First grade is mainly dedicated to reading. The focus is to read (silently and aloud) first-grade texts, such as E.H. The Little Bear books of Minarik, the Danny and the Dinosaur of Syd Hoff, and the Frog and Toad books of Arnold Lobel. Phonics work is critical here, as children are immersed in a literary environment. Students continue to hear stories that the teacher read aloud (as they will in the next couple of years). They have plenty of time to ask questions and answer readings. They correctly use basic grammar when they speak. They write simple words, sentences, and passages with the help of the teachers and parents. First graders do the following, among other things:

 Reading and Comprehension

  • continue phonics work: count the syllables in a word, identify letter sounds in words, blend letter sounds to make words, etc.
  • sound out short words (e.g., mop, boat, cake, feet, chin, boot, kite)
  • sound out unfamiliar words when reading
  • recognize some common “sight words”: (e.g., have, says, one, where)
  • read simple stories and beginning reader books (silently and aloud)
  • predict what will happen in stories and later discuss whether the prediction was right
  • discuss what, when, where, how, why, and what-if questions about readings
  • read and understand simple instructions
  • read aloud with someone outside of school at least ten minutes daily


  • practice writing brief compositions (e.g., stories, descriptions, letters, journal entries)


  • spell words dictated by the teacher
  • correctly spell short words (e.g., cat, pig, tent)
  • learn simple spelling rules reflected in phonics (e.g., a-consonant-e makes the long a sound, as in “gate”)

Grammar and Usage

  • capitalize the first word of a sentence, names of people, and the pronoun “I”
  • use periods, question marks, and exclamation points at ends of sentences
  • make words plural by adding s


  • read and listen to poems (e.g., “Solomon Grundy,” Gelett Burgess’s “The Purple Cow,” Eugene Field’s “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”)
  • read and listen to stories, including fables, fairy tales, and legends (e.g., “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Puss-in-boots”)
  • learn some folktales from around the world (e.g., China’s “Lon Po Po,” Japan’s “One-Inch Boy,” Spain’s “Media Pollito”)
  • learn some basic literary terms (e.g., character, hero, heroine)
  • read and listen to nonfiction prose (e.g., history books, books about art)
  • take part in a class play
  • learn some conventions and terms of drama (e.g., actors, scenery, props, stage)
  • practice telling and writing their own stories


(drawn from the Core Knowledge Sequence)

In a good first grade classroom, you might see children:

  • hearing stories such as “The Pied Piper and The Honest Woodman, and then talking about why it is important to tell the truth
  • after listening to some Beatrix Potter tales, working with the teacher to compose their own animal story
  • keeping lists of “Things I Can Do” to record progress in writing (e.g . write my name; write all the letters; write my address; use periods)
  • identifying the long vowel sounds in words such as “cake,” “eat,” and “hello,” and the short vowel sounds in words such as rock,” “little,and “happen”
  • listening to the teacher as she explains the rules for a class discussion and the reason for each rule
  • taking turns explaining why something they brought from home is important to their families

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