Academic Expectations

What we expect academically this year... 


Dear Parents,

As we begin our year together, I thought it would be helpful for you to have a description of the curricular and academic expectations we have for your children coming into and ending the first term of first grade.  This page is designed to give you an idea of where the average, native English speaking student will be starting and hopefully finishing this first term.  As you read this, please keep in mind that all students start at different places and progress at different rates.  If your children are working below these expectations, we will be working to help them accelerate their progress.  If your children are working far above these expectations, we will be working to keep moving them on to the next level.  We will have a chance to discuss any concerns you may have about these issues at our parent teacher pre-conferences.

Daisy & Donald Duck Driving Car


First grade reading is traditionally organized into three levels: pre-primer, primer, and first grade.  Pre-primer is the level that children are expected to master by December, primer by March, and first grade by May.  First grade reading also has three basic parts that we will be addressing this year:  sight words, decoding skills, and comprehension. Putting these three areas, sight words, phonics, and comprehension together develop a balanced approach to reading.



Sight words are words that we expect children to learn to read on sight.  They are chosen because they are the most frequently used words in books and because many of them have spellings that do not match their sounds or follow regular spelling patterns. 

  • At the beginning of first grade, the average student will know some words on the pre-primer list. Some may know many, some may even know words up to the third grade list.   

  • By the end of the first term, we expect the average child to have learned around 70% of the pre-primer sight words. 

Decoding means being able to figure out a new word that you have not read before.  In first grade, we spend a lot of time learning to use letter-sound relationships and spelling patterns to decode words.  We also learn how to use the sense of the story and the order of the words in a sentence to help us.  

  • At the beginning of first grade, your children should know most basic letter / sound relationships for single letters in the alphabet.

  • By the end of the first term, your children should know all of the letter / sound relationships for each letter and should be able to apply them to “sound out” short, 3-4 letter words with regular spelling, such as “cat” or “must.”  Your children should sound these words out smoothly, not leaving out any sounds, and saying the sounds all the way to the end. 

Finally, it is essential for all readers to value the meaning of the text they are reading and seek to understand or comprehend it. In Kindergarten, first grade, and at home, we support and develop these skills by reading , telling, and talking about stories and books. 

  • Your children should already understand many things about how stories work.  
  • By the end of first term, when sounding out simple words, we expect your children to be able to match those words to a word they know that makes sense with the story.  Your children may do this based on only the first one or two sounds of a word.  
  • We also expect your children to begin to predict words and content as they read, be able to use the sense of the story to help them figure out words, begin to notice and correct their mistakes when they don’t make sense, and be able to retell the story after reading it.  We will be working on these comprehension skills all year long.    



**Click on the quote above for great reading tips for parents!**


At the beginning of first grade, the average children can write words to label a picture and perhaps a sentence or two.  Children's writing will involve a lot of drawing, many non-standard spellings, and will usually need some talking to complete the message.  We will write regularly in class, and it is exciting to see the kids develop as time goes on. By the end of first term, we will assess the children's writing in two main areas: composition and mechanics. 

  • In the area of composition, we expect your children to be writing 3 to 5 sentences during each writing session which stay on topic, make sense, and use natural vocabulary.

  • In the area of mechanics, your children should have begun experimenting with the use of capitals and periods to start and finish their sentences, but we will not expect consistently correct usage at this stage.  We expect them to be writing their words and stories in the correct direction and leaving spaces between their words.  

  • On their reports, we may also comment on your children’s attitude towards writing and their productivity during our writing periods, as over time these factors directly impact their success in this important area of communication.


In the first term of first grade, we use spelling as a method for children to practice, use, and become secure in letter sound relationships.  We also look for them to begin to develop sight vocabularies in spelling.  This process will take longer than developing sight vocabulary in reading, and we do not expect children to correctly spell words that they may be able to read on sight. 

First graders are encouraged to use "developmental spelling" to write before they have learned standard spelling.  Most first graders' spelling develops through the following stages. 

  • At the beginning of first grade, your children may be a semi-phonetic speller.  For example, a semi-phonetic speller may write the word “united” as “ud.”  

  • By the end of first term, we expect your children to be a phonetic speller who would write the above word as “untd” or “unitd.” 

  • In the next stage, transitional, children begin to experiment with and apply spelling patterns that they recall from reading.  A transitional speller may spell the above word “youknighted.” (Ms. Foster has actually observed children spell this word in this way!) 

  • It is at this stage that they are ready to learn the conventional spelling of the word since they are developing a visual understanding of it. 

At the beginning of first grade, your children may be semi-phonetic or phonetic spellers.  By the end of the first term, all children should be spelling words at a phonetic level.  Your children should move into the transitional phase with some words around January.  For now, however, we will work on getting your children use at least one letter for each sound in a word.  If they are functioning above this, that’s great!


In the first term, we will learn how to correctly form all the letters of the English alphabet.    We will also discuss  proportions of letters, making the tall ones tall and the short ones short as well as correct pencil grip.  

  • At the beginning of first grade, children hold their pencil and form their letters in a variety of ways.  Children often use capitals at inappropriate times and often form their letters backwards. 

  • By the first report card, we expect your children to be writing increasingly with  lower case letters with correct formation, correct pencil grip, and roughly in the lines at this time of the year.  As handwriting skills develop, your children's handwriting will become smaller and more consistent. Reversals should begin to decrease, although some will persist through the end of the year.


Our Everyday Mathematics program focuses on developing fluent student skills and conceptual understanding in the areas of counting (especially from 0 to 130 and above), number understanding (especially to 50) and counting small change (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters).   It evaluates children as beginning, developing, or secure at these concepts and skills.  

  • At the beginning of first grade, most children should be able to count above 30 and perhaps skip count by 10’s or 5’s in a group.  They have probably been exposed to the concepts of addition and subtraction and may even be developing efficient strategies for working those problems.  

  • By the end of first term, we expect your children to have a secure grasp of counting to 100, skip counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s to 50, writing 2 digit numbers to 30, identifying numbers that come before or after to 30, using tally marks, and filling in missing numbers in a sequence.  Your children should be secure in all the above skills and concepts to be meeting expectations in mathematics.

  • We will also begin looking at basic addition and subtraction skills through the number 10, although these skills will continue to develop into the second term.  

Special Topics

The first grade covers several special topics throughout the year.  In the area of science, our units include "The Human Senses," and "Solids and Liquids."  Our Social Studies Units are "Japan Through the Seasons," "World Geography," and "Australia."  To support our learning, we will take field trips to Rosmond Gifford Zoo, the MOST (Museum of Science and Technology), Beaver Lake and Highland Forest. The kids have a wonderful time exploring their community!

I hope this gives you an idea of where we probably are and where we are headed until the next report card.  I look forward to our discussion at the pre-conferences.



Chelsea Stevenson