Words To Help You Explain Your Kid’s First Grade Homework

First grade is your child’s first “big kid” year. Kindergarten was fun, but it’s time to get down to business. There are goals to accomplish this year, like reading and memorizing sight words, learning to count money and recognize shapes, and building independence that will take them through elementary school and beyond.

As a parent, you’ll notice that playtime is out and structure is in. First grade will implement a schedule for each day that centers more around learning and less around make-believe. Your new first grader will begin to come from school with a “take-home folder” that has homework (dun dun dun)!

It’s been a while since you’ve had to study some of the concepts they’re learning, so let’s go over them together! These are some terms that will appear on your first grader’s homework.

WATCH: What's A Unique Homework Routine That Works?

sight words

A big part of your child’s first grade education will be building their literacy. It’s a big year for learning to read! It’s essential they begin to commit sight words to memory. Don’t quite remember what they are? Let’s jog your memory.Sight words are words like putwas, then, and give that don’t follow the rules of phonics your child may be accustomed to. Therefore, they should be memorized by sight.

(While sight word is a commonly used term for such words, literacy educators and experts, it’s important to note, distinguish between sight words, which is any word that can be read automatically whether it is sit or dictionary, and high-frequency words, which occur very frequently in texts, like but and is.)

Teachers use grade-specific lists of sight words, like the Dolch sight word list. Print one out and use these in conversation to expose your child to them!

phonetic spelling

Phonetic spelling is an integral part of learning to work out words. If you’ve ever told your child to “sound it out,” you’ve been encouraging phonetic spelling. It’s a way of early spelling that has children match the sounds to letters (e.g. breaking down “tomorrow” into “to-mor-row”).

If you see your child trying to spell a difficult word like “station” as “stashun,” they’re applying phonetic rules they already know to new words. Being attentive to this made-up spelling can help you benchmark their spelling ability.

AR Testing

It’s likely your kid’s teacher will assign some sort of nightly reading. This time can be an excellent bonding experience as you snuggle up before bed with a book. Along with this reading your child might have an AR Test, or Accelerated Reader Test, to complete when the book is done.

The AR Test suggest books to read based on reading level. The book assessments take a short amount of time and test general comprehension. Another assessment is given to increase reading level and introduces a slightly more advanced group of suggested books. While it’s not the only way to see how well your child is reading, it’s a system their teacher may use to chart their progression.


In first grade more complex math concepts will be introduced, like addition and subtraction. You may not see the word subtraction; more often than not, the concept is known as the difference. Your child’s math homework will have them find the difference of two numbers under 20.

A good strategy for solidifying the idea of difference in a child’s mind is to incorporate real objects during homework time. For example, if your child is stumped on 8-5=3, give them eight carrots and munch away on five. Have them count how many are left to find the answer.


In addition to math concepts, shapes become an integral part of the curriculum. You might not remember all of them or how to describe how they look during study time. One of these very well may be the rhombus.

rhombus is a flat shape with four equal, straight lines. It can be slanted, so it often looks like a diamond. It’s different from a square, which has all right angles.

Objects that are shaped like rhombuses include kites, some crystals, and road signs.


Another shape that is easily confused is the cylinder, and it’s only one of a few spherical terms your child might get confused with, too. It’s important for them to learn to compare cylinders with spheres, cones, and circles.

cylinder is a solid object with straight, parallel sides and flat, circular ends. Household objects that are cylinders are easier to come across than things that look like a rhombus, thankfully. Batteries, aluminum cans, and toy drums are all cylinders.

tally chart

Chances are you still make tally charts to this day, but didn’t know what they were called, or what else they could be used for! Tally charts are a great way to introduce first graders to sorting different items and counting them up. They’re split into two columns: one contains the object, the other contains the amount of that object.

In a tally, each line, or mark, is equivalent to one object. Five objects are represented by five lines: four vertical marks and one crossed through the other four to make five. You can make a tally chart out of almost any group of objects to help teach some reasoning skills.

Venn diagram

Ah, good ole Venn diagrams. Did you know they were named after John Venn, who was an English mathematician?

Teachers use the Venn diagram to teach first graders how to compare and contrast. There’s one bubble to describe the attributes of one thing, another bubble for the other, and the space where they intersect is a space to compare how they’re alike. Venn diagrams may be assigned to help plan a writing assignment.


Now, we’re sure you know the three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. But even in first grade, the concept is a bit more complex than that, and complete understanding is needed to break it down to someone else.

A simple way to explain matter to your first grader is that matter are things that take up space and have mass. Since water can take all three states, use it to describe how things change their state of matter. Water freezes into a solid, then melts into a liquid, which condenses into gas. Got it?


Since we know what matter is, let’s describe it! The word properties will refer to the physical characteristics of whatever matter your first grader is studying. They can describe matter by using terms such as color, density, shape, texture, and mass.

Go around your house and describe everyday objects! Your child’s favorite toy’s properties are that it’s soft, purple, and fuzzy. A wool coat could be black, rough, and heavy. This process is preparing them to think scientifically about objects.

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