First Grade Readiness:
Is Your Child Prepared For School?

Many parents wonder about their children's first grade readiness before the first day of school. Possibly more than any other grade, new first graders start school at wildly different skill levels. Assessing First Grade Readiness Some kids haven't mastered staying quiet in their seats for longer than a few minutes. Others are happily breezing through beginner books. Individual readiness has much to do with each child's development, but there are many things you can do to help your child prepare for first grade.

Here is a simplified list of what skills children are expected to master by the end of kindergarten. You can use it as a gauge to measure your child's level of first grade readiness.


  1. Knows uppercase and lowercase letters, and knows that words are made of letters, and sentences are made of words.
  2. Identifies front cover, back cover, and title page of a book; locates title, author, table of contents, and name of illustrator.
  3. Can move from sound to sound when trying to read a word.
  4. Can recognize and create rhyming words verbally.
  5. Can count the number of syllables in words.
  6. Can identify words that start or end with the same sound.
  7. Reads simple one-syllable words.
  8. Sorts words into categories (things we buy at the store, colors, etc).
  9. Uses pictures and context to figure out what the story is about.
  10. Connects stories to his or her own life.
  11. Retells familiar stories; asks and answers questions about them.
  12. Can tell the difference between real and pretend stories.


  1. Writes simple consonant-vowel-consonant words (bat, top, sit).
  2. Writes by moving left to right, and top to bottom of the page.
  3. Spells words phonetically by sounding them out.
  4. Writes uppercase and lowercase letters.
  5. Uses complete sentences when speaking.
  6. Spoken sentences are clear and make sense.
  7. Understands and follows simple directions.
  8. Describes people, places, things, and actions.
  9. Recites short poems, rhymes, or songs.
  10. Tells a story or talks about an experience in a logical sequence.


  1. Compares two sets of objects and says which is more, which is less, or if they are equal.
  2. Counts up to 30 objects.
  3. Knows that larger numbers represent sets with more objects in them than the smaller numbers have.
  4. Uses objects to solve simple addition and subtraction problems (with numbers up to 10).
  5. Sorts and classifies objects by putting them into groups (things that are green, big, soft, etc).
  6. Can say which object is shorter, taller, heavier, lighter, etc.
  7. Understands time concepts: morning, afternoon, evening, today, yesterday, tomorrow, week, year, clock, and calendar.
  8. Names the days of the week.
  9. Knows approximate times of daily events (lunch is at 12:00).
  10. Can identify a circle, triangle, square, rectangle, cube, sphere, and cone.
  11. Recognizes and extends simple patterns of shapes, sizes or colors (such as red-blue-red-blue).
  12. Thinks through a problem and uses drawings or objects to try and solve it.


  1. Describes objects based on what they look/sound/feel/taste like and what they can do.
  2. Can talk about how plants and animals are the same or different.
  3. Can identify parts of plants and animals (stem, leaf, roots, wings, etc).
  4. Can describe mountains, rivers, oceans, valleys, and deserts.
  5. Understands that the things we use come from the earth, and knows how to avoid waste and recycle.
  6. Describes, compares and sorts objects by color, shape, size, weight, or other characteristics.
  7. Asks questions and shows possible answers by talking or drawing.

Increasing Your Child's First Grade Readiness

Helping to increase your child's first grade readiness doesn't have to involved or complicated. Sometimes it is just a matter of changing the focus on the things you are already doing.

  • If your child has a hard time being still, get him used to sitting for longer periods by playing a board game or putting a puzzle together a couple of times each week.
  • Tell your child it is Shape Day. See how many shapes you can find in the objects around you. Focus especially on new words like "sphere"; tell your child a sphere is anything in the shape of a ball.
  • Learn the words to a favorite song and sing it together.
  • When reading a book out loud, stop before certain simple words and let your child read them. Or have your child point to the words as you read them.
  • Does your child not know how to identify a book's author or illustrator? Start making this part of your nightly bedtime reading.
  • Ask a lot of questions of the world around you, starting with, I wonder.... This will stimulate your child's questions and encourage scientific thinking.
  • Use descriptive words to talk about plants, animals, or objects that interest your child. Ask how they are the same or different.
  • Are there short lists you want your child to learn, such as the days of the week? Say them in the car or in the bathtub as a regular routine.
  • When something exciting happens, encourage your child to write it down. A picture with a few written labels might be enough, or a sentence or two so you don't forget.
  • Play games that let kids practice new skills. Help your child get a sense of how numbers work with number sense games, and get important practice with language concepts with fun language games.
  • Read stories out loud every day. Let your child practice storytelling with wordless books, then get some fun practice with letters with clever alphabet books. Or, peruse all of our favorite first grade books to find one you and your child will love.
  • Don't close the book right away after reading a story. Ask, Does anything in this story remind you of you? Talk about how your family is like theirs, or ways your child is like the main character.

Finally, I would encourage you not to be terribly concerned about your child's first grade readiness, even if she hasn't yet mastered everything on the lists above. Talk to your child's teacher about your concerns; you may be relieved to discover that the teacher is quite happy with her performance at school. Keep things light and fun as you work with your child. The more enjoyable learning is, the more she will want to do it for years to come.


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey