1st Grade: What to Expect

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1st grade, first day, what to expect

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As we count down the days to back to school, the Daily Buzz talks with moms and public school teachers about what you and your child can expect in the coming year.

Today 1st grade teachers Simonsmama and Sillieguze and post-1st grade moms Christina04 and my3girlshat answer common questions about ...



Simonsmama: The main educational focus in 1st grade is reading and math. A child should be able to read 50 grade-level words a minute at the completion of 1st grade. This meets a minimum standard. Students should be able to read short beginning-level books by January, and by the end of the year, students should be able to add, subtract, and tell time to the half hour. Grades will differ school district to school district, but in ours, we use a 1-4 scale and effort grades.

Sillieguze: One of the biggest things we work on in 1st grade is having the kids become fluent readers. By year's end, they should be able to read books on their level, write sight words, and write a story of at least six sentences on a topic. They should know their basic addition facts to 18 and be able to solve basic subtraction problems. I give grades every six weeks. Many of the grades are given based on looking at a student's work, instead of calculating a percentage like the older grades do. I grade my students based on their ability to complete certain skills.

Christina04: My daughter learned to read small books and do addition and subtraction  for the numbers 1-12 and multiplication for the numbers 1-5.

my3girlshat: My daughter learned numbers and numeration, measurements, coins and their values, addition and subtraction, story problems, shapes, and more.

School Supplies

Simonsmama: Start with basics. They really only need one good folder, but that's up to each teacher. I suggest a set of beginner pencils (the fat kind), a pencil sharpener, a box of fat crayons, a glue stick, a pencil box, and a pair of scissors. Some teachers will ask for other things, but this will get you started. I would have a set of these things for home and one for school. It's good to send your student with a large box of tissue and a bottle of hand sanitizer for the classroom, as these are supplies that teachers usually have to purchase out of pocket.

Sillieguze: I ask my students to get crayons, glue (bottle and stick), pencils, erasers, markers, scissors, a ruler, folders, notebooks, and a paint shirt. We always need Kleenex and paper towels for the classroom.

Christina04: For 1st grade, I spent close to $100. My daughter had to have specific composition notebooks and folders in certain colors with the clasps on the inside to hold extra paper. She also needed erasers, two mechanical pencils, a gluestick, an art box, crayons, colored pencils, a three-ring binder, and some other items.

my3girlshat: I'd say I spent about $20-$30.


Simonsmama: You should expect 30 minutes of homework at night that shouldn't require much parental help unless your student is struggling with a concept. I like students to do their homework on their own, with parents checking for understanding in the beginning and the end. That way when I check homework, I know what students struggle with outside of the classroom. Never do your child's homework or make excuses for why they didn't have time to do it. It only enables poor work habits that will continue throughout school.

Sillieguze: My students complete a weekly homework packet, and they should work on it for about 10-15 minutes per night. I also ask them to read for 15 minutes each night. The purpose of the homework that I send home is for the parents to help the students practice the skills that we are working on in class.

Christina04: My daughter only had one or two pages of homework a night. However, there were projects throughout the year that I did have to help on — book reports and such.

my3girlshat: Hunter had some kind of reading every day, math homework every night, and spelling words to practice for the test on Friday. For the most part, the homework was easy enough for her to do on her own, but I helped when she needed it. I would say the words for her spelling, and she would spell them for me.

Social Scene

Simonsmama: Friends seem to be very fluid at this age, but the kids are starting to group, boy with boys and girls with girls. There are sometimes bullies who we try to catch and get a handle on right away. However, it is best to start talking about "what ifs" with your child now, so that they are prepared to handle a situation, if needed. At this grade level, it is important to teach children to work with all the kids. Classwork is a team effort, often, and students need to learn to be respectful and not hurt others' feelings out of like or dislike.

Sillieguze: At this age, most of the students in the class are friends with each other, but they might have one or two close friends. Sometimes I see that students don't want to share their friends. They think: "If Suzie is friends with me, then she can't be friends with Annie too." Sometimes they also have a hard time losing gracefully if they are playing a game with a winner or loser.

Christina04: Friends were pretty important to my daughter, but they always have been, even in kindergarten. She had a new bully each week. They get their feelings hurt pretty easily at this age, so a little argument about a toy can make them say that kid is a bully. She didn't go to that many birthday parties, but she sure wanted one. I spent $150 for a bowling party for her and six friends.

my3girlshat: I heard a lot about what everyone else did that day in class and who acted up and who played with whom on the playground. It seems that every year there are more and more parties that Hunter gets invited to.


Sillieguze: For the most part, 1st graders do well on the bus. The biggest bus issue we have is making sure that the kids get to the correct bus. It takes a week or two for many of them to feel comfortable walking to their bus on their own. I think it's good for students to ride the bus. They get a chance to do something on their own. They have time to socialize with their friends. There are occasional problems with arguments on the bus, but this doesn't happen too often in 1st grade. I think a lot of times the parents are more anxious about their child riding the bus than the child. Most of the kids like riding the bus.

Christina04: My daughter rode the bus because it was ultimately easier. She never complained. There where about 20 kids on her bus. The bus driver gave them assigned seats.

Behavioral Issues

Simonsmama: The biggest issue at this age is learning to be respectful with words and actions. Kids want to be in control of their daily lives, and so many kids act out because school is usually very structured. If your child cannot handle discipline at home, they will have difficulty with it at school usually. It is very important to be consistent with discipline at home and teach children to value education. Teach your student to respect all adults on school campus, and you shouldn't have to much trouble.

Sillieguze:  A big problem in 1st grade is tattling. I spend a lot of time talking to my students about the difference between "reporting" (trying to get someone out of trouble) and "tattling" (trying to get someone into trouble). It's not that I don't want the students to come to me to help them, but I want them to try to handle the problem on their own first. I encourage my students to tell someone if what he or she is doing is bothering them. This helps that child be more aware of his or her behavior too. Kids really mature a lot in 1st grade. At the beginning of the year, they need lots of reminders about the rules, but as the year goes on, they grow and mature and usually need less reminders.

Christina04: My daughter had the most trouble with interrupting and raising her hand before she spoke. She also had trouble using her indoor voice.

my3girlshat: Tattling is still a big one in 1st grade. Some kids have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves and staying quiet.


Simonsmama: Students are given consequences for their actions. I use a stop light system with all kids on green to start the day. Yellow is a warning, and red is a time out. If more discipline is needed, we call home and then send them to the office. Their punishment should fit the crime; however, if they are being disciplined daily, they will probably be sent to the principal because that is interfering with the learning and the other students' day. It is very important to maintain a good relationship with and partner with the teacher because parents are really in control of the behavior problems we see. You want to find the root of the problems and stop them so that true learning can occur.

Sillieguze: I try to compliment students when they are doing something good to reinforce and encourage their positive behavior. However, I am usually pretty strict with the kids at the beginning of the year so that they learn my expectations and our classroom rules. I use a card system. Each child has a pocket with colored cards in it: green (good day), yellow (warning), pink (lose five minutes of recess), and blue (lose 10 minutes of recess). If a student doesn't follow rules, I give him or her a warning. If the behavior continues, that student "pulls a card," going to the next color. Each child has a chart where they color in the box to match the color card they are on for the day. The parents sign this sheet. As the year goes on, I find I have students pull cards less and less.


Simonsmama: We love volunteers. If you have time you can always sign up to work in class, but with today's working parents, this is difficult. I have parent volunteer homework helpers. I send home an envelope with work to be graded, directions, and an answer sheet. That helps my workload so much and only takes 20 minutes max at home a week. Sometimes schools need lunch and recess duty help as well.

Sillieguze: Parents can help with class parties and field trips, or they can come in and read a book to the class. They can also help laminate and cut out items for projects, etc. If you want to volunteer in the classroom, contact the teacher a few days before you want to visit. This allows the teacher to get together things you can do, instead of trying to get things together on the spot. Most teachers will gladly have parents in their classroom to help out. All the parents need to do is ask.

Christina04: They don't really ask parents to do anything, but they always need help on class field trips.

my3girlshat: We were asked mostly to help in the class about once a week if we could with the weekly stuff that needed to be sent home — also, when they had parties or a field trip. Talk to the teacher and see what he/she prefers. I've noticed that first grade is more self sufficient and didn't need much parent involvement in the classroom. Most of the volunteering was around the entire school.

As a teacher, was were parents' biggest concerns?

Simonsmama: I start hearing "my child can't read" around December. Many times I find that the parents are letting the child get away with habits that they aren't allowed to get away with in the classroom. Never let your child say, "I can't!" They need to try. If you see work come home from class that supports that they can do something, they can. Make them put forth the effort at home!

Sillieguze: Most parents are concerned if their child is reading well enough and what types of books to have them read at home. Many of the parents just want to know how to help their child do better.

As a mom, what was the biggest challenge for your child?

Christina04: Making friends and keeping them was a challenge for my daughter. Also, her book report was pretty hard because her attention span was short, which made it hard for her to sit down and read a whole book.

my3girlshat: Hunter's biggest challenge was learning math. She had the hardest time learning and understanding fractions.

Stay tuned for lots more "What to Expect" features in the Daily Buzz. Over the next several weeks, we'll be covering pre-K through the first year of college.

Thanks so much to the 1st grade teachers and moms who helped us present this valuable Back to School information.

Since schools and activities vary depending on the district and where you live, tell us what the 1st grade experience like for you and your big kid!

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