If you were amazed at how your child’s scribbles transformed into words last year, get ready for pure delight as your first grader learns to write full, meaningful paragraphs this year! First graders learn everything from expressing their thoughts to the rules of grammar.
While the bar may seem high for first graders, remember that this year’s work is a progression, starting with mastery of the alphabet.
A to Z — and all the sounds in between
Teachers often kick off the year with an ABCs review, just like in kindergarten. But this year’s review is also likely to include a couple dozen high-frequency words (e.g. he, and, good, play).
If your child didn’t master the alphabet last year, it’s okay. First grade is the year to read the ABCs, know their letter sounds, and to print all upper and lowercase letters.
Cn u rd this?
A first grader may start the year writing “cac” for cake or “becs” for because. Dropping a word’s silent e at the end or middle vowel sound to spell it the way it sounds is known as phonetic or “invented” spelling. (See a real example of “invented” spelling.) Children are often more comfortable using consonants and the sounds at the beginning of words because they’re more distinct than vowels or sounds at the ends of words. By using invented spelling, children are demonstrating what they know about letter sounds. Research shows that letting children use invented spelling (and not immediately correcting them) allows them to focus on the purpose of writing: communication.
With time, your first grader should transition to conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns (e.g. bike, like, hike, and sing, ring, king (See our first grade rhyming words worksheets for more examples.) and high-frequency words (See our first grade snap words worksheets for some examples.).
Note: Keep an eye on your first grader’s spelling near the end of the year: if a child’s spelling does not improve or their invented spelling is arbitrary rather than phonetic, it can be a sign of a learning issue.
But don’t expect to banish invented spelling completely this year. First graders should be encouraged to keep using what they know about letter sounds and newly learned spelling patterns to spell irregular, unfamiliar, and new vocabulary words, for example “inportint” for important.
3 types of writing in first grade
First graders should practice and learn three kinds of writing: opinion, informative, and narrative. Opinion and informative writing will likely start with kids reading a book and responding to what they’ve learned. In an opinion piece, your child introduces the book or topic he’s writing about, states his opinion about it, gives a reason or two to support his opinion, and then offers some sort of conclusion to complete his writing.
In an informative piece, your child names what he’s writing about and gives some information, facts, or details about it (e.g. Dinosaurs lived on Earth a long time ago. Some dinosaurs were bigger than people are today…), and, as in an opinion piece, offers some sense of conclusion.
Writing a narrative is like writing a story. A first grader’s story should describe two or more events, include details about what happened, and give some sense of the story coming to an end — not only by writing “The End,” although that’s a good start.
See what first grade writing looks like
bttr, better, best!
Teaching your child to write well means helping her understand that writing is a multistep process. Before your child picks up a pencil, prewriting begins with reading, thinking, rereading, taking notes, and discussing. When your child’s first draft is done, the teacher and other students might ask your child questions about the work to elicit details or facts that could be added, or to help organize the order of events in a story.
Then your child may be asked to do a revision. After one or more revisions of the draft, the teacher might help your child with the final edit — focusing on spelling, capitalizing proper nouns and the first word of a sentence, and adding a period at the end. These steps — prewriting, doing a first draft, revising their work, and editing the final piece — helps first graders learn all the important parts of writing: gathering and recalling information, organizing their thoughts, strengthening and clarifying their ideas, and improving grammar.
Research in first grade, oh my!
In first grade writing there’s an emphasis on kids learning to respond to questions by looking up answers to their questions.
In their writing, this means that kids will pull information from books, websites, class presentations, and other experiences to form their opinions, arguments, and even stories. When they use this information, they should be able to recall where they learned the facts they’re including and organize them into their own writing. An example you may see your child working on: reading a “how to” book and mimicking the writing structure to write their own instructions for something — in order! (For great practice, check out our pizza recipe worksheet.)
What how first graders research and discuss a topic
“I go’ed there,” no more!
Get ready for your first grader’s grammar — in the form of noun-verb agreement, adjectives, sentence complexity, and punctuation — to leap forward. First graders learn to use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in simple past, present, and future tenses. They also learn to use commas.
Kids also learn about proper and possessive nouns (e.g. Shawn and Shawn’s), articles (e.g. a, the), pronouns (e.g. I, me, my, they, them, their, anyone), adjectives (e.g. good, happy), and increasingly difficult prepositions (e.g. during, toward).
In fact, think of first grade as the year of “because” — because your child’s sentences should move beyond simple statements to compound statements, questions, and exclamations using conjunctions (e.g. but, so, and, or, because) to connect thoughts.
Finally, building on the capitalization rules your child learned last year (I and the first letter of the first word in a sentence), your first grader will learn to capitalize the first letter of people’s names.
What about handwriting?
Handwriting matters. First graders are expected to be able to print all upper and lowercase letters.
Updated November 2013 to align with the Common Core Standards