Key skills for English literacy in Y1

Key skills for English literacy in Y1

In Year 1 English, children begin the journey of learning how to communicate clearly through the written word. Their literacy lessons start to become a little more structured and desk-based as they work on English literacy year 1 key skills like handwriting and spelling. It is quite a leap from the play-based learning they've done to up to now!

In Year 1 you can expect your child to learn:

Phonics and an intro to reading

The chances are high that you were not taught to read using phonics when you were at primary school. If that's the case, here's a quick catch up: 

Phonics is a way of teaching reading and spelling that breaks words down into their smallest sounds (phonemes) and matches each sound to a letter or group of letters - visit our phonics explainer for more.

As with much of the English language, lots of these rules are regularly broken, so kids will also learn 'sight words' - these are common words which don't follow the patterns kids are taught for decoding. They are often small words like 'and', 'of' or 'the' and need to be learned by repetition. 

At home: the more times you can expose your children to sight words the better they will sink into their long term memories. Try encouraging them to find a particular sight word when you're reading to them - pick 'of' one night, and 'so' the next for example, and encourage them to hunt for them on the page. 


In year 1 children start to consolidate their mark making skills into fully formed letter shapes. They will learn how to hold a pencil properly, and how to correctly position the paper they are writing on in front of them. 

Letters are all formed in a particular way with a defined start and end point, which children need to get to grips with to ensure easier and quicker handwriting as they move up the school. Click here for more information on how each letter should be formed.


In year 1, children learn how to put several words together to make a sentence. They learn the features of sentences, including that they must always have a verb and that they always make sense. They learn that there is a space between each word to make it easy to see where they start and end.

At home: The first step to writing sentences is composing the sentence orally. Help your child when you are chatting by expanding on things they have said to make full sentences. If your child makes a mistake, repeat what they have said back to them, incorporating a correction. This models the correct grammar or sentence structure without putting pressure on them or turning it into a schooling session. 


Year 1 children also learn about the punctuation features of sentences. For example, there is always a capital letter at the beginning and a full stop, exclamation or question mark at the end. 

Visit our punctuation page for more info.

At home: play a punctuation game where you take it in turns to say a sentence, question or exclamation and your child has to decide which punctuation mark should go at the end. You can make it more fun by inventing particular hand gestures to match each end mark, for example, a forward punch for a full stop, or drawing the shape of a question or exclamation mark in the air.


Starting with the terminology 'plural', meaning more than one, kids learn that we have a different word for when there is more than one of something. In English we don't say two duck, we say two ducks. 

NB Kids will explore more unusual plurals like child and children when they are a bit older! 

Check out our plurals page for more information. 


In year 1, children learn about how they can add groups of letters to the end of a word to make a different type of word. 

They will focus on suffixes that don't change to the root word they are being added to. For example, helping, helper, helped.

Find out more about suffixes here. 

The prefix un

Kids are introduced to prefixes in year 1 with 'un'. 'Un' is a very powerful little two letter prefix which makes words mean the opposite of what they originally did. For example, happy becomes unhappy, kind becomes unkind. Get more info at our prefixes explainer

At home: You can have great fun with 'un', seeing which words it can be added to and words that it can't (can you unfall?), doing actions like zip and unzip, etc. 

Using 'and' 

As children get more confident putting together simple phrases, they begin to link them using the word 'and'. This is their introduction to conjunctions and opens up the opportunity for them to build more complex and detailed sentences. 

Brush up your knowledge of conjunctions here.


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Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths and literacy – you can even try Komodo for free. 

Related Posts

The year 1 phonics screening check - a guide for parents

In Year 1, all children in England take a phonics check. It's not a test, and it's nothing that parents or children can really prepare for. It simply allows schools to check that pupils have learned phonics to an appropriate standard for their age.

Handwriting and letter formation

As an adult, you may have developed habits in which you form letters differently to the proscribed way, and I'm sure it doesn't hold you back. But trust us when we say that forming letters with the right start and end points makes things easier in the long run.