In most public schools, the English language arts curriculum for first grade is based on the Common Core English Language Arts Standards, a set of English curriculum guidelines that most state departments of education in the United States have adopted. According to the Common Core, to prepare for college and career training, first grade students need solid reading, writing, listening and oral language skills.

Foundation Reading Skills

According to the California English Language Arts Content Standards, first grade students learn basic reading competencies, such as how to recognize a sentence. They are expected to know that the first word in a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark or exclamation point. They also learn that each syllable contains at least one vowel, how to isolate vowel sounds in both one-syllable and two-syllable words, and how to differentiate short vowel sounds from long vowel sounds.

Reading Comprehension

First grade students learn comprehension strategies such as predicting, summarizing and using context clues to determine word meanings. By asking and answering questions such as who, what, when, where, why and how, first graders learn to identify the main idea and find important details in fiction and nonfiction reading passages. They learn how to identify the elements of a story, including plot, setting, characters and theme.


Whether composing narratives and descriptions or opinions and explanations, first grade students learn to write three- to five-sentence paragraphs with a beginning, middle and end on familiar topics, such as "I like summer because..." or "My favorite sport is...," in which they state their position and two or three reasons for their opinions. When writing informative paragraphs such as "How do plants grow?" students identify their subjects and provide two or three facts about the subjects.


According to the Common Core, the California state standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading, first grade students learn basic capitalization, end punctuation and spelling. To help them distinguish fragments from complete sentences, students learn that all sentences have a subject and a verb. In addition, after learning about nouns and verbs in kindergarten, the first grade English curriculum introduces students to commonly used prepositions, conjunctions and adjectives.

Listening and Speaking

The purpose of listening and speaking standards is to teach children how to interact and engage in conversations with others, including their peers and adults. First graders learn to listen attentively and respond to oral communication. Although specific requirements vary from state to state, first grade students deliver short, two- to three-minute speeches in front of the class on topics they know and enjoy, such as their favorite book, descriptions of show-and-tell objects, or how to complete a fun activity.

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