! You aren't supposed to simply insert your kid for twelve years and expect a well rounded adult at the end. Schools are designed to reach most of the kids most of the time. Expecting all of the kids to learn all of the concepts at school is unrealistic and naive. Either way, they are still YOUR kids. If the concept is important, YOU teach them. Quit blaming us teachers. And for God's sake, make the following a national outcry: feed them, bathe them, read to them, and try liking them. Those are the things that will turn education around."
"Great info....I use it along with a series of books my brother who is a teacher recommends. They are 'What every ......should know. The blank space meaning whatever grade you child is in or going to. So I now have 'Whatevery 4th grader should know' Thanks again"
"This is great information. It is a 'road map' to help us better understand the true purpose of the academic system from grades K-5 and exactly what areas our children must progress in so that they can be better prepared to make valuable contributions to society. This is wonderful information that we as parents can use to work in conjunction with our children's teachers and the schools administration to accomplish the true goal of better preparing our children to be contributors to society. You did an outstanding job in putting this together GreatSchools, and I commend you! Thank you. "
"6/12/07 and 6/20/07 If your children aren't getting those skills, there is something wrong with your school, you might want to look into it. My child goes to a low-income school (Title I) in a state that comes in nearly dead last in education and my first graders skills are closer to what to expect from a second grader than a first grader... Your educational system might be in serious danger. You need to confront the Superintendent and ask why their schools are not reaching these milestones. It sounds like your schools and children are being left behind."
"Thank You all who came up with this!!It is so great and helpful, Angie"
"I really appreciate your website and your emails. your educational outlines for my first grader and kindergartener have been a blessing for me. They are always insighful and easy to understand. I have an 11th grader and a 7th grader as well. I am going to be sure to request emails for their grades as well. thank you for being there to help us parents wade through the waters of education for our kids. Angela Hayes"
"I love all the ideas you have for this summer. We are trying to get our granddaughter motivated to read more this summer. Her attention span is not great. She is an insulin dependent diabetic, just went on pump therapy in April. So we are adjusting to that routine. All the teachers comments say that she is a dreamer, and cannot focus. I feel that it could be her glucose readings, when high or low she has different reactions. We have a 504 plan in place--but now will be dealing with a new school and new set of teachers. It is always a struggle with doing extra work, or homework on her own. I guess I am just grandson is super smart, straight A's in all accelerated classes! But I mustn't compare the two! "
"Have the requirements for what young children should learn changed so much in 30 years? When I was a first grader, we were not expected to read and write independently. We were expected to master printing our letters and learn how they sound. We were not expected to do math more complex than addition & subtraction of 1-10 in PICTORAL FORM. My son's 1st grade math homework contains problems like 72-18=? and 58 + 21=?. No pictures, just these abstract numbers! Also, I HEARTILY disagree that boys should be expected to 'sit in a chair for a longer period of time.' Boys do not sit still and should not be 'required' to do so to be considered 'competent'... I mourn for the future of education..."
"Great article. I have a couple questions. Where can we find how to read because the rules are scattered? The sentence below is in the article which caught my eye. At the end of Kindergarten 'Know the relationship between the letters and the sounds they make' I've got a college ed and still don't know them or why. For example, why do we have the letter C and K when they can make the same sound? Cat can be Kat or Kite can me cite. If the e on the end makes the vowel long then look at the word 'love.' I have many of these questions. Some of which I know we derive from latin, etc. But how to explain it to my child to help her read. I've talked with teachers and gotten the same answers: 'don't know' and 'just needs to memorize them' another teacher told me not to worry because she will learn more of that in 1st grade. Who can I ask these types of questions, or where can I read about this type thing, or where can I take classes so I can answer her questions? Thank you very much for all your help! "
"I agree with 6/12/2007 writer, except that we are not low-income. We're average and sent our child to a private school. She doesn't know any of the answers from the quiz show 'Are you smarter than a Fifth Grader?' not even most of the 1st grade questions, and she's the straight A student in her class. Scary Scary Scary!"
"This made me aware that Spradling school has failed her on what she needs to know for the sixthgrade even though she was passed. So now at her new school I can see if there is tutoring for her. Thank you"
"My children aren't learning many of these skills. Having spoken to my neighbors, neither have their children. None of our fifth graders know the answers on the quiz show 'Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?' No child left behind is a joke in this county. They aren't left behind, they are sent forward with a disparaging lack of knowledge. You don't have to be a minority for your children to be disadvantaged, just low- income."