Learning to read provides first-graders with the most essential tools for communication and education. Some students have trouble with concepts at the beginning, but a struggling student can adapt to even the most rigorous reading curriculum with a few pointers. Practice is the most effective tool in any student's belt. Simply reading with your first-grader will improve his word recognition and pronunciation. Have students follow along as you teach them new words they can employ when reading on their own.
Read with your first-grader. Help him identify "sight" words like "the," "and," "was" and "to" by pointing them out and explaining that these words are used very often, so learning them quickly will allow him to read faster. Go through adult publications like magazines and journals with lots of pictures in them to illustrate this fact. Point out spaces between words and explain punctuation marks to help explain the concept of complete sentences.
Talk to the student about his day and your day. When he struggles to mentally find a word to express a feeling, help him by explaining the meaning of an appropriate word. For example, if he says something like "Today we kick-balled and then had lunch," explain that he "played" kickball and then "ate" lunch. Explanations like these will increase his knowledge of verbs. Build on that knowledge with follow-up questions such as "What other things can you eat?" Teach different forms by explaining you must "eat" dinner before you can say you "ate" dinner.
Recite rhymes to help the student notice the ways different words sound. Phonetics is a big part of understanding language. Simply teach him a word that rhymes with many other words, like "hat." When your first-grader responds with "cat" or "bat," respond with another rhyming word and continue until you run out of words. This will teach him new words, as well as reinforce the pronunciation of words he already knows.
Research reading exercises from online teaching databases and do them with your first-grader in order to provide guidance to his learning. Many of these grammar, phonetic and comprehension exercises are available to complete online, with instant feedback for wrong answers and explanations for correct ones.
Make flash cards for words your student is having trouble pronouncing or understanding. This method is also applied for sight words, punctuation and numbers (symbolic or spelled out).
Teach your first-grader better reading comprehension skills by reading him a short story book -- preferably one filled with pictures to help illustrate the storyline -- and then asking him questions about the story. For stories with magical or supernatural themes, help him further understand reality by asking if these fantastical things could really take place. Also ask about synonyms for certain words that are used in the story. For example, if the story is "The Runaway Bunny," pose the question "What words mean the same thing as 'run?'" Be patient and help by reciting another synonym -- preferably one he wouldn't guess -- for each one he comes up with.