List of What a First-Grader Should Know

A group of first graders sit around a small learning laptop together
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The Common Core Standards identify the national benchmarks for first grade math and language arts. The states set their own standards for other content areas, such as science and social studies. While some variations exist from state to state, many concepts and topics of study are similar for all first graders.

1 Math Skills

First grader counting numbers on chalkboard
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The Common Core math standards for first grade include addition, subtraction, place value, measurements and geometric shapes. First graders should use different strategies to solve addition and subtraction problems, including counting on and using models. Students also learn how to compare numbers up to 100 and learn that numbers can be broken down into 10s and 1s. First graders learn the basics of measurement using equal-sized units. For example, a student might measure an object using cubes that are the same size. First grade students explore the specific characteristics of shapes, combining shapes and recognizing shapes from different perspectives.

2 Reading Level

A small group of three children sit and read together
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The Common Core Standards break reading down into three parts: literature, information text and foundational skills. The literature standards specify that first graders should be able to pick out key details and retell those details to show they understand the meaning of the text. They can identify point of view, use illustrations to gain understanding and read first-grade-level literature with some support . First graders learn to distinguish between literature and informational texts, including identifying the key features of nonfiction books. Foundational skills include phonemes -- sounds that different letters make -- phonics, syllables and decoding words.

3 Writing, Speaking, Listening & Language

First grader using pencil to write
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First grade students should understand the basics of print, such as capital letters at the beginning and punctuation at the end of sentences. They learn to produce writing that is edited and published with support, including factual informative pieces, opinions and narratives. The speaking and listening component of the Common Core Standards focuses on communication with peers, using social rules, and presenting their ideas. The language section states that first graders should understand grammar and usage conventions in both writing and speaking, including proper use of nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, conjunctions and prepositions. Students should also understand the different types of sentences, including exclamatory, declarative, imperative and interrogative.

4 Science

Two young students use a microscope to study different types of organisms
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Science standards for first grade often focus on general skills, such as observation and asking questions, as the students study specific science topics. Living things are a major focus at the first grade level. This typically includes animals, habitats, ocean life and the human body. First graders might also learn about electricity, magnetism, sound and temperature.

5 Social Studies

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The first grade social studies curriculum expands on the idea of communities by relating the idea to family, classroom and local communities, which are familiar to the students. The concept might extend to introducing states, countries and continents. First graders start learning about people who lived in past times and how their daily lives were different from the present. The first grade social studies curriculum often includes lessons on different cultures and diversity.

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.