School Health, Academic Medical Home

How to Succeed in 1st and 2nd Grade?
1st and 2nd Grade
3rd-5th Grade
6th-8th Grade
9th-12th Grade
The page started on 02/10/2011
Updated on 03/31/2012


A child in the 1 st and 2 nd grades is just starting to learn complicated thinking, involving reading and math. She is also growing in social ways, making friends and developing her own unique sense of humor. 1 st and 2 nd grades are an important time to lay the foundation for a child’s habits through the school years and beyond – here are some important areas to keep in mind:

Every parent wants his child to be successful in school, and the best way to do that is for the parent to take an active role in education at home! In first grade, parents can help their child be successful by knowing what first graders are learning in school, knowing their child’s learning styles, understanding how to assess their child’s academic progress, and being able to identify learning opportunities all around in the everyday world. Here’s some more information and resources on each of these topics:


Knowing what first graders are learning in school:
First grade is often a child’s first experience in formal learning, with a strong focus on reading and math. Language and literacy are covered through reading, with material varying from simple rhymes and poem, to current events and news articles, to fictional stories and beginner chapter books. Kids learn to read through an understanding of the alphabet, “sounding out” words they encounter, and practicing spelling lists for the first time. In math kids are focusing on time, money, and larger numbers. They also start learning simple addition and subtraction problems. In science, kids are learning how to formulate questions and make them into hypotheses for exploration. They identify patterns in the world and learn about the human body, weather, and plants and animals. Finally, in social studies kids are exploring how their family, school, and neighborhood experiences intersect, learning to formulate chronologies and understand the passage of time in history.

Knowing your child’s learning styles:
All people, including first graders, learn about the world by using their senses, that is, sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. In general people use three senses the most in formal learning, and individuals will often rely on one more than these others. This natural preference is a child’s “learning style,” though most kids use more than one.

Typically, learning styles can be divided into visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Students who are visual learners learn best from pictures, graphs, reading articles, and any other kind of medium that allows a child to learn from seeing. Auditory learners learn by hearing, and remember things best that were part of a lecture or conversation, or information that is set to music. Kinesthetic learners learn best through hands-on activities, and so learn best from arts-and-crafts, building projects, and experiments. Knowing your child’s learning styles can help you tailor learning to his strengths, and help him learn more, faster.

There are several resources online to help determine which learning style your child favors, or you can ask her teacher to help you identify how she learns in school. For more information on learning styles, visit


More resources:
Parent’s guide: grade grade

This website has links to PDFs of good handouts, work-sheets and other activities listed by subject that parents can print to help their kids practice at home:

Information on what kids learn Grade by Grade: grade grade

Example of a first-grade curriculum with lesson plans: grade grade

Homework help:

Fun learning activities to do at home: grade grade

This is a very basic article explaining how to help a kid prepare for first grade over the summer. It's not a great resources for lots of facts or practice problems, but it provides some basic guidelines for parents:

Knowing how to assess your child’s academic progress:
Kids are evaluated in school in many different ways, including through tests and papers, in question/answer sessions with teachers, or through observation in behavior and social activity. Pay attention to your student’s report card, and be sure to attend parent-teacher conferences on a regular basis. If your child seems to be struggling in a certain area, it is important to identify that early on to allow for more time to help him. Remember to stay in touch with your student’s teacher regularly, as he or she will be able to describe your child’s learning and help you support it at home.

Knowing how to identify learning opportunities in the everyday world:
Learning is an activity that takes place not only in the classroom, but in daily life in the greater world. Every experiences presents an opportunity for learning and the creative parent can find several lessons in daily activities with her child. Here are some ideas:

  • Let your first grader count out the change you receive at the grocery store
  • Take walks outside often to observe how the seasons change, or the different kinds of homes animals live in, or the patterns in the way traffic stops and starts.
  • Ask your child what time it is to help her get used to reading different clocks
  • Cook with your child, helping him learn to follow steps in a recipe, and measure out ingredients
  • Encourage your child to write letters to grandparents and friends

First grade presents new academic work and social experiences that may be particularly challenging for children. It is important to help a child learn how to cope with stress and how to form healthy relationships. This is also an important time to watch how a young child’s self-esteem is developing, and help him develop a healthy level of self-worth.

For more information on how to help children cope with stress, visit
Cope with conflict

For more information on how to help children form friendships
For more information on how to identify low self-esteem
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders:
More Information - Emotional Wellness Articles

A child’s nutrition directly impacts how he develops, both physically and mentally. Children need a variety of foods and nutrients to develop properly, including for proper growth, motor skills, and brain development. Similarly, providing enough of the right kinds of food can help your child maintain his concentration throughout the day, helping him perform better in school and at homework. The best nutrition advice to keep your child healthy includes encouraging him to:

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars and salt
  • Choose a diet that provides enough calcium and iron to meet their growing body's requirements

Children aged five to twelve need 10-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. In addition, school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours. Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

Sleep Tips for School-aged Children

  • Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
  • Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine.

Children’s Sleep Resource Center:
Sleep and Mental Health:

Accidents are the leading cause of death for children. Most of these deaths could easily be prevented and it is therefore very important to keep your child's safety in mind at all times. Here are some tips to keep your six-year-old safe:

  • Teach your child about car safety, including always wearing a safety belt and sitting in the back seat.
  • Teach your child about pedestrian safety, like looking both ways before crossing a street.
  • Teach your child to always wear a bicycle helmet when riding his bike
  • Teach stranger awareness by helping your child identify common tricks predators use, like offering candy
  • Teach your child about fire safety, like how to “Stop, drop, and roll,” and where to find fire exits in his home and school.

For more information on child safety topics for six-year-olds, vist