“The Common Core State Standards are coming and they are going to drastically change the way your child learns!” “Are you prepared for the Common Core State Standards?” You have probably seen flyers and pamphlets with these statements on them in your child’s backpack. Especially in the area of English/Language Arts, the Common Core State Standards increase the intensity of the instruction your child receive. These standards are focused on helping your child develop critical thinking and writing skills that will help them experience success in the future.
“To bottom line it for ELA standards is that Common Core aims to really connect students to texts, and draw meaning from the written word,” says Suzanne Litrel, an award-winning teacher and author. In the classroom, your child will be reading, writing about reading, connecting reading with history, math, social studies and science and writing in every subject area as well. “Reading well means gaining maximum insight or knowledge possible from each source” and through discussions, writing assignments and in-depth activities, students will be squeezing all they can from a text.
Of course, for your child to truly to become a critical thinker and strong reader and writer, you have your work cut out for you at home. As a parent, you can support what your child’s teacher is doing in the classroom by bringing elements of the Common Core ELA Standards into your home.
- Encourage your child to read everything. Picture books and novel aren’t the only things your child can read. Pull out newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes and food labels for your child to read. Put your dreaded bills and junk mail to good use by having your child read them too. Part of the Common Core Standards for ELA is introducing children to a variety of text structures and purposes, helping them understand the ability to read goes beyond understanding the pages of a book.
- Model reading. Your child shouldn’t be the only reading in your house. In order for your child to learn that reading is valuable and important, you have to be seen reading to. You may not sit down with a novel in the evenings and read for hours on end, but you can point out other ways you read, such as reading the instructions to put together a new toy or reading the comics in the newspaper.
- Go to the library. Visit the local library on a regular basis. While there, encourage your child to move away from Harry Potter and Twilight and check out the hundreds of other books the library has to offer. Don’t stick to the fiction section either. Your child may find interesting books in the non-fiction section that will help him delve deeper into a topic he’s learning about in school or another interest that he has.
- Tell stories. If your child can’t find a story he is interested in, have him make one up. Feel free to make up your own too. Have competitions to see who in your family can tell the silliest story or the scariest story. Coming up with stories on the fly helps your child build the critical thinking and writing skills the Common Core ELA standards promote.
- Ask questions. As your child is reading or after your child has told you a story, ask questions. Focus on questions that make your child think, such as “how did that make you feel?” or “why do you think the author included that piece of information?” The Common Core standards don’t focus on reading and recalling. Instead, they focus on reading and making meaning.
- Make connections. One of the goals of the Common Core standards is making learning relevant. Point out connections between what your child is reading and his own life or, better yet, ask him to come up with some connections on his own. Questions such as “how can you relate to this?” or “what does this remind you of?” can help your child connect with what he is reading.
- Use vocabulary. Believe it or not, teachers don’t send home lists of spelling and vocabulary words to torment your child. Put those vocabulary words to good use by incorporating them into daily conversations or pointing them out when you see them in books. Those vocabulary words are more likely to seem important and to stick in your child’s brain if he uses them regularly.
- Write. Let’s face it, most kids won’t have to write a five paragraph essay when they get out of school. They will, however, have to write thank you notes, blog posts, summaries, requests and other pieces of writing. Give your child the chance to do some relevant writing, but having him write thank you notes when he receives gifts, contributing to the updates on the family blog or putting requests for a raise in allowance or a new toy in writing.
- Encourage your child to look things up. One thing the Common Core ELA standards promote is research and discovery. Instead of simply answering your child’s questions or saying “I don’t know,” encourage him to look up the answers himself. Have him conduct short research projects too. For example, if he wants a new video game system, have him conduct research to determine how the newest system compares to the old one.
Reading involves more than reciting the words on the page and writing involves more than spelling words correctly. The Common Core ELA standards are all about teaching your child to become a critical thinker and a strong reader and writer. By making reading and writing a focus at home, you can help your child experience success amidst the more intensive instruction the Common Core State Standards promote.