The brain development of children at this stage accelerates as they receive opportunities at school to learn new mental skills and concepts. As they grow and develop, they become more curious about the world around them, become more interested in exploring it, and begin to solve problems on their own. It’s important to note that for this stage in brain development, learning takes place most effectively through concrete play experiences.
At this stage, children typically:
- Expand vocabulary skills, allowing for expression of interests, thoughts and feelings—typically in great detail.
- Use language skills as a means of socialization.
- Learn to tell time.
- Begin to enjoy dramatic play and assume different roles.
- Learn to question things.
- Begin to understand numerical concepts (but still need experiences with real objects).
- Read and write simple words, sentences and texts.
- Begin to understand concepts of the life cycle (e.g., death).
- Show a gradual increase in attention span.
- Display greater awareness of surroundings outside the home.
- Enjoy the challenges of games and puzzles.
- Show more independence at reading and writing.
What Parents Can Do
Try to communicate with the teacher regularly about how your child is doing, beyond parent-teacher conferences. Ask whether your child is reading grade-level books. Are they writing and speaking well? Ask if your child can add and subtract. Ask to see a sample of your child’s work and follow up with questions about how it could be better. Ask for extra help, if your child needs it.
Try to make a quiet place for your child to study and try to carve out time every day when your child can focus on reading, writing, and math. Read together every day. Act out stories together from books, television, or your child’s imagination.
What else to keep in mind?
Watch the screen time. Children this age need plenty of exercise and playtime for brain and physical development, so limit their time in front of the TV or computer screen.
First-grade students use phonics (matching letters and sounds) and word-analysis skills to figure out unfamiliar words when reading and writing. They describe characters, settings and major events in a story, using key details. They write about a topic, supplying some facts and providing some sense of opening and closing.
First-graders add with a sum of 20 or less and subtract with a sum of 20 or less, for example by using strategies based around the number 10. Example: To solve 13 – 4, you can start with 13, subtract 3 to reach 10, and then subtract 1 more to reach 9. They quickly and accurately add with a sum of 10 or less, and quickly and accurately subtract with a sum of 10 or less. They measure lengths of objects by using a shorter object as a unit of length.
Second-grade students pay close attention to details. This includesillustrations and graphics in stories and books to answer who, what, where, when, why and how questions. They can determine the lesson or moral of stories, fables and folktales. They also write stories that include a short sequence of events and contain a clear beginning, middle and end.
By the end of second grade, students can add and subtract with a sum of 20 or less quickly and accurately. They learn what the digits mean in three-digit numbers. Example: 463 is four hundreds, six tens and three ones. They measure and estimate length in standard units.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
For their brains to maintain optimal development, children need good nourishment, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, every day. They should be allowed to have an occasional treat, but they should be taught that sweets and high-fat treats are not everyday food items. As part of their regular diet, they should have healthy snacks like apple wedges and whole-grain crackers.