First grade is an exciting time for students, and this pertains especially to reading. Children finish kindergarten with an understanding of letters and the sounds they make, as well as an ability to recognize basic sight words such as "the." By first grade, though, children start being assessed regularly on their reading level according to diagnostic tests. In first grade, parents and teachers alike track how well a child is progressing toward fluent reading.
At the beginning of the year, first-graders begin learning strategies to decode, or read, words. They begin comprehending the nature of reading, such as reading for pleasure or for practical reasons. In addition, they learn reading basics such as where to find the title or author of a book. As part of literacy, first-graders also develop a deeper knowledge of punctuation and capitalization. In the classroom they are exposed to a wide variety of reading material, though most relies heavily on pictures for understanding.
Though students begin learning about the letter-sound relationship in kindergarten, this knowledge expands in first grade. They learn how to break words into the sounds, such as "tap" into "t-a-p." Not only do they learn all the different sounds letters make, they begin learning the graphemes, or spelling patterns, associated with the sounds. For example, students learn about "er" for "her" and "ir" for "first," spelled differently even though they sound the same.
While learning the basics, first-graders also begin understanding how to find the meaning in what they read. In kindergarten they learned how to express their opinion of a story; in first grade they learn the formats of stories. They learn how to identify cause and effect, sequence of events and problem-solution. They understand how to retell familiar stories. Additionally, they learn how to put events in the story into context. First-graders also begin learning reading strategies to help them decode new words and find meaning in unfamiliar texts.
No two children are alike, of course, but there are specific outcomes that teachers look for by the end of first grade. Not only can children say the alphabet, they can identify the different sounds in a word. They can use reading strategies to understand new texts and retell familiar stories. They can match many of the sounds in oral language with the associated letter or group of letters. They can read first-grade books with fluency and some level of voice, and they can even identify some elements of plot such as characters and setting.
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