First Grade Homework Is Killing Me

I knew that with the start of first grade, homework wasn’t far behind. I’ve seen other parents on Facebook and Twitter talking about how young they start kids with homework now, so I was prepared. When the homework folder arrived in Cordy’s backpack for the first time, I turned off the TV and sat at the table with Cordy to help her complete her homework. It took about 20 minutes for her to do all of the worksheets, which seemed like a lot of time to devote to homework each night for a six year old.

And then I found out that was her homework for the entire week. Oops. Ah well, at least she had several days off from doing homework, right?

This week, though, one of her worksheets stumped me. I knew that someday she’d ask for help with homework and I’d be unable to help because I would have forgotten advanced algebra or the process of photosynthesis because they just aren’t practical in my everyday life and my brain cells needed room for more important things, like the bajillion passwords I have to remember for every online account or the lyrics of Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night. I never thought I’d be unable to answer a question about first grade grammar.

The worksheet had several sentences on it, with the instruction, “Write the naming part of the sentence below each sentence.”

Wait – the “naming part” of a sentence? WTF?

“Uh, Cordy, I’m not exactly sure what you’re supposed to do for this worksheet,” I explained. “Do you know what the naming part of a sentence is?”

“No, mommy. I don’t know.”


I turned to Twitter, where I was mostly met with silence and the one suggestion that maybe it was the noun in the sentence. Apparently most of Twitter has forgotten their first grade grammar as well, which made me feel a little better. Unity in cluelessness.

I then turned to the all-knowing Google, where 90% of the links agreed that the “naming part” of the sentence is its subject. 

Obvious response: so why not call it the SUBJECT then?

Dear textbook editors: I understand that writing new versions of the same, dry material can be boring. But syntax naming is not an area for you to flex your creative muscle in order to freshen up the lesson. You’re confusing the hell out of us parents and making us look like we couldn’t pass a basic elementary school standardized test. Also? What’s wrong with “subject?” The “naming part” just sounds babyish. Stop dumbing down my kid’s lessons!

I’m sure this won’t be the last I see of these changes, but I really hope I’ll be able to translate her homework in the future. Next thing you know she’ll have to find the “doing-stuff part” of the sentence.

(OMG, please don’t let that be on next week’s homework or I swear I’ll homeschool her with my 1980’s curriculum, when we actually had to know the real names of the parts of a sentence. And use non-safety scissors to cut things. And walk uphill in the snow to school. Both ways.)

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  1. Well, I’m the one who said I thought it might be the subject, and we homeschool. Just sayin’. 😉 Even in the introductory grammar that I used with my then-8-year-old last year, they still used the standard grammar terms. I don’t get dumbing down. If the kids are old enough to understand the concept of the subject, why can’t teachers just call it the subject?

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I teach middle school English and I had no idea what you were talking about. “naming part?” That doesn’t make any sense. My first grader has grammar homework, but thanks to a school that believes in a blended classical/contemporary approach, we still call a subject a subject. We may put iPADs into the hands of our middle schoolers, but the eight basic parts of speech remain as they were always intended to be.

    P.S. I also teach in your city and state so this does not seem to be widespread…??

  3. I’m a primary school teacher in Australia and “naming words” usually refer to nouns because they are the names of people, places and things. The fact that “name” and “noun” start with the same letter is often used to help trigger an association and help the younger children remember the difference between a noun and, say, a verb. I don’t know if this is what the worksheet meant but it seems likely, (since subjects are nouns anyway!).

  4. Headless Mom says:

    There are a couple of things: 1) I don’t remember doing grammar in 1st grade and the fact that here, in 1st grade they are expected to be able to write a minimum 4 sentence paragraph BLOWS MY MIND. 2) Just wait until you get to that algebra that you mentioned. It first shows up in 2nd grade, and by 5th grade they use so many different terms and different sequences that you’ll have to Google again. So ridiculous.

  5. I had a similar experience recently when trying to help my Kindergarten daughter with a math worksheet. I think we have the privilege of learning stuff along with our kids in order to humble us so that we don’t think we’re know-it-alls 🙂

  6. Just for future reference “adjectives” are now called “sparkle words”. At least they were last year. Who knows what they will call them this year!

  7. Just for future reference “adjectives” are now called “sparkle words”. At least they were last year. Who knows what they will call them this year!

  8. I hate that the words for things have changed. Last year when my son was in Kindergarten and we were working on sight words I discovered that “sound it out” is not used anymore. “chunk” is.

    1st grade we haven’t had grammar yet but I’m still struggling with not saying “sound it out” when Charlie is practising his reading.

  9. Oy. Homework makes my blood boil all too often. I’ve a math worksheet post abrewing…

  10. rI am a first grade teacher and we do not use the term “naming part” either. Often teachers will create words to help the children remember what the word means. It is important for the teacher to pass that on to the parents, especially if they expect your help. More disturbing than the word choice is that the little girl had no idea of the homework. Homework is to reinforce the students learning. It should be done independently in the primary grades. They should be familiar with the homework skills. Also, sound it out and chunking are two different decoding strategies. Perhaps if there are questions within your classroom, it would be helpful to discuss this with your teacher. I am sure she/he would be happy to clarify!

  11. this TOTALLY helped me! thank you!!! now i know what a naming part is! sheesh!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am studying to be an elementary school teacher in which I have to spend time woking in a classroom, just this week I came across this exact problem, A student asked me to help her with her work and there it was what was the naming part of the sentence. I can’t tell you how embarresed I was not to know I had to tell the kid to go ask the teacher. I totally agree that the kids should learn what the word subject means. Oh and if you come across the phrase “telling part of the sentence” in your daughters homework that means predicate. When I become a teacher I will definetly be teaching the kids what the subject and the predicate of a sentence are.

  13. The predicate is now the action part of the sentence. I’m not kidding it is insane. Wait till you get to math and see all the new fangled words they have there.

  14. Naming part. . . we use that term because the book uses that term. So it depends on what reading program you use. I use Harcourt Trophies books.

    And yes, it’s nice to learn new things as we do homework with our children.
    The way we teach and learn changes all the time.
    Things are not the same as when we went to school. Times have changed. . . so did the standards and student expectations.

  15. I just had to google this for my first grader's homework! A subject is still the subject. A verb is a verb. And what in the world is he supposed to know about writing a math sentence when it's already a word problem? Why word everything so differently? They either need to go back to the way things were or send a study book home for parents because I feel REALLY dumb & I graduated with a 4.0!!! Ahhhhh!!!!

  16. I’m not going to read every comment, but this is was I can relate to! It’s 2016 and I had to literally Google what “naming part” meant! Thanks for this Christina! I thought I was just the oddest oddball! Lol