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Language Arts in First Grade

compass_one.gifWhat Kids Should Learn about Listening and Speaking
The oral aspects of language continue to be seen as important. Children listen to more stories, but the stories are also more complex and feature greater intensity of human feeling. First grade children also expand their vocabularies; do more retelling of the stories they hear (this helps them to understand the stories' logic in terms of beginnings, middle, and ends); identify rhyming patterns; create mental images of what they hear and describe these images; discriminate more fully among sounds; discuss differences in intensity of words and sounds; speak about their ideas; take part in conversations and discussions; learn to take messages and pass them on; and learn an increasing array of nursery rhymes, poems, chants, and songs, with many opportunities to "perform" what they have learned.

What Kids Should Learn in Reading and Writing
Teachers want children to enjoy reading and writing, not just know how to read and write. First grade children continue to work on sound-to-letter connections; they also begin identifying prefixes and suffixes. But the emphasis shifts from reading as mastery of letters and words to reading as a way of getting to the meaning of a text. Children keep journals of words they know, regularly adding new words. Simple books with predictable patterns -- familiar stories or stories with clues in the pictures -- are introduced, and there are many books for children to choose from. Children are taught to "pass over" words they do not know and keep going, or to infer the meaning of words from the context or the pictures; these methods keep them from losing interest or becoming discouraged. Children are encouraged to keep the story flowing with their own inventions. Teachers also equip children with strategies for sounding out words they do not know. First grade teachers do more reading with small groups of children. This allows the teacher to introduce new information, to help children with new words and meanings, and to hear children read aloud. Such groups, though, are never permanent and are not labeled in a judgmental way, such as "high, middle, and low" reading groups. Labels that create castes among the children are not helpful.

Writing continues to be closely related to reading. The volume of writing increases steadily through grade one. Children are encouraged to get their ideas on paper, spelling the words as they sound to them, and to think of themselves as real authors. They write more to each other, to the teacher, to their parents, and to classroom visitors; they produce an increasing number of books to enlarge their sense of authorship; and they begin to recognize authorship in what they read. They are also encouraged to find favorites among children's authors.

Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your Kindergartner -- 1st Graderby Vito Perone, published by published by Chelsea House Publishers

Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.

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