1st Grade Common Core and a Free Tool to Improve Your Student’s Writing!

1st Grade common core standards

Hey everyone, I’ve got a freebie for you all to use with your kids, but first let me explain.

If there is one thing I am learning from writing this blog, it is that there is a ton of Common Core State Standards for each and every single grade. None of them are more blatantly, in your face, related to occupational therapy as is CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.A – “Print all upper- and lowercase letters.” This standard screams occupational therapy to any 1st grade teacher who 1) knows what OT is, and 2) sees a child continuously squishing their letters/words together or forming all lowercase and capital letters the same size with no regard for the base, mid, and top line.

For me, these 2 concerns have got to be up there in the top-5 reasons for a referral, along with sensory worries (more on that in an upcoming blog). While it may be a first grade standard, a referral to OT almost always stems from a child being unable to meet CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.1.1.A. Well today, I Just want to provide you all with a support tool. This is one I keep handy at all times and hand out to special education teachers and general education teachers alike. It’s nothing special, but it helps kids with sizing, spacing, and placing their letters on the line. The best part about it, is that you can make as many copies as you’d like.

I call it Gray-space paper and I recently created several versions that can be used from pre-K up to about 3rd grade if we are talking about typically developing kids. You likely have seen paper that use aspects of this paper, but when I couldn’t find paper that had both aspects of the paper kids seemed to respond to, I create this paper.

So anyways, I want you to have it. Just click anywhere on this paragraph to sign up. Simply leave your info and you will soon receive an email with the Gray-space paper attached.

And if for some reason you do not want the paper for free, but still want it… You can purchase it for $1.99 at teacherpayteachers.com. You may also want to take a look at the Hi-write paper down at the bottom of the page. This is also a commonly used adapted paper.

Thank you again. I hope this resource is able to help at least one of your kids and maybe even an entire 1st grade class.


Hi-Write paper (Picture is a Link to Amazon)


Kindergarten Expectations: Common Core Standards and Writing development

Kindergarten Expectations: Common Core Standards and Writing development

Common Core State Standards:

Over the last several years, state after state has adopted what is called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards are research based and have been implemented in large part to develop critical thinking skills in children at an early age.

Each grade has a set of Mathematics Standards and English Language Arts (ELA) Standards. By the end of their kindergarten year, our first year students are expected to: (There are a lot, so I am going to summarize and condense the best I can. For a full list, visit www.corestandards.org)


  1. Count objects and compare different whole numbers up to 19.
  2. Understand simple addition and subtraction.
  3. Compare and sort objects by a measurable attribute.
  4. Identify shapes as well as compare and compose them.

English Language Arts (ELA)

  1. Ask questions regarding a text as well as identify key concepts and details such as characters and setting.
  2. Derive the meaning of unknown words from a text.
  3. Compare illustrations and stories.
  4. Scan a page from left to right, top to bottom, and page to page.
  5. Understand that words represent text.
  6. Recognize that words are separated by a space on paper.
  7. Identify and print all upper and lowercase letters.
  8. Pronounce and count syllables in spoken words.
  9. Produce the primary sounds of each letters.
  10. Read similar, yet different, sight words.
  11. Use drawings, text, and dictation to compose stories, opinion, and explanatory pieces.
  12. Use commonly used nouns, verbs, prepositions, and question words to form complete sentences.
  13. Use capitalization for first word of sentences and use punctuation at the end of a sentence.
  14. Spell simple words phonetically

As you can see, in kindergarten our students are learning the foundations of their educational careers. For this reason it is important to ensure they are using the most efficient methods and mechanics so that they may continue for the rest of their lives.


Kids typically are enrolled into kindergarten at the age of five; thus, I will be focusing here on the development of fine motor development that occur as a child reaches his/her 5th birthday. These skills will be geared toward beginning to compose written work including shapes, letters, and numbers. Before a child reaches school, much of what they do is unstructured and “free play.” As they start school, they will learn strategies to further their scribbles into shapes and letters.

One of the foundational developmental skills that I tend to look for first is whether or not a child has established a clear dominant hand. By age 5, hand dominance should be well established. While some children may appear to be ambidextrous, at this age they should really be favoring one hand over the other. Developmentally, it is more functional to have one hand that works really well, rather than both hands working moderately. At this point kids should be able to use their non-dominant hand to stabilize the paper they are writing on, even if they requires a cue from the paper moving to do so.

The second skill I look for is their grasp on a pencil and how they are manipulating it. Research has indicated that both a 3-finger grasp and a 4-finger grasp are considered functional (Schwellnus et al.). The key points to emphasize here are encouraging the child to hold the pencil with the tips or pads of their fingers and to keep an open web space between the thumb and index finger.

Examples of functional grasps. Top Left: Dynamic Tripod grasp; Top Right: Quadrupod grasp; Bottom Left: Unconventional Tripod; Bottom Right: Tripod Grasp with Thumb Wrap (Mickey is clearly interested)
Examples of functional grasps. Top Left: Dynamic Tripod grasp; Top Right: Quadrupod grasp; Bottom Left: Unconventional Tripod; Bottom Right: Tripod Grasp with Thumb Wrap (Mickey is clearly interested)

Finally, once I see that they have an established hand dominance and appropriate grasp, I look to see what muscles they are using to manipulate the pencil and write with. They should be using their fingers and wrist to manipulate the pencil rather than their entire arm. If a child is holding the pencil with a fisted grip it would be unfair to expect this because they would not be able to use their fingers to manipulate the tool. By giving a child the opportunity to write on a vertical surface (wall, chalk/white board, easel) they can develop an appropriate grasp and the finger coordination required to manipulate the writing tool.

By looking at these three prewriting skills in a child, a parent, teacher or guardian can help a child get a good start to kindergarten. If a child appears to have these skills down and is still struggling to trace simple shapes and letters as they progress through school, it may be an indicator that an Occupational Therapy screening or evaluation is appropriate.

Thank you for taking the time to read my very first post. If you appreciate this text and wish to view more when available, please subscribe HERE to my email list. As a thank you, I’ll send you a free printable adapted paper you can read more about HERE

Thanks again,