HOW to Read

First Grade Guide

First-grade children are creative and enthusiastic about learning to read and write. The South Carolina College- and Career-Ready Standards use this energy to expand the reading and writing skills learned in kindergarten. As the year progresses, first graders read more, talk more, and gain deeper understanding. They write with greater ability and use a growing vocabulary. When a child starts school, reading becomes a primary way of learning. While the skills involved in reading and writing take many years to develop fully, the fundamental skills are learned in the first grade.


Inquiry and Investigation

First-grade students work to gather information and facts on a topic. They begin to ask the type of questions that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills later in school and in life.

  • Move from “wondering” to questions that prompt discussions and exploration
  • Develop a plan and collect information from many sources
  • Select the important information and report the discoveries found
  • Draw conclusions from patterns and relationships found
  • Think about the discoveries and conclusions, and take action
  • Reflect on the act of learning

Learning to Read

First-grade students continue to work on the relationships of letters and sounds that make up words and how they give meaning. They use the basics of written grammar and work on building clear sentences. These Steps, combined with those of writing and communication discussed below, develop strong readers.

  • Use knowledge of the individual sounds of letters to read simple words
  • Read a two-syllable word by breaking the word into parts and understand that every syllable must have a vowel sound
  • Use context to confirm or correct word recognition and understanding
  • Expand the number of “sight” (frequently used) words
  • Begin reading independently with accuracy and understanding of the meaning


First-grade students begin to write and to describe events, give opinions, and provide information on a topic. By the end of the year, students will write in complete sentences. Their use of basic English grammar expands.

  • Practice printing capital and small letters
  • Learn to use additional punctuation (capitalize dates and names, use periods, question marks, and exclamation marks)
  • Look at books to pick a topic to write about. Introduce the topic, state an opinion, give a reason for the opinion, and close.
  • Plan, revise, and edit to improve writings
  • Write often on various topics both in and outside the classroom
  • Work on keyboarding skills to write simple messages


First-grade students participate in discussions. They listen to others, present their ideas, and respond to others’ comments. They examine how a variety of media present topics in order to improve their communication skills.

  • Practice taking turns listening to others and speaking clearly
  • Express ideas gathered from various sources in a clear and concise way. Conduct research individually and in a group.
  • Explore and compare how ideas and topics are shown in different media and formats to see how understanding is influenced
  • Use appropriate images and illustrations to support discussions and presentations to clarify thoughts and ideas
  • Identify a speaker’s purpose and what the speaker does to keep the listener engaged

Reading for Enjoyment and Enrichment

First-grade students learn to think about the purpose of a book and identify the main idea. They retell a story to show understanding and the order of events.

  • Determine if the author’s main purpose is to explain, entertain, inform, or convince
  • Tell the order of events and determine the beginning, middle, and end of the writing; as well as, determine the topic
  • Describe the setting and identify the plot, including the problem and solution
  • Describe what happened and why
  • Read independently for longer periods

Reading for Information

First-grade students examine the basic questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. They begin to learn how to gain and apply information and to draw suggestions and conclusions from text.

  • Ask and answer basic questions to show understanding of a text
  • Compare familiar texts
  • Use key details to draw conclusions in texts heard or read
  • Select the most important information, revise ideas, and tell about conclusions
  • Think about the conclusions and take action
  • Reflect on the act of learning

Learning at Home

Your child needs your support and help to succeed in the first grade. Work with your child at home. Be informed on what the tasks are and be ready to help with specific skills. Here are some suggestions for things to do at home to help your child improve reading comprehension, gain vocabulary, and improve writing skills:

  • Let your child read her favorite books over and over again to you and family members. This practice helps in gaining confidence, word recognition, and improves reading aloud.
  • Play word games with your child. Substitute letters in words (ex. sat, cat, hat, bat, ball, call). As the year progresses, increase the difficulty of the words and the number of letters substituted.
  • When your child makes a mistake in reading, ask him questions to guide him and help him gain skill with self-correction. Does the word make sense in the sentence? What clues might the picture give to help figure out the word? However, if the word he puts in place of the correct one does not change the meaning, let the error go; it shows he is reading for meaning. Correct it next time.
  • Have your child describe the main character in a book. Ask your child to retell the story in her own words. Have her summarize the story. What character did she like the best? Why?
  • Visit the library frequently and let your child pick out books to read. If some of the books are too difficult, but the subject is of interest to your child, read it together and let him pick out the words he knows.
  • Have your child circle certain “sight words” found on a page in the newspaper or magazine (such as them or are). The next day have her circle words beginning with the same sound (ex. -th or -sh).


  • The Student Reading Success Activity Guide, June 2015 at is available for download from the S.C. Education Oversight Committee. It has information and activities for helping your child become a better reader. Scroll down to the bottom of the web page to see the link.
  • See for insights into child development, and for fun learning games see from Public Broadcasting. Be sure to check out Super Why.
  • You must sign up for this site, but the activities on this part of the site are free: There are learning games also available.
  • Print out worksheets for reading and writing fun from
  • The S.C. State Library and many of our county public libraries provide access to TumbleBooks, online books that your child can read or the computer will read the book with him. Tumblebooks,, also has games and activities.
  • Don’t forget the activities and resources at your public library. The library has reading activities, books, puzzles, summer programs, and more. Many libraries have “beginning readers” sections.
  • Do you have a smart phone? Review the free reading apps available for your child. Type in “reading app for beginners.” (Some apps are free at fi rst but then ask you to pay for additional games.)