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Missing Tooth Grins and Other First Grade Milestones

by David Engle | May 17, 2022 | 7 min read

How many of you remember specifics from your days in first grade? There may be a few vivid memories here and there, but odds are you can’t recall too many lessons from school when you were 6 or 7 years old. The interesting and somewhat-ironic thing about that is, first grade is a pivotal time for children when it comes to learning, and there are quite a few important milestones kids achieve at that age.

In this blog post, we’re going to focus on first graders, their milestones, and how they learn best, because let’s face it, Bridgeway knows first graders! We know them so well, we’ve expanded our Live Blended program to include first grade so we can be a part of their milestone achievements! But we’ll get into that later…

First Grade Milestones

There are all types of milestones kids reach at certain ages–physical, cognitive, social, and learning, to name a few. We’ll take a brief look at physical, cognitive, and social milestones before diving deeper into learning milestones.

  • Physical milestones: Children obviously grow at wildly different rates, but by the end of first grade, most children should be able to:
    • Display improved hand-eye coordination when it comes to tasks like tying shoes
    • Throw, kick, and catch a ball
    • Run, skip, jump, and hop
    • Demonstrate improved handwriting skills
    • Properly use utensils
    • Ride a bike without training wheels
    • Perform basic chores such as sweeping or making their bed
    • Button and zip clothing on their own
  • Cognitive milestones: While an important piece of the overall learning puzzle, cognitive skills – or how they think – are more about exploring and finding answers to questions than learning and retaining information. By the end of first grade, most kids should:
    • Think before making a decision
    • Develop reasoning and logic skills
    • Understand patterns and be able to predict what comes next and create their own
    • Better understand sense of time, days, weeks, months, and seasons
    • Be able to read a clock
    • Identify the different types of coins, their values, and how to combine them
    • Learn from what they hear and read in addition to what they see and do
    • Experience difficulty making choices because there are so many options
  • Social and emotional milestones: First grade is about the time when children start asserting some level of independence while simultaneously craving attention and approval. So, there’s a whole lot going on emotionally for kids this age. At this point, most kids:
    • Grow more aware of other people’s feelings–especially toward them–and become very sensitive toward their own
    • Are eager to please
    • Effortlessly create–and break–friendships
    • Become critical of other children
    • Know right from wrong but attempt to bend the rules to get what they want
    • Start to understand and experience embarrassment
    • Feel the urge to come in first and/or win

These milestones likely feel very familiar to you as the parent of a first grader. What you may not be quite as familiar with are the learning/academic milestones that kids this age experience. We’ll break them down by subject so you have a better idea of what to expect come first grade.

Reading/Language Milestones

There will always be anomalies or certain variables to account for, but in general, most first graders should be able to read and understand grade-level books and essentially finish the year as an independent reader with improved phonics and comprehension skills. This is also the point where most kids learn basic grammar, such as capitalization and punctuation. Language-wise, first graders generally progress to combining spoken language with reading and writing. By the end of first grade, most students typically:

  • Can retell a story
  • Read with improved fluency and accuracy
  • Describe and compare characters from different stories
  • Read at least 150 high-frequency words
  • Understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction
  • Begin sounding out words
  • Use and understand thousands of words
  • Better understand the relationship between letters and sounds
  • Stop reversing letters
  • Start to express feelings with words
  • Tell jokes and riddles
  • Embellish the truth about everyday happenings and situations
  • Tell stories and use words to convince people of their views

Math Milestones

First grade is a big year for math! One of the few specifics I do remember from my days in first grade, back when we used stone tablets as notebooks, was that math definitely increased in difficulty. Of course, for someone who was and always has been terrible at math, this probably isn’t saying much. But there are certain expectations that, by the end of first grade, most children should be able to:

  • Count, read, write, and sequence numbers up to 100 by ones, twos, fives, and tens
  • Write and recognize numerals 0 to 100 and words for numbers from one to twenty
  • Compare numbers using symbols for greater than, less than, and equal to
  • Perform basic addition and subtraction up to 20
  • Begin to learn basic geometry and measurements, such as length, width, and volume, as well as geometric shapes
  • Recognize and compose simple two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects
  • Divide a shape into equal halves and quarters

Science Milestones

This is one of the fun parts of first grade (in my opinion, anyway)–beginning to learn the basics of science. By the end of first grade, most students typically have a better understanding of:

  • Living and nonliving things
  • The importance of the sun and Earth
  • Life cycles of plants
  • Properties of solids and gasses
  • Weather patterns
  • Natural cycles like moon phases and ocean tides

How First Graders Learn Best

Now that we know what first graders should be learning, let’s look at how they best understand the material presented to them. Some approaches are specific, others are a little more abstract. Most importantly, you know your child best and if you sense that a particular approach simply isn’t working, don’t force the issue–move on to another approach that you feel better suits your child’s learning style. Because, as so many homeschoolers have come to learn, no two children learn the same way.

  • By reading, reading, reading. Then reading some more. Reading is the foundation of all other learning, so it’s impossible to overstate its importance. Plus, it stimulates the imagination, improves verbal skills, encourages independent thinking and emotional growth, and so much more. Besides, most kids love reading or having a story read to them, so do this as much as possible and you’ll be amazed at how far your child has progressed when it’s time for them to read on their own. And this isn’t limited to just books–kids can actually learn quite a bit from reading the backs of trading cards and even comic books.
  • Through fun and variety. There are so many ways to do this, from simple word games to educational board games and video games to wildly imaginative activities. Kids respond well to fun (obviously), and through gameplay kids learn without even realizing it! Plus, simply switching up methods of teaching goes a long way toward maintaining a younger child’s focus and attention–for example, mixing up teacher-led learning with independent textbook learning keeps things fresh, which helps extend a young child’s attention span and engagement.
  • At the library. What’s more independent than a first grader getting his or her own library card? It may not seem like much, but this is a big step for kids that age, and they’ll love exercising that independence by going to the library with you to pick out their own books. Feeling like a grown-up can help a child to grow emotionally, and teaching them the responsibilities of having a library card can further aid their social skills and understanding of responsibility.
  • Through self-expression and creativity. Whether it’s through watercolor on paper, paint-by-numbers, or an original story, kids are full of creativity that they should express through art. That can include painting, drawing, sculpting, writing–just about anything. Most children love these types of activities to begin with, and you can keep encouraging your child to create–have them explain their picture to you or read their story to you.
  • With praise, positive reinforcement, and gentle correction…not criticism. As kids grow older, they learn how to handle and make the most of constructive criticism. First graders are not there yet, so it’s best to go slowly and practice patience with them. Make it known that you are there to help, not to demand perfection. Positive reinforcement also goes a long way toward establishing good habits both during and outside of school.
  • In everyday situations. Instead of instructing from a workbook, take your child to the grocery store and have them count out the number of apples you need. Or ask them to guess how many bowls of cereal can be poured from one box. The options are literally endless–kids can read or count nearly anything, so challenge their brains throughout the day.
  • By listening. Sounds obvious, but kids today simply do not listen as well as they once did. Many teachers attribute that to short attention spans caused by TV, phones, video games–screens in general. Families don’t carve out enough time to sit and talk or catch up on the day–it’s no one’s fault, it’s just reality in many households. That’s why it’s important for children to exercise their listening skills and learn how to pay attention. The knowledge they’ll retain by doing so will prove to be valuable in the long run. How can this be accomplished? By limiting screen time, reading to your child, asking questions, making eye contact, and demonstrating your own listening skills when they’re talking to you.
  • With movement. Kids need breaks. Kids need to move. So try to work frequent exercise breaks into the day. Even if it’s just a few 15-minute periods to run around, play outside, jump on a trampoline. They’ll come back energized and ready to learn some more.

It may take some time and experimenting to figure out just how your first grader learns best, but the suggestions above have certainly been proven to help you get to that point.

Bridgeway Academy’s Live Blended Program for First Grade

Our Total Care Live Blended Elementary program, designed for grades 1 through 5, combines live, teacher-led learning with textbooks or other printed materials and hands-on exploration–it’s literally the best-of-the-best in homeschooling programs. Since first graders tend to learn best when engaged in a variety of learning experiences, our Live Blended Elementary program provides that live classroom experience where they interact with their teacher and other students while still exploring on their own (and with you, of course) through books and other materials.

Our Live Blended Learning program includes up to seven courses, including four core courses and up to three additional courses that your student can select, such as reading or electives. In addition, there is also a scheduled “meet up” time at the end of each week for lab presentations, virtual field trips, or other activities. This allows for the student to participate in promoting a true community of learning.

Additionally, this program offers:

  • Top-notch accreditation recognized around the world.
  • Unlimited support from expert homeschool advisors who are with you every step of the way.
  • A complete year of record-keeping, including report cards, transcripts, permanent records, honor roll, and that valued diploma upon graduation.
  • A full learning and personality style assessment to provide insight into your child’s unique needs.
  • Live teaching and grading–your student gets a full year of live instruction, we do all the grading!

Enrollment in the Live Blended Program is now open for the 2022-23 school year. Call us today at (800) 863-1474 for more information or to enroll in the perfect first grade homeschool experience!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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