Getting the most out of 1st grade

Based on Common Core Standards
Written by Brian Galvin, MEd Chief Academic Officer

Key Takeaways

These are the most critical skills a 1st grader should master before entering 2nd grade:

Math:
1. Geometry
2. Measurement
3. Number Operations

English Language Arts:
1. Describe Characters, Settings, and Events from a Story
2. Use Proper Conventions When Writing
3. Acquire and Use Appropriate Vocabulary

Find out which 1st grade skills your student needs to work on by taking our learning assessments:

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Critical Skills for Math

Geometry
By the end of 1st grade, it is important that students are comfortable working with shapes. Students should be able to draw circles, rectangles, squares, triangles, half-circles, trapezoids, and quarter-circles; they should determine which attributes are defining (ex. the number of sides) and which are non-defining (ex. color or size); partition circles and rectangles into two and four equal shares, and describe the partitioned shapes as halves, fourths, and quarters. When students reach 2nd grade they will be working with more complex polygons such as octagons, hexagons, and pentagons, they will be breaking shapes into equal rows and columns to create fractional pieces and measuring shapes to determine lengths as they prepare to learn about area and perimeter. A firm grasp of the foundational geometry skills will set students up for success in 2nd grade.

Measurement
1st-grade students will build upon their Kindergarten measurement skills to gather and interpret information about the world around them. Students will order objects by length and compare them, use a ruler to measure lengths to the nearest inch, use digital and analog clocks to tell the time in hour and half-hour intervals, begin identifying the value of coins, and add the values of different coin combinations. These skills prepare students for 2nd grade where they will be introduced to paper money, add and subtract the values of money, and measure objects to the nearest foot, inch, and centimeter. The 1st-grade measurement skills are important for students to learn to help keep them on track for 2nd grade.

Number Operations
Students in 1st grade will build upon their knowledge of numbers and operations to build a versatile skill set for 2nd grade and beyond. Students leaving 1st grade should be able to count to 120, understand the ones and tens place (and their values) in double-digit numbers, compare two-digit numbers based on place value, add numbers within 100, subtract by multiples of 10, subtract within 20, and solve word problems with answers within 20. When students get to 2nd grade they will be adding and subtracting numbers into the hundreds, counting to 1000, and determining even and odd numbers. Understanding place value and the beginning stages of adding and subtracting will make 2nd-grade math more approachable.

Our smart learning system can assess your student, identify their strengths and weaknesses in a subject, and recommend learning tools to help them improve their mastery.

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Critical Skills for English Language Arts

Describe Characters, Settings, and Events from a Story
By the end of 1st grade, students should be able to recall and describe characters, settings, and events from a text. Students should understand who the main characters are, describe character traits using text and illustrations, compare and contrast the experiences that each character has, recognize where and when the story or informational text takes place, and understand which events are major and affect the story. In 2nd grade, students will be asked to compare and contrast a character’s response to the events in a story, begin to determine themes, and point of view, so a strong understanding of events, settings, and characters will prepare students for the road ahead.

Use Proper Conventions When Writing
An important part of 1st grade is the proper use of written English conventions, such as punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. As they graduate from the basics of grouping words into sentences, 1st graders are expected to print uppercase and lowercase letters; use various noun forms (singular and plural); use past, present, and future tense verbs; produce complete sentences; use correct ending punctuation. Students in 2nd grade will be building towards writing complex and compound sentences and paragraphs, and explaining their thinking in different subject areas, so strong sentence structure and conventions are important.

Acquire and Use Appropriate Vocabulary
At the end of 1st grade, students should be able to sort words into categories to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent (ex. colors, shapes, clothing, animals), make real-life connections between words students see and hear and their use, start to distinguish shades of meaning between similar words (ex. peek, look, stare, glance), and describe something in more than one way (ex. geese fly, swim, and honk). In 2nd grade, students will be using context clues, roots, prefixes, and suffixes to identify the meanings of unknown words. They will also be describing more complex character traits and a strong vocabulary will allow them to master these skills.