Monthly Archives: July 2011

First Grade Readiness

This is the time of the summer when many children are starting to get excited or anxious about going back to school. School supplies are on sale and children are hearing their friends talk about school.  For those of you with children soon to be first graders, this can be a very anxious time for them. Many of these children will be going to full day school for the first time and may be worried about that and have lots of worries. Today I would like to talk to the parents who are thinking that maybe their child is not ready for the big jump into first grade.  Many of you may have spoken to your child’s Kindergarten teacher in the spring about first grade readiness.  If you were told that your child wasn’t ready for first grade but you are pushing ahead just the same, it is you that I want to talk to.  You may be thinking that your child will ‘grow up’ over the summer months.  He/she may in fact ‘grow up’ but keep in mind so are all of his/her classmates from Kindergarten.  Emotional maturity can’t be forced, it happens over time. If you are having second thoughts about your child’s readiness for first grade, I would go to school and talk to the principal and see what their first grade class is like. Most schools are closed now for the summer but principals work on a different schedule and are usually there well before their classroom teachers arrive.  IF you are questioning your child’s readiness for first grade it is probably with good reason.  The Kindergarten year is an important foundational year and we put lots of stress onto little children who are all not necessarily ready for that stress.  Not all Kindergartners are ready to be sent on to first grade when it is time and may need extra time for emotional growth.  Kindergarten IS the new first grade with such high expectations for a little person with a 5 year old brain.  I am a firm believer in waiting…I would much rather have an older child who is a leader in the room, because I tell parents it is not just the kindergarten or first grade class that you are worried about, it is middle school when friends start to skip school and your child might follow, then in high school when friends are driving cars and your child is always the passenger in someone else’s car. I also encourage parents to keep in mind that if your child is a little behind in Kindergarten and you as the parent need to always stay on them to get work done etc., this doesn’t change.  You will always need to stay on them to get their work home and then completed, all the way through high school.  Is that what you want?  All first graders are totally overwhelmed during the first 6 weeks of school with new routines, teachers, friends, etc., so you can only imagine the additional stress placed on a young and immature first grader. Please think this decision through and be certain that your child’s fall placement in school is the right one for both parent and child.

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Filed under First Grade, Maturity

Open Ended Questions

Parents are hearing more and more about asking their young children open ended questions.  These types of questions encourage your child to think and give a thought out answer and not just nod their head, say a quick yes or no, or possibly ignore you all together.  Believe me, the ignoring really does happen. I found this list of open ended questions that you could ask your own child..go ahead, give it a try and watch the delightful conversation that will ensue between you and your child.

This list was compiled by

Start each phrase with “What if …”

… there were no colors except white?
… we had three arms?
… children were the parents?
… there were no stoves?
… we had no pencils?
… we couldn’t cry?
… there were no clocks?
… we had no policemen?
… we went to school at night?
… there were only adults in the world?
… there were no school at all?
… there was no such thing as breakfast cereal?
… every country had a king?
… it never stopped raining?
… we had no cars?
… insects were as big as people?
… there were no books?
… our only form of transportation was horses?
… our parents never said ‘no’?
… there were no music?
… we were never hungry?
… we didn’t have to eat vegetables?
… we all looked the same?
… we didn’t have holidays?
… smiling was against the law?
… snails could run?
… every wish came true?
… the world was flat?
… we never recycled anything?
… people could fly?
… there was no gravity?
… no one had manners?
… all people were selfish?
… there were no teachers?
… our shadows were alive?
… there were no wars?
… there were no telephones?
… the ocean was made of jelly?
… we could only eat pizza?
… we used cookies instead of money?
… we all acted the same?
… water didn’t freeze?
… trees grew candy?
… we never slept?

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Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Language Arts, Open Ended Questions

Writing on Lined Paper

Learning to write within a specific space on lined paper is a developmental skill that improves in first grade.  Kindergartners should never write on lined paper, it is a skill that they are not developmentally ready for. Most 5 and 6 year old Kindergartners do all of their writing on paper (i.e., journals) with no lines.  Believe me, it is enough of a challenge, just learning to get their thoughts onto paper while simultaneously learning to form letters and then learning to make them the appropriate size without worrying about the lines! Most first grade teachers will assume that your child will have mastered writing on lines sometime between finishing Kindergarten and beginning first grade.  Almost all writing in first grade will be done on lines.  Now is a good time to introduce writing on lines to your new first grader.  You might begin with letters of the alphabet, then his/her name, and then progress on to basic sight words.  Keep in mind that first grade teachers will be expecting your child to use appropriate sized letters and that they should fit into the appropriate spaces on the line.

Your child should notice that there are 3 spaces to each line and letters fit into a specific area on that line.

  • Top space
  • Middle space
  • Bottom space

Your child should hold the pencil with an appropriate pencil grip and apply on minimal pressure to the writing instrument.

Here are some sites where you can print out primary lined paper with or without a seasonally themed picture on the heading of the page.

Site for primary lined paper template

Site for seasonal themed lined paper templates

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Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Writing

Word Families

One of my most frequented blogs is when I wrote about Nursery Rhymes. research could not be more clear that young children who have the ability to not only hear rhymes, but to create rhymes as well, make a smoother transition into the reading process than those children who cannot rhyme. This is when having the knowledge of word families comes in.  A word family is made up of all of words that have the same ending.  We are all familiar with the at word family:  bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat, vat but are you aware of all of the other word families? Here is a site that lists many of the word families that an early reader will encounter.

  • Scroll down to the word family that you want your child to practice
  • Click on the blue writing to open up a list of words in that word family
  • Click on the printer friendly 3 X 5 index cards that you can print out for your child to practice at home.

Introduce one word family at a time.  Your child needs to understand that all of the words in the same word family ALL end with the same sound and rhyme with each other.  Once your child is able to comprehend this, then move on to another word family.

Here is another site with free downloadable books written by Michelle Hubbard for many word families:

Both sites offer numerous resources for your child  to practice word families and get a jump start on reading in first grade.

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Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Nursery Rhymes, Reading

Library Books

Summer is the perfect time to take your child to your local library.  Many libraries offer incentives to children for their summer reading and you might want to check this out.  It is also a good time for your child to leisurely learn how to choose a book to check out. From a young child’s point of view, a library can be a pretty overwhelming place, so many books and where to start? One problem many young children have at their school library is that because there are so many books to choose from, they simply freeze and choose none. These children need assistance to learn how to narrow the search.  Here are some tips about library books:

  • Ask your child if he/she is looking for books written by a particular author – yes first graders know who has written some of their favorite books.
  • Take your child to the shelf where this author is located.
  • If your child is not looking for a certain author take your child to just one shelf, and say pick a book from only this shelf.
  • Teach your child to look at the spine, or on the front of the book to see who the author is. Your child might remember that he/she has read a book by this author before.
  • Show your child how to open the book to the first page and try reading the page.  If he/she makes 5 or more reading mistakes on this page, the book is ‘too hard’ for right now.  (but it might be a perfect book to have an adult read to the child)
  • Young children love illustrations and don’t be surprised if your child chooses a book based on the pictures… this is normal and the pictures will actually help your child read the text.
  • Allow your child to check out the books with his/her own library card (if your child doesn’t have one…read this blog of mine)
  • Once home, your child should be responsible for keeping the checked out books in a safe location so they can be found when it is time to return books to the library.
  • School library books should be returned as soon as they are read so that your child can be sure to have all books back to school before the next scheduled library visit with his/her class.  Kindergartners AND first graders are devastated when they get to library at school and cannot check out books because he/she has not returned the books he/she already has at home.

Happy book hunting to you and your child!

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Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Library, Responsibility

Math Facts

More and more schools are finding alternate ways to have children practice math facts.  The days of drill sheets and workbook pages are disappearing…or should be, as there are other ways for your child to practice math facts. One alternative way of practicing math facts and math drills is to use online sites that specialize in just that.  Here is a site that I have found where your child will be able to practice math and have fun as well. (note addition practice is FREE, however, in order to access subtraction, multiplication and division there is a fee)

This site is completely free:

Please remember that your child should be practicing math every day just as he/she is practicing his/her reading skills.


Filed under First Grade, Kindergarten, Math

Organizational Skills Needed For First Grade

Learning to be organized is quite a challenge for a new first grader.  Organizational skills need to be taught and reinforced daily by both parents and teachers.  Many of these first grade children are coming from Kindergartens where they had ‘community’ supplies for all to share.  Usually this is not the case in first grade.  Your child will be expected to keep all tools needed for the day in his/her pencil case in his/her desk.  Seems simple but it is not.  Your child needs to be able to get to his/her sharpened pencil, crayons, eraser, glue, scissors, etc., at a moment’s notice.  He/she will have to learn to keep all of these supplies close at hand and ready to use.  He/she will also have to keep in his/her desk, some or all of the following books, notebook, and journals: math book, spelling book, handwriting book, poetry folder, unfinished work folder, math journal, writing journal, science journal, social studies journal etc.  Summer time is a good time to practice being organized.  You could give your child a small working space at your house where he/she should do any math, writing, drawing or coloring work. The top of an individual school desk is not so big and your child needs to learn to work in this limited space.   He/she could practice working in a small area this summer so it will not come as a surprise when first grade arrives.  The surface measurements of a standard student desk are 18.5” x 24”. You could mimic the exact size of a student desk by using painter’s taper or masking tape to mark the exact measurement on a surface.  This will show your child how to work within this small space and to keep his/her work on his/her own desk.  You might also give your child a small pencil box to keep the supplies needed to do his/her work.  This will encourage your child to know where supplies are and to not spread them all over the house.  You might also get a few pocket folders for your child to practice putting his/her papers in and out of the folder.  Many teachers ask children to keep unfinished work in these folders and your child will be responsible to see that all unfinished work is completed and turned in by the end of the day.  Some children choose to skip the folder and shove the unfinished work into the way back area of their desks hoping that no one will ever ask to see that paper again. Teachers are on top of the missing papers but often children cannot even find them once they disappear into their desks.  Help your child to learn to keep papers in a folder, or something similar so that he/she can learn to stay organized at school. Teachers want your child to be as successful as possible so any advance planning to help with the organizational skills needed for first grade will be very beneficial for your child.

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Filed under First Grade, Responsibility