Aim

The aim of this article is to provide an overview of what changes you can expect in your newly-minted first grader by the end of the school year. These changes will occur across all developmental domains: motor; cognitive; language and social-emotional.

Outline

Introduction
Motor skills
Cognition
Language
Social and emotional skills
Things to remember

Introduction

Moving up from kindergarten to first grade is an exciting next step in your child’s growth and development. Your child is leaving the world of preschool and kindergarten classes to attend primary or elementary school for the very first time. Aside from selecting a shiny new backpack and pencil cases, how else can you prepare for your child’s next season of growth and development?

While you may not see much physical change in your child this year, you are likely to see tremendous changes in your child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. A word to the wise: all children grow at a different pace, and it is critical not to be too panicked if your child doesn’t achieve a milestone in time. Human development is a complex subject and every child is unique – so no two children will develop in the same way or at the same rate!

If you do feel that your child may be struggling, or has missed more than one milestone, then it’s probably a good idea to consult your pediatrician or family doctor for more insight and information.

Motor

By the end of first grade, most children:

Gross motor

  • Can run, hop, skip, jump, gallop and slide
  • Combine two movements to form a pattern (e.g. skip, skip, jump, jump) and use this for activities (e.g. use a jump rope)
  • Can put together simple tumbling patterns
  • Can dance in time with music or a rhythmic beat
  • Demonstrate improved hand-eye coordination (e.g. improved ability to throw or kick a ball at a target)
  • Ride a bicycle without training wheels
  • Can do simple chores, like making the bed

Fine motor

  • Can copy shapes and letters
  • Have more legible handwriting
  • Tie their shoelaces, do up a button or zipper independently
  • Know how to use everyday objects and utensils the right way e.g. brush their teeth
  • May begin playing a musical instrument, like the recorder

In terms of fitness, children may be able to:

  • Engage in 1-2 moderate to intense physical activities
  • Perform activities that require less intense but continuous movements
  • Perform movements designed to develop strength and endurance
  • Understand how regular exercise can strengthen the body
  • Perform between 4 and 10 pushups
  • Raise their chest at least 6 inches from the floor when lying on their stomach
  • Perform between 4-14 crunches

Cognition

During or by the end of first grade, most children:

  • Develop reasoning and logic skills
  • Think before making decisions
  • Learn from what they hear and read, not just what they see and do
  • May have trouble making choices, because they want to do everything all at once
  • Can read sight words and sound out other words
  • Begin to have a better sense of time – like days, months, years and seasons
  • Can predict what comes next in a pattern and create their own patterns
  • Write and recognize numbers 0 to 100
  • Know the words for numbers 0 to 20
  • Can do basic addition and subtraction up to 20

Language and Communication

During or by the end of first grade, most children:

Writing

  • Write from left to right, and top to bottom
  • Print uppercase and lowercase letters accurately
  • No longer reverse letters when writing them
  • Print their first and last name with correct capitalization
  • Use basic punctuation like periods and question marks
  • Write clear and coherent sentences that use adjectives
  • Write several sentences about a specific experience
  • Write about topics that mean a lot to them

Reading and Comprehension

  • Locate the title, author name, illustrator name and table of contents
  • Identify the main character of a story being read
  • Use a variety of ways to help with reading a story such as rereading, predicting what will happen, asking questions, or using visual cues or pictures.
  • Interpret a story to pose and answer “who”, “what”, “where”, and “how” questions
  • Identify ways that stories might relate to their own life
  • Distinguish the difference between reality and make-believe in a story
  • Recognize the difference between singular and plural nouns
  • Understand the difference between letters, words and paragraphs
  • Read different types of content like books and poetry (rhymes)
  • Read contractions
  • Ask questions about things that have been read
  • Read and explain their own reading and writing
  • Figure out the definitions of unfamiliar words based on contextual clues
  • Sort common words into categories, like food, colors and shapes
  • Sound out and represent major sounds in a word when trying to spell.
  • Understand the relationship between letters and sounds (vowels and consonants)
  • Follow one-step written instructions
  • Retell basic plotlines from favourite stories and discuss which parts they did or did not like
  • Try to convince people of their viewpoint and tell stories
  • Start to develop a sense of humour, tell jokes and riddles, and understand simple puns
  • Tell little lies about everyday things
  • Can recall what they hear

Social and Emotional Skills

During or by the end of first grade, most children:

  • Choose activities that involve cooperation and teamwork, learn to share
  • Participate in low-organized games
  • Play in a structured manner with rules to abide by
  • Tend to play with children of the same gender
  • Form and break friendships easily
  • Are more aware of the feelings of others, and the potential to hurt someone’s feelings through what is said
  • Are eager to please and want to fit in; and are more aware of how others view them
  • Keen to win or “be first”
  • Can get their feelings hurt easily, may begin to experience embarrassment
  • Can be critical of other children
  • Move to solve conflicts without being prompted by an adult
  • Express feelings with words, but may resort to aggression when upset
  • May be more independent, but need more approval from adults
  • Display more self-control, be willing to receive feedback and adjust for improvement
  • Understand “right” from “wrong” and may therefore “tell on” peers

Summary

It’s important to recognize that human development is a delicate process; and it’s never the same for every child. If you do feel concern for your child’s developmental trajectory, then by all means consult a medical professional for an opinion.