A lot of learning happens in kindergarten. Once kindergartners become first graders, they’re expected to hit the ground running. Some of the skills they need are social, such as listening and taking turns, and some are academic. To see if your child is ready for first grade, take a look at the Common Core State Standards that many states have started to use. Here’s a sample from these standards, which provide a clear outline of the skills kids should learn by the end of kindergarten.
Skills to Get Ready for Grade 1: English Language Arts and Literacy
By the beginning of first grade, kids are expected to know the alphabet and the basic features of letters and words. Kindergartners practice breaking words into small chunks and identifying the sounds each letter makes. They’re also taught to recognize and provide rhyming words. These skills help emerging readers learn new words and even read simple books.
First graders are expected to be able to write and share information in a variety of ways. This includes drawing, writing letters and words, listening to others and speaking aloud. To help build these skills for first grade, kindergartners do the following kinds of activities:
- Write and recognize upper- and lowercase letters.
- Match letters to sounds, make rhymes and recognize some words without having to sound them out (teachers refer to these as “sight words,” and some of the first ones kids pick are and, the and it).
- Learn and use new words to express thoughts, feelings and ideas clearly.
- Ask and answer questions about a story the teacher reads aloud, as well as talk about the characters, settings and major events in the story.
- Name the person, place, thing or idea in a picture.
- Follow the rules of conversation by listening and taking turns talking.
- Give information about an event, topic or opinion by drawing, talking and writing about it.
- Participate in shared reading and writing activities (such as the teacher reading a big picture book aloud and students taking turns sharing ideas about it).
Skills to Get Ready for Grade 1: Mathematics
Kids work on two big math ideas before first grade. The first is learning numbers and what they stand for, such as connecting the number “5” with a picture of five apples. The other biggie is learning about addition and subtraction. Kindergartners also learn to identify and work with shapes. The following activities help build math skills needed for first grade:
- Count how many objects are in a group (one by one) and compare it to another group to figure out which is greater or less than the other.
- Recognize that addition means putting two groups together and that subtraction means taking away from one group.
- Add and subtract numbers 1 through 10.
- Use objects to show how to break up numbers less than or equal to 10 in more than one way (for example, 8 erasers = two groups of 4 erasers, and 8 erasers = a group of 2 and a group of 6).
- Find the number of objects to make any group of 1 to 9 into a group of 10.
- Use objects or draw pictures to represent and solve simple addition and subtraction word problems.
Kids develop skills at different rates. But if your child hasn’t mastered most of these skills by the end of kindergarten, it’s a good idea to talk with the school. Your child’s teacher can speak with you about your concerns and help you come up with a plan for keeping track of your child’s progress and getting ready for first grade.
There are things you can do at home to help prepare your child for first grade, too.
- Practice social skills, like conversation.
- Play rhyming games.
- Use objects around the house to practice adding and subtracting.
- Write small words or names to practice forming upper- and lowercase letters.