A Guide to What Your Child Will Learn by Grade

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The elementary school years are packed with learning, as kids explore the fundamentals like reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. In grade school, children also develop important social and emotional skills that will carry them into adulthood, primarily how to make friends and cooperate with others.

Parents who know what to expect in each grade are better equipped to support their child's academic, social, and emotional needs as they navigate each level in school. From kindergarten to fifth grade, here's a grade-by-grade look at what your child will learn each year.

Kindergarten

Entering kindergarten is an exciting milestone in a child's life. Children get used to the routine of school, learn to follow rules, and explore the fundamentals of learning.

Math

Children learn to recognize numerals up to 20 and above. They start count by fives and 10s and learn the basics of addition and subtraction. They compare numbers or groups of objects using "more than," "less than," or "equal to." By the end of kindergarten, students can identify simple shapes like squares, triangles, and circles.

Reading and Writing

Children in kindergarten learn the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. They identify "the," "and," and "is" and other simple words by sight, while gradually building upon a basic vocabulary. They learn new words by listening to fun songs and stories. They use educated guesses and phonetic spelling to write unfamiliar words. This is known as inventive spelling.

Science

In kindergarten science, children learn about the basics that animals and plants need to grow. They discuss the seasons and the weather changes they bring, along with parts of the human body. They learn more about their world through experiments and first-hand exploration, maybe growing their own plants from seeds or caring for a classroom pet.

First Grade

For many kids, first grade is a year to feel "big." Lessons have a greater focus on academics, and children are developing the impulse control and concentration level to meet these new educational challenges head-on.

Reading and Writing

Children entering first grade should be able to recognize their printed name, along with other core sight words. They build upon that starter vocabulary throughout first grade, adding more complicated sounds and learning to decode or "sound out" unfamiliar words. They read grade-level books with fluency and can identify a story's beginning, middle, and end.

In first-grade writing class, students legibly writing their upper and lowercase letters and combine them to form simple words. Ending punctuation marks like periods and question marks are introduced and sentences are combined to form short narratives.

Science

In first-grade science, children learn more about the patterns in their natural world, which are broken down into three general categories:

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

They also learn about the scientific process and make and record their own observations about their environment.

Social Studies

In social studies, first-graders learn about the larger community beyond their own home and family. They are taught about cities and towns, states, nations, and continents and how they all work together in different ways. Some first-grade classes take field trips to local museums, libraries, or businesses.

Second Grade

In second grade, your child's attention span is increasing, which means they can learn more difficult concepts in one setting and apply them to other situations. They form friendships and demonstrate increased concentration, patience, and self-control.

Math

Math in second grade helps students apply skills like adding and subtracting to everyday life. They learn how to tell time and count money. They add numbers up to 20 in their head, master simple fractions, and tackle more complex addition and subtraction problems.

Reading and Writing

By second grade, students become fluent readers and writers. They may gravitate toward certain genres of books and begin writing their own stories, complete with correct capitalization and punctuation. Correct spelling is emphasized and reinforced through spelling tests. Independent reading is encouraged both in school and for homework.

Science, Social Studies, and Technology

In second-grade science, students dive deeper into lessons about the earth and the continents. They study how plants spread their seeds to create more plants and may grow plants in school or help care for a school garden.

Social studies introduces second-graders to different cultures across the globe, and students talk about current events in an age-appropriate way. Children integrate technology into their lessons, learning how to perform basic computer skills like creating a document and saving a file.

Third Grade

Third grade is a year of great academic growth. Children transition from concrete thinking to become more open to abstract ideas. Third-graders take on more responsibility, helping the teacher pass out papers or proudly assuming other jobs to help the classroom run smoothly.

Math

In third grade, students learn decimals, fractions, and multiplication and how to measure weight and volume. They apply these skills to real-world scenarios, like making change or following the instructions for a simple recipe.

Reading and Writing

Third-grade reading builds upon students' vocabulary. They learn how to find information in dictionaries and other reference books. Fiction and non-fiction books are longer and more complex. Students write detailed essays and stories that flow logically and have a distinct beginning and end. Now, they are adding paragraphs or chapters to transition between ideas.

Science, Social Studies, and Technology

Scientific experiments allow third-grade students to prove or disprove a hypothesis. They imagine the great beyond, learning about the solar system, the sun, and the moon. Third-graders practice learning where the states are on the map, and the names of the capitals for each. Lessons include maps and globes where they can locate places in their own neighborhood and across distant shores.

In technology class, students become more adept at typing on a keyboard and learn how to use programs in practical ways, like for research or communication. They may learn how to translate data into basic graphs and charts.

Fourth Grade

In fourth grade, children are ready to develop skills like organization and time management to prepare them for the transition to middle school. They may prefer certain friendships over others, and socializing becomes more of a priority. Competitiveness increases in the classroom, as some students strive to excel among their peers.

Math

Fourth-grade includes more complex branches of math. Children work through advanced multiplication, division, and fractions. Simple word problems sharpen their logical thinking skills. Students often get their first introduction to algebra and geometry in fourth grade.

Reading and Writing

Fourth-grade reading and writing build upon existing skills. Children explore various types and genres of poetry and stories. They learn synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms, and expand their vocabulary. Fourth-graders show their understanding of a book's themes by writing a book report.

Science, Social Studies, and Technology

Science in fourth grade inspires students to think big, covering topics like electricity, energy, and matter. Students learn about different organisms and how to classify them. In social studies, children continue learning about maps and cultures around the world.

They also study our nation's history and the individuals who played an important role in it. In technology, fourth-grade students improve their typing skills and learn new ways to use computers to make life easier. They create spreadsheets, charts, graphs, and presentations.

Fifth Grade

Fifth grade is a year for putting all the academic pieces together. Children are expected to take more responsibility for organization and long-term planning to prepare for the new adventure ahead in middle school.

Math

Fifth-grade math includes a variety of complex concepts that will be revisited again in sixth grade, including:

  • Adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions
  • Area and perimeter of different shapes
  • Different types of triangles
  • Improper and equivalent fractions
  • Prime numbers

Reading and Writing

Readers and writers in fifth grade dig deeper into stories, analyzing the plot along with key characters and their motives, while further building their own vocabularies. They take a more organized approach to writing, starting with an outline, and moving on to drafting, revising, and completing edits to create a finished piece. Students in fifth grade tackle research papers and reports, and may even give oral presentations on various topics.

Science and Social Studies

In fifth grade, science includes lessons on the human body and its systems, basic biology and chemistry, and timely topics like climate change and humans' impact on the environment. Students continue learning about the planet, weather, land, and oceans.

In social studies, students learn the different branches of government. They study the United States Constitution and the system of checks and balances in place to protect it. Important events in our nation's history are explored along with important historical figures.

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