5 Things You Should Know About First Grade

After a fun year in Kindergarten, and a nice summer break it is nearly time to return to school. This year K will be in First grade. As emotional as I was about the start of Kindergarten last year, first grade seems just as monumental. Even though she will attend the same school, first grade sounds like big-girl school.

I have been warned from parents that the academics really take a step up in the First grade. K is all excited about starting her new adventure in First grade, meanwhile mom has been researching ways I can support her success to help make this her best year yet. Here are some things to help other moms of First Graders get through First Grade with good grades, big smiles, and great memories!

5 Things You Should Know About First Grade Common Core

Common Core Standards Expectations

Common Core Standards will be in every classroom this year. While we had a taste of it in Kindergarten, this is where Common Core starts to really make an impact. In this year, “students develop strategies for adding and subtracting whole numbers based on their prior work with small numbers. They use a variety of models, including discrete objects and length-based models to model add-to, take-from, put-together, take-apart and compare situations to develop meaning for the operations of addition and subtraction, and to develop strategies to solve arithmetic problems with these operations.”

If you are not familiar with Common Core yet, the description above may sound overwhelming. But after a year of Common Core learning, those are all phrases I am used to hearing teachers talk about — and even my daughter talk about as we reviewed her work.  

First graders also need to consider various problem-solving strategies to reach the correct answers. They will also need to “develop, discuss, and use efficient, accurate, and generalized methods to add within 100 and subtract multiples of 10.” (Basically, they need to be able to know how they got an answer, not just what the answer is.) They will learn this through various activities in class and in homework assignments. In this year, students will be taught about measuring and building 3-D figures from solid and flat figures they learned about in Kindergarten, such as a quadrilateral from triangles.

Stories will start to include more subjects and complex ideas, but they will stay generally concrete, as children this year have a hard time with abstract thinking. Their vocabulary will build and they will be taught about parts of a sentence, paragraph in stories, and even what syllables and punctuation is.

How to help – For you to help with all of these areas, brush up on it yourself! Ask the teacher if you have a hard time with the methods being used. While some of the language used may sound obscure, it is the same information that has always been taught — just compiled differently.

Social Skills

The first grader is experiencing more and more awareness of self. They become more competitive and self-centered than in previous years, and they even have a “best friend” that makes them feel important, whereas before they may have not settled on one friend. They have not yet mastered the idea of multiple close friends, yet, or being part of a clique. You may also see that school becomes their most important space and they enjoy school immensely. Children at this age thrive on schedules and they like helping out around the house. They also need more time with friends, so allow that for them.

How to help – To help improve social skills encourage your children to play with other children through scheduled playdates, but continue to encourage the development of a best friend. Use this time when kids are excited to help to continue teaching children about doing chores as part of a family duty.

Physical Development

First graders are full of energy and it’s just growing! At this age they:

  • Enjoy reading, but only in short bursts
  • Become more aware of what their fingers can do and start using them more to build motor skills
  • They are sloppy because they have a hard time focusing on one thing
  • They tend to be loud and abrupt
  • They chew more on pencils, fingernails and other objects as new teeth come in when baby teeth are lost
  • They get sick easily and tend to tire just as easily
  • They have a good sense of balance

How to help – To help them with physical development, encourage good eating and exercising habits and try to help them focus their energy.

Emotional Development

First graders tend to have a better grasp of what emotions are, but -like in Kindergarten- they have a hard time processing them. First graders are more prone to tantrums, teasing, complaining and tattling. They are extremely sensitive, and they often need encouragement from parents and friends.

Failure or criticism from anyone is hard for a child this age to handle. They have not quite mastered the skill of reverse process thoughts, which makes it hard for them to understand the consequences of their actions. They have a harder time accepting punishments as a result of this lack of understanding.

How to help – Emotional development is hard for both parents and kids, make sure you continue to praise children for positive behavior and discuss problems without

Intellectual Development

Schoolwork is interesting to first graders and their intellectual development includes asking lots of questions, playing to learn, using symbols to represent emotions and ideas, and dramatic play. They tend to tell elaborate stories, but they are starting to understand the concept of lying much better and they start to understand time frames, i.e.: past, present, and future.

How to help – At this age, you need to help them focus on one problem or topic at a time so as not to overwhelm them. You may also notice that letters and numbers are reversed, which is normal in writing for this age. One final thing that ties into intellectualism for kids this age is that they want to develop elaborate and large collections of items they’re interested in. Help them to develop their interests and collections- it is good for them and helps build confidence.


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