First Grade Curriculum: Subjects and Themes

kids raising hands in a first grade classroom
Christopher Futcher/Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

In the United States, the lessons and topics in the first grade school curriculum vary by state. However, state governments, school districts, and national associations plan common themes and subject matter to ensure children will meet overall educational standards. Here is what you need to know about first grade curriculum.

First Grade Curriculum

In general, standardized school curriculum is designed to address what students should know and understand by the time they move on to the next grade. The core concepts covered in the first-grade curriculum—as with that of any grade—work within a larger framework to prepare students for college and career readiness.

First graders are typically 6 or 7 years old and, generally, have some basic math and reading knowledge. The planned curriculum for this age group challenges students to learn more and build on skills introduced in kindergarten. They will expand the math, reading, writing, and science skills they learned in kindergarten.

By the end of first grade, some of the things they should be able to do include solving simple math problems, reading at grade-level, spelling simple words, and understanding and recording weather patterns.


Last year, your child may have learned to count with one-to-one correspondence, recognize numerals, and sort into groups. In first grade, teachers will explore and introduce the concrete building blocks of math, which include problem-solving, operations, and number sense.

In first grade math, your child will build on what they learned in kindergarten using hands-on manipulatives like Cuisenaire rods and snap cubes to more concretely visualize basic addition and subtraction (within a range of zero to 20).

They will also learn to reason abstractly and quantitatively by creating and solving story problems involving addition and subtraction (e.g. If Jane had one apple and her sister gave her another, how many does she have now?). Your child will also learn to:

  • Use an analog clock to tell time to the minute
  • Recognize coins and count money
  • Solve simple mathematical word problems
  • Recognize shapes and know how many sides they have
  • Count, read, and write whole numbers exceeding 100
  • Understand basic place value
  • Count and group objects in ones and tens
  • Identify one more than, one less than, 10 more than, 10 less than a given number, and learn to use the symbols <, >, and =
  • Compare the length, weight, and volume of two or more objects


First grade is the year when many students seemingly learn to read overnight. By the time kindergarten is over, your child should be able to recognize their name and some other core words in print.

They should also be able to write, recognize, and correspond to the sound of most of the letters in the alphabet. Even if they are not reading yet, your child likely has a good grasp of concepts about print.

In first grade, your child will continue to build phonemic awareness with more complicated sounds like blends and digraphs. They will be taught a number of strategies for decoding words they don't know or are unable to sound out and start to answer questions about the meaning of what's been read. In addition, the first grade curriculum covers:

  • Learning comprehension of grade-level materials
  • Reading fluency with grade-level material
  • Identifying the meaning of words in a variety of texts
  • Retelling a story's beginning, middle, and ending
  • Comparing the experiences of characters
  • Identifying similarities and differences between two texts on the same topic


Your child's fine motor skills have improved a great deal since kindergarten, providing the control needed to really begin writing. In first grade, expect your child to begin formal work on handwriting skills in addition to creative writing tasks.

Some teachers focus on inventive spelling, allowing children to write the sounds they hear in words, while also instructing students using weekly spelling words. Your first grader will learn how to use punctuation and capitals, but, more importantly, they will start to use writing as a tool for communication.

The specific writing topics covered in first grade include:

  • Writing upper and lowercase letters legibly
  • Using capital letters for names and beginnings of a sentences
  • Using ending punctuation such as periods and question marks
  • Correctly spelling and using high-frequency words, also called "sight words"
  • Using descriptive words when writing
  • Learning to write narratives with two or more appropriately sequenced events
  • Including some details in their writing and providing an ending


Like math, science in first grade focuses on finding patterns. However, the patterns explored are in the natural world. The three units of science study covered are:

  • Earth sciences (air and weather)
  • Life sciences (plants and animals)
  • Physical sciences (solids and liquids)

Your child will spend time learning about plants, insects, and their common characteristics and may even follow the life cycle of a butterfly. They will learn about the external features and environments that help plants and animals thrive.

The first-grade science curriculum covers weather patterns, how they contribute to the water cycle, and how the water cycle sustains life. Simple tools, such as a thermometer and wind vane to measure weather conditions, are introduced.

From there, your child will learn that solids, liquids, and gases have different properties. Other areas of study include learning about the scientific process, such as making and recording observations that include pictures, numbers, or written statements.

Social Studies

Expect your child to begin exploring the concept of community beyond just your family. They'll learn about how neighborhoods make up cities, cities make up states, and states make up nations, with a focus on how all of those components work together to create a cohesive unit.

For many students, first grade brings a number of field trips to neighborhood businesses and local government and public institutions, like the library.

Visual Arts

In first grade, your child will begin to identify line, color, shape, form, and texture as elements of art. They will learn to create secondary colors by mixing primary colors and describe the process.

A Word From Verywell

The first grade curriculum is designed to meet and advance the skills that are expected of a child this age. Of course, every child is different. If you are concerned that your child is not meeting the markers described above, speak with their teacher.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.