Cognitive Skills That Are Important for First Grade

Cognitive Developmental Milestones Are Important for First Graders

woman helping young son with homework at kitchen table
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As your six year old begins first grade, his ability to learn and process information is expanding rapidly. He's much more able to make connections between the things he knows and the things he sees in the world. Some of those newly acquired cognitive skills are very important for first grade learning.

Cognitive Skills Important for First Grade

Skill: Is able to see both the similarities and differences between objects and, to a very basic extent, people as well.

Why It's Important: One of the things your child will learn in first grade is how to compare and contrast objects, ideas and people. It's a fundamental building block of mathematics and, among other things, helps to teach students how sort by various characteristics, create and identify complex patterns and gather and graph information.

Skill: Should be able to use the more complicated speech sounds of "v", "j", "r", "l", "s", as well as blends like "sh," "ch",  "th" and "str."
Why It's Important: By the beginning of first grade, most children should be able to produce these more complicated speech sounds. If your child isn't able to, check in with her teacher or the school's speech therapist, but don't be too concerned--she may just be developing speech at a slower rate.

Being able to hear and produce these sounds make learning to read and write much easier, especially if your child's teacher uses inventive spelling as a writing technique.

It's hard to learn to spell and read words that you aren't able to pronounce or hear correctly.

Skill: Will understand the concept of today, tomorrow, and yesterday.

Why It's Important: In most first grade classrooms, calendar time is an important daily learning experience. Here your child will not only learn the sequence of the days of the week and the months of the year, but begin to put together how they relate to one another.

For example, your child may have already known that the first day of the school week is Monday, but now he'll be challenged to answer what day yesterday was, what tomorrow will be and to know which day is, for example, Wednesday's tomorrow.

Skill: Is capable of problem solving basic sums.
Why It's Important: First grade math focuses a lot on addition and subtraction, specifically facts like doubles (for example, 8+8) and doubles plus one (9+8). These types of facts can be memorized, but also rely on your child's ability to understand the patterns among them. Most teachers will guide students to use problem-solving skills to discover how these facts relate to each other to create fact families.

Skill: Can answer who, what, where and why questions.
Why It's Important: At this age, your child might still have difficulty providing this information spontaneously and will need some prompting to add the who, what, where and why. Though your child's answers may not be as detailed as you would like or contain the same information as another student who was part of the same experience, the ability to add more detail helps your child become a more creative writer and storyteller. It also will help him identify whether or not a story he is reading or listening to is complete or incomplete.


Note: When is more difficult as it requires a better grasp of abstract time concepts.

More About First Grade Skills and Milestones:

How Smart is Your 6-Year-Old?
Physical Skills That Are Important for 1st Grade
Signs of Learning Trouble in First Grade
A Parent's Guide to First Grade

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