Young students in a classroom sit at their desks working on paper
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So your kid is starting first grade — here’s what to know

First grade is an exciting year! Your child is no longer the youngest in the school, and they’ll make big leaps in their academic and social skills.

That said, it’s completely understandable for both kids and parents to be a little nervous about what’s ahead. There’ll be a new teacher, classroom, and friends to meet. And for children who attended kindergarten at their daycare, this could be their first experience at an elementary school.

To help ease your nerves, we’ll cover what to expect, along with tips for making this year as successful and enjoyable as possible.

Here’s what to know when your kid is starting first grade.

What your child will learn in first grade

In first grade, children learn basic addition and number sequences. For instance, numbers 40 through 49 are essentially the same as 50 through 59, only with a different first digit.

First graders are taught the days of the week and how to tell time, both with a clock face and a digital display. They’ll also work on science, history, geography, and health lessons, all at an age-appropriate level and pace.

Spelling, writing, and reading independently

This is a big year for language. Most first-grade students can read at least 150 of the most common words and recognize them with sight (also known as high-frequency words or sight words). This means when they see a word, they know what it is by looking rather than having to sound it out.

First graders will practice spelling words up to four letters long and start writing in complete sentences. This is also the grade where many kids begin reading independently. You can help your child by encouraging them to read books aloud at home and sound out the words as they go.

Developmental milestones for 6- and 7-year-olds

What your child learns as a first grader will align with the developmental milestones for 6– and 7-year-olds. This includes:

  • Listening and sitting still for longer periods
  • Following slightly more complex instructions
  • Working or reading independently at their desk
  • Telling more detailed stories
  • Planning ahead
  • Problem-solving and logical reasoning
  • Understanding perspectives and showing empathy
  • More eagerness to please teachers and parents

Remember every child is different. Some kids will reach all these milestones by year-end, and others may still be working on them in second grade.

Schedules, challenges, and changes

Here’s what you can expect from your child’s first-grade experience and how to prepare.

Full school days

Your child should start feeling more confident as an elementary schooler and adapt to the daily schedule. But as mentioned, a full school day is new for some kids. It’s normal for children to be exhausted and even a little cranky at the end of the day, especially during those first few weeks while they adjust to the routine.

Homework for first graders

First graders may have nightly homework, usually a simple worksheet, a reading assignment, or just bringing an item from home for show and tell. Check your kiddo’s backpack daily and ask their teacher if you’re unsure about the expectations. Also, make sure they know where and how to turn in their homework each day.

What’s going on outside of school

Primary schools often offer soccer in the fall and T-ball in the spring for students. Otherwise, art, music classes, dance, and other sports may need to be set up with independent organizations.

If you work full-time, an after-school program might be a good option for your first grader, as public schools are usually dismissed no later than 3:30 (often earlier). This would cover the hours until you’re off work while giving your child the opportunity to make friends and explore hobbies.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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