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What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade

Reading and Writing Checklists

By Amy Vickrey, MSE

When you first begin homeschooling at a young age, it’s hard to know what is considered “on track” before first grade.  Here is a checklist of “essentials” that a child should know before being ready to successfully begin most first-grade curriculum.  For more information and activity ideas, check out this great article from SPED Homeschool:

What My Child Needs to Learn Before First Grade

Reading:

According to Proust and the Squid by Maryann Wolf, reading is not a natural process, but strictly a learned one.  Therefore, there is usually not a single method that works for every child.  There may be an issue with reading if a child has difficulty with phonemic awareness skills or phonics after being specifically instructed in these areas.  

Before beginning to read, your child should know:

  • Letter Knowledge
    • Upper Case Letters __________ out of 26
    • Lower Case Letters __________ out of 26
  • Letter Fluency
    • Names ________ upper and lower case letters in 1 minute (goal is 52 in 1 minute or less)
  • Letter Sounds
    • Names _____________ letter sounds
    • Knows 2 sounds for a, e, i, o, u, c, and g
  • Phonemic Awareness – This is a huge “buzz word” in the early childhood teaching world right now. However, you are most likely already doing it. Here are the parts of phonemic awareness and some simple activities for each.
  • Syllables – breaking words into their parts – clap, jump, stomp the syllables of familiar words like banana – ba-na-na (3 claps)
  • Alliteration – Most or all of the words begin with the same sound – Sally sells seashells by the seashore (tongue twisters)
  • Rhyming – words sound alike at the end like cat and hat (Dr. Seuss is great for rhyming)
  • Onset-Rime – the onset is the first sound in a word (/c/) and the rime is the rest of the word (/at/). When you put them together you get c-at, CAT! (you can give your child the two parts and have them put them together)
  • Compound Words – two unrelated words come together to create a new word like rain and bow go together to make rainbow (you can give your child the two words and have them put them together)
  • Segmenting – breaking words apart. Say CAT, C-A-T, CAT
  • Blending – putting words back together – C-A-T makes CAT

***Phonemic awareness activities are very important to learning to read by phonics and other methods. It equips children to later be able to decode words, find words within words, and perform other effective reading strategies.

Writing:

Before a child holds a pencil to write his/her name, there are a lot of skills that need to be mastered to help build hand muscles.

  • Pouring using 2 hands – pouring out of pitchers and buckets
  • Pouring using 1 hand – measuring cups and bath toys
  • Squeezing bath toys
  • Using tongs, children’s chopsticks, and other small tools to pick things up
  • Making balls and snakes out of play-doh (gluten-free/allergy-friendly play-doh is available for those like my son who cannot use traditional playdoh)
  • Painting – with finger paints, brushes, q-tips, cars, sponges, stamps, and a variety of other tools
  • Using a variety of tools for play – crayons, pencils, pens, markers, sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers
  • Stickers – great for developing pincer grip (what is needed for gripping a pencil – using two fingers and thumb)

Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the list because your struggling child is just not there yet. Take heart! For some kids, things take longer. There is no timeline on a person’s ability or learning. And if you need extra support or encouragement, we offer special needs classes, testing, and advising. We’d also encourage you to join Survive and Thrive Special Needs Homeschool FB Group and follow SPED Homeschooling.

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