What Students Learn in First Grade
First grade marks an important milestone for young children who finally feel like part of a “big” school. They may eat in the cafeteria for the first time or play outside during recess without the direct supervision of their own teacher; experiences that help first graders feel more independent. First graders now have to use the social skills they developed in preschool and kindergarten in more mature ways. But the true magic of first grade happens as children develop the ability to understand what letters and numbers really mean. When they’re ready, they’ll be able to read words.
First graders move slowly from a world of play into a world of symbols and concepts (with a lot of backtracking along the way). This doesn’t mean that play is not still important, but it does mean that learning in first grade becomes more organized and routine-based, with a lot of room for children’s explorations.
To get a handle on the way your first grader’s brain is developing, think back to her first baby steps. Your child was probably a master crawler before taking those initial wobbly steps.
First graders take those same baby steps away from the familiar information that they are comfortable with into a bigger, abstract world that is more difficult to understand. During those early toddling days, your child probably reverted to crawling in order to get somewhere quickly. Similarly, your child will still be more comfortable gaining knowledge through exploration and play. A first grader’s brain is just beginning to grasp a few concepts at the same time, and then to make connections between those concepts.
You can see this in a first grader’s writing. Children use “invented spelling” by writing in ways that make sense to them. They use what they know about sound and spelling relationships to get their ideas onto the page. They haven’t mastered all the letter sounds or spelling rules that they need to be fluent writers, but they’re willing to use what they know to work out the puzzle of written language.
Learning From Mistakes
First graders learn by doing and by making mistakes. These mistakes can be frustrating, so they need positive reminders of the many ways that they are powerful learners.
Until now, most of their learning and growth have been part of a natural progression that took place in the comfortable worlds of play and home. They may have worked hard to learn how to slide down the fire pole in the playground, but no one gave them a grade on how well they did, or how long it took them to accomplish the task.
In first grade, children begin to acquire skills in areas they may not be completely comfortable in — and they may be graded on them.
First graders are asked to work with more difficult material and may feel like they are struggling for the first time in their lives. These new situations can sometimes lead normally confident children to feel unsure about their abilities. Previously, they have been “masters” at whatever they did. But now they may feel pressure to learn to read and to grasp more complicated math and science concepts. Therefore, first graders need to be surrounded with excitement and encouragement, and given examples of how we learn from mistakes.
Ms. Nora Sierra
EC Assistant Principal