First graders learn to read by first recognizing letter sounds. They learn that words are made from individual sounds called phonemes. They then learn how to blend those sounds together and how to recognize common words by sight.
Phonics is the main method first graders use to learn to read. Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing that teaches the sounds of all letters and letter combinations. Students are first able to sound out individual letters and digraphs. Digraphs are letter combinations, such as "st," "pl" and "gr."
Once students are able to sound out the individual letters of a word, the next step is to learn to blend the sounds together. When students blend sounds, they practice decoding. They decode the word based on rules they are taught about the sounds that correspond with each letter combination.
First graders learn a number of sight words. Sight words are common words that often show up in their reading materials. With continued exposure to these words, they remember them simply by sight.
First graders also learn to identify sentences. They are taught that sentences begin with capital letters and that they end with a period, question mark or exclamation mark.