First grade a cause for excitement and apprehension for both students and parents. The transition from kindergarten to first grade is considerable, especially since most children were enrolled in daycare or some type of pre-kindergarten in preparation for the transition from home to group care. The days are longer, recess and play times are shorter and children are expected to sit still quietly for most of the day. There is more structure and lessons are scheduled. Students have homework assignments and are tested on the materials taught. In Language Arts, students are expected to be reading, spelling, writing and speaking following the standards of English.
One of the goals of first grade is to develop the children's vocabularies. Reading and writing activities such as story time, reading groups, individual quiet time reading and reading one on one with an instructor are all ways to introduce new words and concepts. Children learn to discriminate between letters, word and sentences in books and learn to match what they hear to what they see. Simple punctuation such as question marks and periods become recognizable with the use of tone and inflection of the reader. First graders learn to distinguish between the initial, medial and final sounds in one-syllable words. First graders are able to blend two to four phonemes into a single syllable word and can make a list of rhyming words. They can add, subtract or change sounds to make new words such as cap to cat to pat to at. They can also differentiate the syllables in a word or proper name and count them.
Teachers use decoding and word recognition techniques to develop the students' understanding of words. Recognizing root words, inflectional forms and word families are tools for increasing vocabulary as are building compound words and creating contractions. The goal is for the first grader to be able to read aloud fluently at the appropriate level with normal sounding speech. Students should be aware of the proper use of singular possessive pronouns and they should be able to use the correct plural forms of nouns. After reading a story or having a book read to them, first graders should be able to answer questions about the story. Reading comprehension requires the students to be able to ask and answer the five w's of reporting. They should also be able to decipher any ambiguities through the context of the questionable concept. First graders should also be able to construct a literary response to the story, using theme, plot, setting and characters to drive their written response.
When writing, first graders should recognize the need to capitalize proper names, the first word of a sentence and "I" as a pronoun. Students can spell three and four letter words and some sight words and know the use of exclamation points, question marks and periods. Children will be writing every day and recording journal entries throughout the week in most first grade classrooms. Students can prepare these entries by generating their thoughts verbally, listing them on paper and then organizing them into a first draft. After writing the first draft, students can edit and revise to add detail and description.
First graders are expected to be able to take all of the skills they have acquired in reading and writing and apply them to speaking. Students should be able to speak in complete sentences with proper grammar usage. They should be able to report on the stories they have heard or read answering any relevant questions. They should be able to recite poems, sing memorized songs and tell stories. Students at this age are expected to be able to tell a personal story within a timeline and provide detail in their descriptive phrases.