First Grade Readiness – What skills are expected by the end of Prep?

GRADE 1 is looming – What skills are expected by the end of Prep?  

Our checklist lists 10 key skills your prep student should have achieved before they enter grade 1 - will your child get 10/10 by the end of prep?

Many parents are happy to use the Prep year to let their children settle into the school routine – But First Grade is looming. There is lots of hype about “Prep – readiness” and rightly so. However, what about “First Grade readiness”? Is it a completely different ball game?

“an underlying basis or principle”. Synonyms like “starting point”, “point of departure” and “underlying groundwork” perhaps highlights the importance of the “foundation year of s
The The Education Department calls Prep the “Early Foundation Year Curriculum”.

Let’s look at what word “foundation” really means. By definition it refers to the “the lowest load-bearing part” or “an underlying basis or principle”. Synonyms like “starting point”, “point of departure” and “underlying groundwork” perhaps highlights the importance of the “foundation year of schooling". The importance of the Prep year and the skills that could make or break your child's Grade 1 experience.

What happens to a building with weak foundations?  happens to a building with weak foundations?  

speech is foundation for school achievement

​Speech & Language are Key Foundation stones for EVERY curriculum area

Dr Sandra McMahon, Speech_Language Pathologist, PhD provides blogs to support parents of children 0-18 years.

Education Department calls Prep the

"Early Foundation Year Curriculum"

​What skills are expected by the end of Prep? Has my child established strong enough foundations for First Grade?

​If we look at the Australian Curriculum for the Foundation Year ({Prep) we can see by the END of Prep or the beginning of First Grade, there are some very distinct social, reading and writing expectations to meet. Have a look at our checklist below as a guide.

Check the list below of the skills listed as "expected skills at the end of Prep" - readiness for First Grade. If you have any concerns that your child is not going to be ready for Grade 1, it is important to talk with the school staff earlier than later. Have a look at some of our suggestions to help below as well!

​Some Children are going to need some strengthening of their foundation skills to help them meet their full potential in Grade 1. 

​There are lots of floors to build on top of the foundations - it is importnt to build each floor strong as it goes up!

​Speech Therapists can address may of these key areas needed for Grade one if extra support is needed.

​Like a building, it is important that each Grade is stacked onto a strong previous year as a child's tower of learning is built up and up from First Grade to Grade 12.

Let's look at key stated foundation year achievement standardS- australian curriculum expectations for the start of first grade.  

​The Table below provides a list of the some of the documented curriculum items. These and the examples of what is satisfactory and what is not are drawn from the Australian Curriculum website. We have added to the table below a "how to think about this curriculum item" column to help parents think about the item when they are reading or interacting with their children.

buidling reading skills

Each Grade you are building on top of the previous Grade - each story needs to be strong to ensure the next layer will be the best it can be

Circle "OK" or "?Needs Help" for each Item

National Curriculum Item

How to think about this skill/check


​OK or ? Needs Help

Can use predicting and questioning strategies to make meaning from texts 

ie., they can guess what will happen in a story and can ask questions about it. Stop reading a book and ask "What do you think will happen next?" before you continue to read. Does your child ask questions to confirm they understand "hidden meanings"?

OK or ?Needs Help

Can they recall one or two events from texts with familiar topics

 If you ask your child what happened in a movie or story can they  tell you a few main things that happened without you reminding them.

OK or ? Needs Help

They identify connections between texts and their personal experience 

Do they  say things like “I wouldn’t do that” or “We went somewhere like that”. If you ask them can they think of where or when they did something a character did in a story, could they come up with the answer themselves. Could they compare a house, garden, family in the story to their own.

Understanding what they are reading 

​OK or ? Needs Help

They read short, decodable and predictable texts with familiar vocabulary and supportive images, drawing on their developing knowledge of concepts of print, sounds and letters and decoding and self-monitoring strategies 

i.e., they can read easy books with just a few lines of easy writing that have pictures matching the writing. Can they "sound out" simple words they do not easily know? Are they starting to realise what they are reading doesn't match the picutre or doesn't make sense when they read a word wrong?

OK or ? Needs Help

They recognise the letters of the English alphabet, in upper and lower case and know and use the most common sounds represented by most letters 

i.e., if you tossed out letter cards and asked “What it the letter’s name or what is it’s sound” could they RAPIDLY name them easily and without error. They should be able to do this for captial letters and lower case letters. The key here is RAPID and consistent. If any are not 100% easy to name - then foundations can get very rocky!

OK or ? Needs Help

They listen for rhyme, letter patterns and sounds in words 

i.e., if you said “Did any of those words rhyme” when reading a book, they could tell you which ones rhyme or say "yes" or "no". If you ask does "ball and wall rhyme could they tell you and hint as to why?  Do they point out any letter patterns?  e.g, Do they say something like "look - 'cat' has 'at' in it!"

Social Use of Language

​OK or ? Needs Help

They use appropriate interaction skills to listen and respond to others in a familiar environment

 i.e, Are they coping with interacitng with other children. Are they making and keeping friends within the classroom and playground.

OK or ? Needs Help

In informal group and whole class settings, students communicate clearly.

If the children are split into groups for games do they cope no matter what group they are put in? Do they put their hand up when the class is asked a question? Is their speech clear enough that everyone understands them? All sounds should be said clear at this age. Can they retell a story or something they did so that other people listen and know what they are talking about?

out put - early writing skills

OK or ? Needs Help

OK or ? Needs Help

Creates short sequenced text to retell a story using beginning, middle and end structures. Beginning to use capitals, full stops and is leaving spaces between words. 

​Correctly forms upper and lower case letters. Spells some high frequency words correctly. Starting to match letter and sound when attempting to spell unfamiliar words.

Is able to write a simple story using 3-4 basic sentences. You can see they are forming sentences as they are beginning to use capitals and full stops. Words are roughtly in a line so you can they are in a sentence. 

They can ecognise most words as there is enough space between the letters, the letter themselves are recognisable and their spelling is close enough for you to guess the word.  They can spell some of the sight words suchs as "all, they, in". Starting sound easy 3 letter words e.g, pen, top

Prep readinenss speechnet

Making Predictions: Not at expected level for the End of Prep

grade 1 readiness speechnet

Making Predictions: Satisfactory Level for End of Prep

Above Grade 1 writing skills speechnet

Making Predictions: Considered ABOVE satisfactory  for End of Prep - Start of Grade 1.

Did you give your child 10/10 for the above checklist? Is your child ready for Grade 1?

How to help a child get ready for Grade 1 - Let's strengthen the Foundations in prep & onwards


 If you feel your child may need help in any of the above areas talk to the school and contact a speech pathologist. SpeechNet Speech Pathology Brisbane provides clinics in Brisbane and provides skype services. We are happy to talk to you about your child's skills and needs. Formal screens and assessments are available.

Prep is about laying foundations for later Grades, building a love of learning and boosting inner self-confidence. Better to jump on any concerns now before the children try to layer new Grades on top.

Speech Pathologists work specifically in curriculum areas for children showing difficluties. Grade 1 is a great time to strengthen these curriculum expectations. Speech Therapists are trained in spoken clarity, language skills, vocabulary, problem solving, story sequencing and reading (dylexia) and spelling problens.

All of these can be seen in the Year Achievement Standards listed. Speech Therapists can assess and idenfity potential reasons some of these skills are hard for some children. Factors such as memory skills and attention can be screened to further determine contributing factors. Best to boulster foundations if you are even questioning any cracks. SpeechNet Speech Pathology Brisbane has the experience and work in a number of schools around Brisbane.

2.                   Read, Read and Read more books with your child.

Many parents get very caught up with getting the child to read their readers and other materials. It is very important to CONTINUE to read TO your child through Prep and early primary school. Keep up the love of reading by making it a fun and enjoyable experience. Chatting about the books and encouraging them to ask questions about the books and stories can do wonders to boost skills. It can take the "pressure" off the child having to read if they can just listen to you read sometimes. By you reading to them you are exposing them to spellig, sentences and vocabulary. This is strengthening their foundations with your reading models.

If you are unsure what kinds of books or games to do with the now older child check out SpeechNet Speech Pathology shop in the website top menu - there are specific book and toy categories for school age children. It has links to books and resources that can boost reading and learning skills. The aim of the SpeechNet Shop is to provide parents with quick links to ideas of books and games that can benefit children.  Some ideas are shown below.

​3.                    Books that target sight words

 There are many books and Sight Word Box Set that are built around sight words. The Dolch word list referrs to the most common words found in written texts. Many books for early readers are based on key sight words form these lists. Sight word books can focus at the sentences level or at the story level. Some children prefer ”fact” books instead of story based books. Sight word book sets that focus on pets or trucks can help draw on a child's interest levels.

Sight Words in Sentences Systematic Sight Word Instruction for Reading Success: A 35-Week Program [With 237 Word Cards and 35 Teaching Transparencies]Sight Word Readers Boxed Set: Learning the First 50 Sight Words Is a Snap!
Nonfiction Sight Word Readers Parent Pack Level a: Teaches 25 Key Sight Words to Help Your Child Soar as a Reader!

​4.                      Games that target sight words

Learning always happens best when children are having fun. Games can be a great way to get repetition with sight words without it feeling like "work". There are numerous games such Bingo and Zingo. Alterntively play one of your child's favourite games and just read one to five sight words before each persons turn. Make sure you read words at your turn too to make it "fair". If you child enjoys it you could tell them you might read some wrong so they have to check you read it right. You might even miss a turn if you read it wrong and they "catch" you. If you have an active child then make the sight cards lilly pads and jump to each one. Make them targets and see if you can kick it with a soccer ball!

Two Bingo Games, Sight Words and More Sight Words, Ages 6 and UpThink Fun Zingo Sight Words

​5.                        the sight word day challenge

​Write a key sight word on a card. Give your child a small note book and the card to put in their pocket. Everytime they see that word during the day (e.g, on a poster on a wall, sign at a shop, in a story book you read - they can put a tally mark in the note book. At the end of the day add up how many times they saw that word. Make it a competition between the different sight words - which one will they see the most "the" or "big".  Children of this age generally love a competition of any kind.

​6.                     matching the letter name and the letter sounds- speed is the key

​Write out all the letters in the alphabet and make sure your child has really, really, really strong letter-sound matching skills.  Write all the letters of the alphabet on cards or papper. Throw a letter card down and ask "what's that letter's name?" (e.g, B - Bee), throw another one down and ask "What's that letter's sound?" (e.g., mmmmmmm (not EM - that's its name!). They must say it fast AND correct - time them how fast they can say the sounds of all the letters! Write the times down and see if they get a PB or beat your time!

​7.                        Prep readiness and Social Skill groups can help

​SpeechNet Speech Pathology conducts one-on-one Prep and Grade 1 screens. These can give you insights to any strengths and potential gaps.

In addition SpeechNet Speech Patholgoy Brisbane conduct specific School Rediness Groups. Call use as we run these throughout the year as well as group intensives in the xmas holiday period.  We run extra ones in Term 3 BUT numbers are limited so book ASAP.

Our groups are conducted by speech pathologists practised in conducing phonological awareness skills (literacy skills) and soical skills (Making and Keeping Friends). We also conduct joint speech pathology and occupational therapy groups - these are great! In addition to the the reading, spelling and social skills support there is an additional focus on pencil grip, writing letter formation and regulation skills to improve attention skills in class.  Contact us using the contact window at the end of the page or for more information have a look here:

8.                        start early  - focus on toddler talk from 18 mths - oral language has been strongly linked to school social and academic success

​Encourage language development from an early age. If you think your child is a late talker than take action - contact a speech therapsit or get information online from reliable sources.

The FOCUS on TODDLER TALK onlne parent program is a great way to build your skills as a parent so you can give your child the best foundation years possible. This online program is aimed for parents of children 18months to 3 years.

Later academic success can often be reflected in early speech and language development in the toddler years. For more information on the FOCUS on Todder Talk and related products see  

To  check if your Toddler is on track for building good learning foundations try out the Spoken Word Counter - an online checklist of the words your child is saying. Are they saying just right for their age, advanced for their age or are they possibly at risk or being a late talker.

Sandra McMahon