Teaching Primary School Grades

by | Aug 14, 2018 | Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

If you enjoy “Teaching Primary School Grades (Lower Elementary)”, please make sure to check out the rest of the “Changing Grade Levels” series.

  1. Teaching a New Grade Curriculum
  2. Teaching Primary School Grades (Lower Elementary)
  3. Teaching Elementary School Grades
  4. Teaching Middle School Grades
  5. Teaching High School Grades

If you are a teacher moving to the Lower Primary grades (Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd), this blog post will help you understand the student learning expectations. An overview of each grade level is given, as well as bulleted standards expectations for each of the following disciplines: English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics (Math), Science (Sci), and Social Science (SS). (The learning expectations are general and may vary a little in each state.)

Primary School – Kindergarten

Kindergarten is the initial experience in public education for most students. Those enrolled will fall between the ages of 5-7 and will come from a wide variety of home environments. Some students will have attended preschool, while others have not. Student attention spans are short, so teachers need to chunk activities and provide frequent break or movement.

These differences will create a wide range of prior knowledge and skills in a classroom, ranging from students who can already read, add, subtract, and identify some community resources, to those who have never seen printed text and spend most of their day in self-entertainment. It can be a daunting task to foster an environment in which all levels of student feel comfortable and can achieve success.

Another major challenge at this grade level is the development of social and hygienic practices.  Some students will have been taught basic social skills, such as waiting patiently, sharing, and following directions. Others may have never had to share or take turns with items and will need guidance in developing these social skills. These skills are important to students’ success in future grade levels, so Kindergarten teachers spend a lot of time working on these skills. Balancing these skills with academics can be a challenge.

  • ELA –

    • Reading
      • Retell and answer questions about specific stories including describing the characters, setting, and major events
      • Identify the author/illustrator of a story and explain their roles, identify specific types of writing such as storybooks and poems, as well as identify new/unknown words within the text
      • Explain the relationship between the text and accompanying illustrations, as well as be able to compare and contrast characters in similar stories.
      • Engage in group readings and discussions of stories
      • Understand the fundamental traits and functionalities of printed text, including phonic, word, and sentence awareness, using those skills to identify new or unknown words in emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
    • Writing
      • Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces about a book by title and whether they liked the story; compose informative/explanatory texts about specific information from a story; to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events giving details including sequencing and reactions to what happened
      • With guidance and support from adults, edit writing in response to questions and suggestions from peers, while also exploring a variety of digital tools for composition
      • Participate in shared research projects, as well as recall information or gather information from provided sources to answer a question
    • Speaking
      • Engage in collaborative discussions, confirm understanding of both oral and textual source material, and ask questions to garner deeper understanding or to clarify an uncertainty
      • Speak audibly and clearly, describing people, places, things, and events with additional illustrations or visuals for support
  • Math –

    • Counting/Cardinality
      • Count from 1-100 by ones and tens; count forward from a given number; read and write numbers from Zero to Twenty (0-20)
      • Count to determine quantity; count to answer “how many” up to 20
      • Identify group comparisons or written numerals as greater than, less than, or equal to
    • Operations/Algebra
      • Represent addition and subtraction with manipulatives; solve addition/subtraction word problems with up to 10 objects; find the missing number to make 10; fluently add/subtract within 5; use addition/subtraction with 10 to solve word problems
    • Number and Base Ten Operations
      • Compose and decompose numbers 11-19 using 10 + a missing amount using both concrete and abstract expressions
    • Measurement and Data
      • Describe measurable attributes such as length and weight; directly compare two objects as having “more” or “less” of a given attribute; express the length of an object as a whole number of units
      • Classify objects into given categories; count the number in each category and sort by count
    • Geometry
      • Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes and the relative positions of them such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to; correctly name shapes regardless of their orientation or overall size; identify shapes as two-dimensional (flat) or three-dimensional (solid)
      • Analyze and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes using number of sides and vertices/corners and other attributes; model shapes in the world from manipulative components; compose simple shapes to form larger shapes
  • Sci –

    • Life Science
      • Recognize the five senses and corresponding body parts
      • Recognize that some books and other media portray animals and plants with characteristics and behaviors they do not have in real life
      • Observe plants and animals and describe how they are alike and how they are different
    • Physical Science
      • Observe that things that make sound vibrate
      • Investigate things that move in different ways
      • Observe that a push or a pull can change the way an object is moving
      • Sort objects by observable properties (size, shape, color, temperature, weight, and texture)
      • Recognize that the shape of materials such as paper and clay can be changed by cutting, tearing, crumpling, smashing, or rolling
    • Earth and Space Science
      • Explore the Law of Gravity by investigating how objects are pulled toward the ground unless something holds them up
      • Recognize the repeating pattern of day and night
      • Recognize that the Sun can only be seen in the daytime
      • Observe that sometimes the Moon can be seen at night and sometimes during the day
      • Observe that things can be big and things can be small as seen from Earth
      • Observe that some objects are far away and some are nearby as seen from Earth
    • Nature of Science
      • Collaborate with a partner to collect information
      • Make observations of the natural world and know that they are descriptors collected using the five senses
      • Keep records as appropriate – such as pictorial records – of investigations conducted
      • Observe and create a visual representation of an object which includes its major features
      • Recognize that learning can come from careful observation
  • SS –

    • American History
      • Develop an understanding of how to use and create a timeline; develop an awareness of a primary source
      • Compare children and families of today with those in the past; recognize the importance of celebrations and national holidays as a way of remembering and honoring people, events, and our nation’s ethnic heritage; compare our nation’s holidays with holiday of other cultures; listen to and retell stories about people in the past who have shown character ideals and principles including honesty, courage, and responsibility; recognize the importance of US symbols
      • Use words and phrases related to chronology and time to explain how things change and to sequentially order events that have occurred in school; explain that calendars represent days of the week and months of the year
    • Geography
      • Describe the relative location of people, places, and things using positional words; explain that maps and globes help to locate places and that globes are a model of the Earth; identify cardinal directions (north, east, south, west); differentiate land and water features on simple maps and globes
      • Locate and describe places in the school and community; know one’s own phone number, street address, city or town and the state in which one lives
      • Identify basic landforms; identify basic bodies of water; describe and give examples of seasonal weather changes, and illustrate how weather affects people and the environment
    • Economics
      • Describe different kinds of jobs that people do, and the tools or equipment used; recognize that United States currency comes in different forms; recognize that people work to earn money to buy things they need or want; identify the difference between basic needs and wants
    • Civics and Government
      • Define and give examples of rules and laws and why they are important; explain the purpose and necessity of rules and laws at home, school, and the community
      • Demonstrate the characteristics of being a good citizen; demonstrate that conflicts among friends can be resolved in ways that are consistent with being a good citizen; describe fair ways for groups to make decisions

Primary School – First Grade

First Grade begins the shift to more organized and focused classroom activity with fewer scheduled breaks for the students. The progression of the concepts and skills begun in Kindergarten continues and includes increased complexity as students begin to move from concrete to abstract. Teachers still have to socialization skill development. Establishing routines and a safe environment for a classroom is essential to maximize students’ learning.

  • ELA –

    • Reading
      • Answer questions about key details of a text, demonstrate understanding of the central message or lesson, including describing the characters, setting, and major events
      • Identify words and phrases that suggest emotions or sensory information, while being able to differentiate between informational and entertainment texts, also identifying the person telling the story in the text (point-of-view)
      • Use illustrations and textual details to describe characters, setting, or events; to compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories
      • Read prose and poetry appropriate for Grade 1
      • Understand the basic function of text, including phonic and word recognition at Grade 1 complexity, as well as read with sufficient accuracy to identify text purpose and understanding while reading aloud with accuracy demonstrating self-correction of pronunciation based on context and phonic/word recognition
    • Writing
      • Write opinion pieces based on a topic they introduce, informative/explanative pieces of a named topic with support from provided resources, and narrative pieces in which two or more sequenced events are effectively chronicled with appropriate grammatical expressions
      • With guidance and support from adults and peers, edit writing in response to a focused topic, while also exploring a variety of digital tools for composition
      • Participate in shared research and writing projects, as well as recall information or gather information from provided sources to answer a question
    • Speaking
      • Engage in collaborative discussions, confirm understanding of both oral and other media source material, and ask questions about what a speaker says to garner deeper understanding or to clarify an uncertainty
      • Speak audibly and clearly, describing people, places, things with relevant details, ideas, and feelings, producing complete sentences when presenting the information
  • Math –

    • Operations/Algebra
      • Solve word problems within 20 using adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing; solve word problems adding three whole numbers whose sum is equal to or less than 20 using objects, drawings, and equations
      • Apply Commutative Property of Addition, Associative Property of Addition; understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem
      • Relate counting to addition and subtraction by “counting on” by 2s; add and subtract within 20 using “making 10s”, the relationship between addition and subtraction, creating equivalent but easier or known sums within a series of operations
      • Understand the meaning of the equals sign and determine if equations are true or false; determine the unknown whole number in an addition or subtraction equation relating to three whole numbers
    • Number and Base Ten Operations
      • Count to 120 from any number less than 120
      • Understand the digits of a two-digit number are expressions of “tens” and “ones”; compare two-digit numbers as >, <, or = based on “tens” and “ones”
      • Add within 100, including a two-digit number to a one-digit number, using concrete models or drawings, strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and the relationship between addition and subtraction; given a two-digit number determine 10 more or 10 less; subtract multiples of 10 in the range between 10-90 with positive or 0 differences
    • Measurement and Data
      • Order three objects by length, comparing two by using a third; understand how to use a ruler to measure to the nearest inch
      • Tell and write time in hours and half-hours using digital and analog clocks; using pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters identify combinations of values up to one dollar; know how to exchange a single value of currency for an equivalent value of another denomination
      • Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; analyze the data as a summative and comparative process
    • Geometry
      • Distinguish between defining attributes (number of sides and corners) and non-defining attributes (color, orientation, overall size) of shapes, the construct or draw them; compose two- and three-dimensional shapes to create a composite shape and new shapes from composite shapes; partition circles and rectangles into two and four equal shares or parts
  • Sci –

    • Life Science
      • Make observations of living things and their environment using the five senses; identify the major parts of plants, including stem, roots, leaves, and flowers; differentiate between living and nonliving things
      • Make observations that plants and animals closely resemble their parents, but with some variations
      • Through observation, recognize that all plants and animals, including humans, need the necessities of air, water, food, and space
    • Physical Science
      • Demonstrate and describe the many ways that objects can move, such as in a straight line, zigzag, back-and-forth, round-and-round, fast, and slow
      • Demonstrate that the way to change the motion of an object is by applying a push or a pull
      • Sort objects by observable properties such as size, shape, color, temperature, weight, texture, and whether objects sink or float
    • Earth and Space Science
      • Observe and discuss that there are more stars in the sky than anyone can easily count, and they are not easily spread; explore the Law of Gravity by demonstrating that Earth’s gravity pulls any object on or near Earth toward it; investigate how magnifiers make things appear bigger and help people see things they could not see without them; identify then beneficial and harmful properties of the Sun
      • Recognize that water, rocks, soil, and living organisms are found on Earth’s surface; describe the need for water and how to be safe around water; recognize that some things in the world around us happen fast and some happen slowly
    • Nature of Science
      • Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them in teams through free exploration, and generate appropriate explanations based on those explorations; using the five senses as tools, make careful observations, describe objects in terms of number, shape, texture, size, weight, color, and motion and compare with others’ observations; keep records as appropriate – such as pictorial and written records – of investigations conducted; ask, “how do you know?” in appropriate situations
  • SS –

    • American History
      • Develop an understanding of a primary source; understand how to use the media center/other sources to find answers to questions about a historical topic
      • Understand history tells the story of people and events of other times and places; compare life now with life in the past; identify celebrations and national holidays as a way of remembering and honoring the heroism and achievements of the people, events, and our nation’s ethnic heritage; identify people from the past who have shown character ideals and principles including honesty, courage, and responsibility; distinguish between historical fact and fiction using various materials
      • Use terms related to time to sequentially order events that have occurred in school, home, or community; create a timeline based on the student’s life or school events, using primary sources
    • Geography
      • Use physical and political/cultural maps to locate places in the state; identify key elements (compass rose, cardinal directions, title, key/legend with symbols) of maps and globes; construct a basic map using key elements including cardinal directions and map symbols; identify a variety of physical features using a map and globe; locate on maps and globes the student’s local community, state, the Oceans, and Gulf of Mexico; describe how location, weather, and physical environment affect the way people live in our community
    • Economics
      • Recognize that money is a method of exchanging goods and services; define opportunity costs as giving up one thing for another; distinguish between examples of goods and services; distinguish people as buyers, sellers, and producers of goods and services; recognize the importance of saving money for future purchases; identify that people need to make choices because of scarce resources
    • Civics and Government
      • Explain the purpose of rules and laws in the school and community; give examples of people who have the power and authority to make and enforce rules and laws in the schools and community; give examples of the use of power without authority in the school and community
      • Explain the rights and responsibilities students have in the school community; describe the characteristics of responsible citizenship in the school community; identify ways students can participate in the betterment of their school and community; show respect and kindness to people and animals
      • Explain how decisions can be made or how conflicts might be resolved in fair and just ways; recognize symbols and individuals that represent American constitutional democracy

Primary School – Second Grade

Second Grade continues to build students’ independence, stressing completeness, quality, and timeliness of work. Homework may be assigned sparingly to prepare them for the shift taking place in the next school year. (Many schools are moving away from homework in the primary grades, as research does not support it.)

The progression of the concepts and skills continued in First Grade are further developed moving even further from concrete to abstract. Some students will still need to develop social skills, although many students will have mastered the basics in Kindergarten and First Grade. Maintaining established routines in the classroom is essential to establish classroom expectations for personal and academic behavior.

  • ELA –

    • Reading
      • Ask and answer interrogative questions about key details of a text, demonstrate understanding of the central message or lesson in fables and folk tales from diverse cultural groups, including describing how characters respond to major events and challenges
      • Describe how words and phrases supply rhythm and meaning in prose, poems, and songs; the structure of a story including how the beginning introduces and ending concludes the story; point-of-view from multiple characters including using a different “voice” for each when reading
      • Use illustrations and textual details to describe characters, setting, or plot; to compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story
      • Proficiently read and comprehend prose and poetry within the Grades 2-3 text complexity, with scaffolding as needed
      • Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words: long/short vowel sounds, spelling-sound correspondences, two-syllable words with long vowels, common prefixes and suffixes, irregular spelling-sound correspondences; read fluently for purpose and understanding, with expression on successive readings, using context to confirm or self-correct
    • Writing
      • Write opinion pieces based on a topic or book they introduce with supporting reasons that utilize linking words because, and, also; informative/explanative texts that introduce a topic and explain with facts and definitions resulting in a concluding statement, and narrative texts which recount a well-elaborated event or a series of short events describing actions, thoughts, and feelings using effective temporal language with a conclusive ending
      • With collaboration from adults and peers, compose focused writing and make revisions and edits utilizing a variety of digital tools
      • Participate in shared research and writing projects, as well as recall information or gather information from provided sources to answer a question
    • Speaking
      • Engage in collaborative discussions, confirm understanding of both oral and other media source material, and ask questions about what a speaker says to garner deeper understanding or to clarify an uncertainty
      • Speak audibly and clearly, describing people, places, things with relevant details, ideas, and feelings, producing complete sentences when presenting the information; create audio recordings of reading and support them with a variety of visual supports
  • Math –

    • Operations/Algebra
      • Solve one- and two-step word problems within 100 using adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing; solve word problems adding four whole numbers whose sum is equal to or less than 100 using objects, drawings, and equations
      • Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies; have memorized all sums of single-digit numbers
      • Determine whether a group of objects up to 20 have an odd or even number of members; use addition to determine the total number of objects arranged in a grid up to 5 by 5 and write a equation to express the sum
    • Number and Base Ten Operations
      • Understand the digits of a three-digit number are expressions of “hundreds:, “tens”, and “ones”; be able to express a three digit number as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine hundred
      • Count within 1000 skipping by 5s, 10s, and 100s
      • Read and write numbers to 1000 using base-ten numerals, number name, and expanded form
      • Compare three-digit numbers based on place values and express by >, <, or =
      • Fluently add and subtract within 100 using place value, properties of operations, and the relationship between addition and subtraction; add up to four two-digit numbers using place value and Properties of operations; add and subtract within 100 using concrete manipulative or figures; mentally add or subtract 10 or 100 to a given number from 100-900
    • Measurement and Data
      • Measure to the nearest inch, foot, centimeter, or meter using a ruler, yard stick, meter stick, or measuring tape; describe the inverse relationship between the size of a unit of measure and number of units needed for measurement; estimate lengths using inches, feet, yards, centimeters, and meters; measure to determine how much longer one object is than another
      • Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve word problems involving lengths that are given in the same units; represent whole numbers as lengths from 0 on a number line diagram with equally spaced points corresponding to the numbers
      • Tell and write time to the nearest five minutes using digital and analog clocks; using dollars (singles, fives, tens, twenties, and hundreds) and coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters) solve one- and two-step word problems using $ and ₵ symbols appropriately
      • Generate measurement data by measuring lengths of several objects to the nearest whole unit; draw a picture and a bar graph with a single-unit scale to represent a data set with up to four categories
    • Geometry
      • Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes such as triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes; partition a rectangle into rows and columns of equivalent squares and count to find the total number; partition circles and rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares labeling them as halves, thirds, or fourths showing how many parts make a whole
  • Sci –

    • Life Science
      • Distinguish human body parts (brain, heart, lungs, stomach, muscles, and skeleton) and their basic functions
      • Observe and describe major stages in the life cycle of plants and animals, including beans and butterflies
      • Compare and contrast the basic needs that all living things, including humans, have for survival; recognize and explain that living things are found all over Earth, but each is only able to live in habitats that meet its basic needs
    • Physical Science
      • Discuss that people use electricity or other forms of energy to cook their food, cool or warm their homes, and power their cars
      • Investigate the effect of applying various pushes and pulls on different objects; demonstrate that magnets can be used to make some things move without touching them; recognize that objects are pulled toward the ground unless something holds them up; demonstrate that the greater the force (push or pull) applied to an object, the greater the change in motion of the object
      • Observe and measure objects in terms of their properties, including size, shape, color, temperature, weight, texture, sinking or floating in water, and attraction and repulsion of magnets; identify objects and materials as solid, liquid, or gas; recognize that solids have a definite shape, that liquids and gasses take the shape of their container; observe and describe water in its solid, liquid, and gaseous states; measure and compare temperatures taken every day at the same time; measure and compare the volume of liquids using containers of various shapes and sizes
      • Investigate that materials can be altered to change some of their properties, but not all materials respond the same way to any one alteration
    • Earth and Space Science
      • Recognize that Earth is made up of rocks, which come in many sizes and shapes; describe how small pieces of rock and dead plant and animal parts can be the basis of soil and explain the process by which soil is formed; classify types of soil based on color, texture (particle size), the ability to retain water, and the ability to support the growth of plants
      • Compare and describe changing patterns in nature that repeat themselves, such as weather conditions day to day and season to season; investigate by observing and measuring, that the Sun’s energy directly and indirectly warms the water, land, and air; investigate, observe and describe how water left in an open container disappears (evaporates), but water in a closed container does not; investigate that air is all around us and that moving air is wind; state the importance of preparing for severe weather, lightning, and other weather related events
    • Nature of Science
      • Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them in teams through free exploration and systematic observations generating explanations based upon those explorations; compare observations made by different groups using the same tools; ask, “how do you know?” in appropriate situations and attempt reasonable answers when asked the same question by others; explain how particular scientific investigations should yield similar conclusions when repeated
  • SS –

    • American History
      • Examine primary and secondary sources; utilize the media center, technology, or other informational sources to locate information that provides answers to questions about a historical topic
      • Recognize that Native Americans were the first inhabitants in North America; compare the cultures of Native American tribes from various geographic regions of the United States; describe the impact of immigrants on the Native Americans; explore ways the daily life of people living in Colonial America changed over time; identify reasons people came to the United States throughout history; discuss the importance of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to immigration from 1892-1954; discuss why immigration continues today; explain the cultural influences and contributions of immigrants today
      • Identify terms and designations of time sequence
    • Geography
      • Use different maps (political, physical, and thematic) to identify map elements; using maps and globes, locate the student’s hometown, state, and North America, including the state capital and national capital; label on a map or globe the continents, oceans, Equator, Prime Meridian, North and South Poles; use a map to locate the countries in North America (Canada, United States, Mexico, Caribbean Islands)
    • Economics
      • Recognize that people make choices because of limited resources; recognize that people supply goods and services based on consumer demands; recognize that the United States trades with other nations to exchange goods and services; explain the personal benefits and costs involved in saving and spending
    • Civics and Government
      • Explain why people form governments; explain the consequences of an absence of rules and laws
      • Identify what it means to be a United States citizen either by birth or by naturalization; define and apply the characteristics of responsible citizenship; explain why United States citizens have guaranteed rights and identify rights; identify ways citizens can make a positive contribution in their community; evaluate the contributions of various African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, veterans, and women
      • Identify the Constitution as the document which establishes the structure, function, powers, and limits of American government; recognize symbols, individual, events, and documents that represent the United States

Review

In general, the Lower Primary Grades focus on basic social and academic skills. Teachers slowly build these skills from Kindergarten to Second Grade. By the end of these grades, students need to have a solid grasp of basic reading and math skills, as well as be able to focus for an age appropriate amount of time (about 1 minute for each year of age. Ex. 8 minutes for 8 years olds.)

In Third Grade, students will be expected to switch from learning to read to reading to learn, so students that have not yet mastered basic reading skills in Second Grade will most likely struggle in Third Grade. A solid understanding of basic math skills is also be important, as multiplication is introduced in Third Grade.

Lower Primary students are also expected to develop basic social and emotional skills. Students are expected to be able to complete work, as well as take papers to and from school. (Teachers should always keep in mind that family structure and organization affect students’ ability to accomplish these activities.) Organizational skills, or lack of them, can cause problems for students in Upper Primary Grades. Lower Primary teachers need to help students develop these basic skills so that they can successfully transition to the higher expectations in Grades 3 – 5.

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If you enjoy “Teaching Primary School Grades (Lower Elementary)”, please make sure to check out the rest of the “Changing Grade Levels” series.

  1. Teaching a New Grade Curriculum
  2. Teaching Primary School Grades (Lower Elementary)
  3. Teaching Elementary School Grades
  4. Teaching Middle School Grades
  5. Teaching High School Grades

Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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