Learning Guide: First Grade

Your little student will become a reader this year and things will start adding up in the math department as well.
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Portrait of a First Grader

First graders love attention and often show surprising self-confidence: "Me first. I'm the best. I know everything." Kids at this age are competitive and often awkward in social interactions. They have short fuses emotionally and are terrified of being left out. But as the year wears on, their social skills grow and their attention span increases. First graders are so interested in figuring out the world! They frequently imitate adult role models, so be careful that your child doesn't pick up some of your bad habits. They're also eager to please, and they form intense bonds with a "best friend" -- although the identity of that best friend may change from week to week. Many first-graders make very strong connections with their teachers, too.

What your child will learn

Learning to read -- and to enjoy reading -- is one of the great tasks of first grade. Throughout the year, some children may be fluid readers who adore books, while others stumble over letters but love to listen to stories. Don't be alarmed if your child moves at a pace you consider slow. Most children learn to read in their own time.

In first grade, students spend a lot of time listening to stories and reading stories to classmates. Teachers use basal readers or children's literature (many use both), utilizing a combination of sight-word recognition (learning words that appear over and over in text) and combining letter sounds. Your child will be encouraged to write stories; most of the writing will invite her to draw on personal experiences (Writing their memoirs at ages 6 and 7!). Some teachers encourage children to use unconventional, or "invented," spelling ("ezy"; for "easy). Other teachers use tests to guide children to spell correctly. A buzzword you may hear is "writing process." The task: choosing a topic, crafting a story, getting feedback, rewriting it, then reading it aloud. Math skills, too, will mushroom as she learns a lot more about numbers and "numeration" beyond counting. The structure of the day is different from kindergarten -- no naps and less free play, perhaps none. Desks may replace tables; either way, your child will be held responsible for her own things.

The computer activities in first and second grade move beyond educational game play and into software that helps kids create things on the computer. Some schools may have computer labs, but in-classroom computers are becoming more common. Teachers may have children work in pairs to produce a piece of writing and illustration.

Continued on page 2:  In the Classroom


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