(below is info about what your child will be learning this year)
Listening and Speaking
Your child will listen to more stories, but the stories are also more complex and feature greater intensity of human feeling. First grade children also expand their vocabularies; do more retelling of the stories they hear (this helps them to understand the stories' logic in terms of beginnings, middle, and ends); identify rhyming patterns; create mental images of what they hear and describe these images; discriminate more fully among sounds; discuss differences in intensity of words and sounds; speak about their ideas; take part in conversations and discussions; learn to take messages and pass them on; and learn an increasing array of nursery rhymes, poems, chants, and songs, with many opportunities to "perform" what they have learned.
Reading and Writing
I would like your children to enjoy reading and writing, not just know how to read and write. First grade children continue to work on sound-to-letter connections; they also begin identifying prefixes and suffixes. But the emphasis shifts from reading as mastery of letters and words to reading as a way of getting to the meaning of a text. Children keep journals of words they know, regularly adding new words. Simple books with predictable patterns -- familiar stories or stories with clues in the pictures -- are introduced, and there are many books for children to choose from. Children are taught to "pass over" words they do not know and keep going, or to infer the meaning of words from the context or the pictures; these methods keep them from losing interest or becoming discouraged. Children are encouraged to keep the story flowing with their own inventions. Teachers also equip children with strategies for sounding out words they do not know. First grade teachers do more reading with small groups of children. This allows the teacher to introduce new information, to help children with new words and meanings, and to hear children read aloud. Such groups, though, are never permanent and are not labeled in a judgmental way, such as "high, middle, and low" reading groups. Labels that create castes among the children are not helpful.
Writing continues to be closely related to reading. The volume of writing increases steadily through grade one. Children are encouraged to get their ideas on paper, spelling the words as they sound to them, and to think of themselves as real authors. They write more to each other, to the teacher, to their parents, and to classroom visitors; they produce an increasing number of books to enlarge their sense of authorship; and they begin to recognize authorship in what they read. They are also encouraged to find favorites among children's authors.
As in kindergarten, mathematics in grade one is more concrete than abstract. Children's work consists not of hundreds of worksheets with problems such as 2+2=__ but of manipulating buttons and other objects, seeing patterns, and understanding the various uses of quantitative concepts. In this sense children use math in the course of working with science, cooking, health, social studies, reading, and writing.
In more traditional terms, they will count and write numbers on an ever-increasing scale, from 20 to 30, from 30 to 40, and so on. Their concepts of order expand from fifth to sixth and on to twelfth; they use such symbols as +, -, =, <, and >; they'll gain a firmer grasp of addition and subtraction; they'll begin solving "story" problems (written problems that relate as much as possible to children's experiences); they'll do more work with shapes and segments of shapes; they'll be introduced to the concepts of whole, half, and quarter; they master time telling to the half hour, if not to the minute; they'll gain a fuller sense of historical time; they use standard measures such as cup, pint, and teaspoon. They'll learn to estimate: How many seeds are in a pumpkin? Does the size of the pumpkin make a difference? How much difference?
They'll move from these estimates to estimates of length and distance, and they make graphs of their estimates and measurements. As a result of this varied approach to math, children come to see the mathematics involved in buildings and bridges, in quilts, in buying the right amount of wallpaper, in knowing how much money they must save to buy a particular toy or a radio.
Exploration of the natural world continues to be an important area of study. I will attempt to foster your child's curiosity and impart the tools of inquiry, so that children readily ask, "Why is that?" "How does that happen?" "What if...?" The children will learn to focus their inquiries within a subject. The investigation of insects, for example, might involve examining their characteristics, observing their activities, learning to recognize different varieties, and noting differences and similarities; another common and fully engaging activity is following the stages of a butterfly's development. (Plants and animals are always interesting because they are living things and because children can see plants and animals in the world around them.) A more abstract focus of investigation might be weather, including the seasons, cloud structures, the sun and the moon, and temperature. The study of magnets allows children to develop techniques of experimentation.
Learning about families and neighborhoods is an essential part of social studies throughout the primary grades, even as children learn about other parts of the United States and the world. In the first grade, children learn more about families and how they live and work, in the United States and elsewhere; explore aspects of the economy such as jobs, transportation, stores and shops, income, spending, and saving; study the different cultures in their region; begin to learn the concepts of city, state, and nation; practice democratic processes such as making rules and decisions; learn inquiry skills such as becoming aware of a problem, knowing how to gain information, being able to organize and analyze information, and finding solutions.
They advance their study of geography by learning the four main directions and using maps. History becomes more important at this level; a common focus of study is how children lived in other times. Children are encouraged to hear stories of their parents' and grandparents' childhoods. "Once upon a time" and "Long ago, in faraway land" are the openings of some fascinating stories that are read to children to give them a sense of historical thinking.
In the early years, children are encouraged to express themselves in all the arts, to create landscapes, sound, music, and symbolic language. As children gain greater control of crayons and brushes, and as their eye-hand coordination improves, their drawings and paintings will become more detailed and colorful. In grade one, children will become more conscious of the aesthetic character of their classroom and the school; they will organize plays; and they will become more skillful in the use of rhythm instruments.
Children gain a great deal -- in terms of self-esteem, expressiveness, and sheer pleasure -- from being active in as many of the arts as possible throughout their primary years. It is especially important that parents encourage and support their children's art activities. Parents can help make the arts a central element of their children's experience.