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English: Age 5–6 (Year 1)

In Year 1, your child’s reading, writing, and speaking skills will develop in leaps and bounds.

There will be a strong focus on phonics in school, with your child learning all the phonemes used in the English language and applying them to graphemes in their reading. They will learn spelling rules and tricky words. They will read lots of stories and will start to write their own, learning how to hold a pencil and telling simple narratives.

There are a variety of simple things you can do at home to support your child’s developing English skills.

What your child will learn

Follow the links below to find an overview of what is taught in Year 1, with information, support, and activities:

Grammar & punctuation in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, children will learn to write in sentences and to put together short narratives, as well as some basic rules around nouns and verbs. This includes:

  • using capital letters, full stops, question marks, and exclamation marks
  • turning nouns into their plural form using -s and -es
  • adding suffixes to verbs where no change is needed in the spelling of the root word (for example, helping, helped, helper).

More information and activity ideas for Year 1 >

Spelling in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, your child will learn about the alphabet and will use phonics to spell simple words. This includes:

More information and activity ideas for Year 1 >

Writing in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, your child will learn to tell stories orally, to write short sentences, and to check back what they have written. This includes:

  • saying out loud what they are going to write about, and then composing sentences aloud
  • putting sentences together into short narratives
  • reading back what they have written with peers and teachers.

More information and activity ideas for Year 1 >

Handwriting in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, your child will learn to correctly use a pencil and to form basic letter shapes. This includes:

  • sitting correctly and using the right grip
  • forming lowercase and capital letters
  • forming the digits 0–9.

More information and activity ideas for Year 1 >

Vocabulary in primary school

Your child will be expected to improve and expand their vocabulary throughout their time at primary school.

You can help your child improve their vocabulary by reading them books a little beyond their current level, and by talking with them regularly and in depth. There are also thesauruses and dictionaries available for all age ranges that can help expand your child’s vocabulary.

More information and activity ideas >

How to help at home

There are plenty of simple ways you can help your child with English in Year 1. Here are a few of our top ideas.

1. Practise phonics

Phonics is the main way your child will learn to read, write, and spell at the start of primary school. You can help your child to read using phonics by encouraging them to break any word they are unsure of into individual sounds, and then to blend those sounds together to make the word. For example, they could split and sound out the letters ‘f’, ‘r’, ‘o’, and ‘g’ to make ‘frog’. This is called blending.

Your can use a similar phonics strategy for learning how to spell. Your child can think of how a word sounds, and then write down the letters they think would represent those sounds. This is called segmenting.

Take a look at our phonics page to find out more, or watch our video for an introduction to phonics:

Video: What is phonics?

Watch this fun animation to find out about phonics and understand the key aspects of learning to read using phonics.

2. Read with your child

At this age, your child will only be able to read quite simple books by themselves. You can help expand their vocabulary and their understanding of language by reading them books that they can’t read independently yet.

Be sure to keep your child engaged. You would be surprised at the difference putting on funny voices, asking the occasional question, and pointing out interesting pictures makes to your child’s enjoyment of reading!

For books to read with your child, take a look at our free eBook library.

3. Encourage your child to read

Making time to hear your child read isn’t just good for their reading. Seeing words in print helps them to understand the words, to spell them, and to see how grammar and punctuation are used to make meaning.

When your child is reading, occasionally talk about why the author has decided to include something and how they written it. For example:

‘I wonder why the author has chosen to describe the castle as “gloomy”? I wonder what that tells us about what might happen there?’

4. Tell stories aloud

Giving your child the opportunity to tell stories orally is a great way to get them used to structuring their ideas and using adventurous language. If they’re not sure where to start, see if they can retell a story that they already know well, like Little Red Riding Hood or Three Little Pigs.

Video: How to develop storytelling skills

Suzy Ditchburn explains the benefits of teaching your child to tell stories, and offers practical tips for helping your child improve their storytelling confidence.

5. Play grammar, spelling, and punctuation games

Playing games can help children to learn about SPaG in an enjoyable way. Watch literacy expert Charlotte Raby’s video ‘How can I help my child with grammar, punctuation and spelling?’ to see some fun games in action:

Charlotte Raby offers her expert advice for helping your child develop their grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills at home.