It's easy to think, “Okay, I taught/helped teach my child to read, whew – I'm glad that is over.” But writing might be the hardest thing your child does all day. By combining reading skills with small motor skills and adding in spelling, your child is just learning to communicate via the written word – a skill that will be used and refined for the rest of your child's life. When a first grader writes, he or she must simultaneously recall ideas, vocabulary, and rules of spelling, punctuation, and grammar while putting thoughts on paper.

Curriculum varies from state to state, of course, but children working at the standard level at the beginning of first grade:

  • Name and label objects
  • Gather, collect, and share information
  • Stay on topic (maintain focus)
  • Can write in chronological order
  • Incorporate storybook language (for example, “They lived happily ever after”) into their writing
  • Think in a more extended fashion than they can write, so some thoughts must be extended orally

By the end of first grade, students working at the standard level:

  • Communicate in writing
  • Reread their writing to monitor meaning
  • Begin to use feedback to change their writing either by adding more text or by making minor revisions
  • Revise their writing by inserting text in the middle rather than just at the end
  • Make deliberate choices about the language they use
  • Use punctuation and capitalization more often than not

Reprinted with permission from "First Grade Success: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Child Learn" by Amy James (Jossey-Bass 2005)