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First Grade Writing Standards

First Grade Writing Standards

Writing standards for first grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding first grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.

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What is 1st Grade Writing?
Students in first grade develop all aspects of their English language arts skills through daily exposure and practice. In Grade 1, students strengthen their understanding of how print connects with spoken language. First grade students understand that spoken language is composed of sequences of sounds and that letters represent the sounds. In first grade, students can recite the letters of the alphabet in correct order and know the sounds associated with each letter. It’s this knowledge of the common letter-sound correspondences that helps students “decode” written words or figure out words as they read.

First grade students listen to, read, and respond to a wide variety of children’s literature, including stories, poems, and nonfiction, and begin to connect their experiences with information presented in print. By the end of the year, most first graders are able to read easy books by themselves. First graders also become writers. In first grade, sentences become a key focus of instruction. Students learn to differentiate between words, sentences, and paragraphs, and are able to write complete sentences using subjects and verbs, basic capitalization, and punctuation. Students develop the ability to write brief compositions that describe and explain familiar objects, people, places, events, or experiences. In 1st grade, students are taught a large number of high-frequency words and their vocabulary increases significantly. Penmanship control also increases, and students become proficient at printing letters.

The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as first grade benchmarks in writing proficiency:

Grade 1: Writing Strategies—The Writing Process
First grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 1, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:

  • Prewriting: With partners or as a class, first grade students discuss the purpose for writing and generate ideas through brainstorming, drawing, and other activities. Students organize their ideas for both self-selected topics and assigned tasks by using simple diagrams, maps, or lists.
  • Drafting: Students write a draft suitable to the topic, audience, and purpose. In drafting, first grade students strive to maintain focus on a single idea and organize supporting details into a logical sequence that has a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Revising: First graders will revise selected drafts for varied purposes, including to achieve a sense of audience, precise word choices, and vivid images. Students will also revise and refine their drafts for clarity and effectiveness, and cross out repetitive text.
  • Editing: Students edit and correct the draft for standard language conventions as appropriate for their grade level.
  • Publishing: Students produce, illustrate, and share a variety of compositions.
Lesson in elementary school

Use of technology: First grade students will use available technology to compose text.

Grade 1: Writing Purposes
In first grade, students learn to write for different purposes and audiences, and in various forms, including creative, informational/expository, narrative, and persuasive. Specifically, writing standards stipulate that students will:

  • As emergent writers, write their name and dictate messages such as news and stories for others to write.
  • Participate in writing simple stories, poems, rhymes, or song lyrics.
  • Write in a variety of informational/expository forms, such as thank you letters, invitations, lists, recipes, notes, labels, and charts.
  • Write informational/expository paragraphs that contain a topic sentence and at least three details.
  • Write brief expository descriptions of a real object, person, place, or event, using sensory details.
  • Write brief narratives that include a main idea based on real or imagined events, characters, and a sequence of events.
  • Draw a picture and use simple text to explain (persuade) why an item (food, pet, person) is important to them.
  • Write to discover, develop, and refine ideas; record ideas and reflections, such as keeping a journal.
  • Communicate with a variety of audiences.
  • Write simple directions and draw an accompanying map.

Grade 1: Writing Evaluation
First grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 1, students also identify the most effective features of a piece of writing using criteria generated by the teacher and class. Writing standards recommend that students keep a portfolio of their own written work to monitor growth as a writer. Many teachers will use first grade writing worksheets for this purpose.

Grade 1: Written English Language Conventions
Students in 1st grade are expected to write and speak with a command of Standard English conventions appropriate to this grade level. In particular, 1st grade writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:

Sentence Structure
— Write clear and coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea.
— Use nouns and verbs to write complete sentences.
— Achieve subject and verb agreement in simple sentences.
— Identify and correctly use singular and plural nouns.
— Identify and correctly use action verbs in simple sentences.
— Identify and correctly use contractions (e.g., isn’t, aren’t, can’t, won’t) and singular possessive pronouns (e.g., my/mine, his/her, hers, your/s) in writing and speaking.
— Distinguish between declarative, exclamatory, and interrogative sentences.
— Use appropriate end punctuation for sentences (i.e., period, exclamation point, or question mark).
— Use commas in dates and items in a series.
—Use capital letters for the pronoun “I,” the first word of a sentence, names of people, days of the week, and months of the year.
— Spell three- and four-letter short-vowel words and grade-level-appropriate high frequency and sight words correctly.
— Focus on regularly spelled patterns such as consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) (hop), consonant-vowel-consonant-silent e (CVCe) (hope), and one-syllable words with blends (drop).
— Write with more proficient spelling of inflectional endings such as plurals and verb tenses.
— Spell single syllable words that have r-controlled vowels (star); that have the final consonants f, l, and s (doll); and that have ck as the final consonants (back).
— Use resources to find correct spellings, synonyms, and replacement words.
— Print each letter of the alphabet legibly in both capital and lowercase, using correct formation, appropriate size, and spacing.
— Write text left-to-right and top-to-bottom on the page, with attention to margins and spacing letters, words, and sentences appropriately.
— Gain an increasing control of penmanship such as pencil grip, paper position, stroke, and posture.

Closeup people hand doing mathematics homework at home

Grade 1: Research and Inquiry
A first grader will learn to gather information and use writing as a tool for inquiry and research in the following ways:

  • Record or dictate questions for investigating, such as “What do bugs eat?”
  • Record or dictate personal knowledge of a topic in various ways such as by drawing pictures, making lists, and showing connections among ideas.
  • Use pictures, print, and people to gather information and answer questions.
  • Draw conclusions from information gathered.
  • Locate important areas of the library/media center.

First Grade Writing Tests
While standardized writing tests aren’t usually given until at least third grade, some schools administer English language arts assessments in the first grade. These assessments are classroom-based and developmentally appropriate, such as Dibels (pronounced “dibbles”), an early-literacy measurement used in many schools. Other schools use early reading curriculums that feature regular assessments to measure progress in all language arts areas. These standards-based tests help teachers determine where each student needs help and are used to tailor instruction to the individual child. First grade teachers also observe children as they do various writing-related tasks and evaluate students’ writing portfolios on a regular basis.

Writing Test Preparation
Students do not need to “prepare” for first grade assessment tests. Instead, you’ll be helping their literacy development tremendously if you simply read and talk with your children. Start conversations, write a grocery list together, and select books together at the library. Raise their awareness of language in their environment, such as on billboards, traffic signs, and menus in restaurants. Don’t forget, children also need ample time to play for their overall well-being. Play enhances cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

Let’s Read English Supports First Grade Learning
Let’s Read English is an excellent complement to any first grade curriculum, as well as an outstanding home school curriculum. Learn more about Let’s Read English online programs for first grade.

For more information about general learning objectives for first grade students including math and language arts, please visit LetsReadEnglish.com.

*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Let’s Write English relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.

You’ve been exploring the writing standards for first grade. To view the writing standards for other grade levels, use one of the following links: