I've had some rather frustrating conversations regarding the Common Core recently. So I thought that since I spent the best part of a calendar year studing the Common Core and how it interfaces with the State Standards in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia, I would do some community benefit by explaining a bit about it.
First, what it is:
The Common Core is a set of learning objectives. It is broken down by grade level according to our public school structure. If accomplished, it should produce high school graduates who have critical thinking skills, an advanced ability to research and analyze data, communication skills, and the ability to work together in a group harmoniously and productively... on top of all of the skills and knowledge they would have had without it.
Next: what it's not:
The Common Core is not a test. It is not a new list of facts, words, and knowledge that students are required to memorize to pass a test. It is not a set of teaching methods that teachers must use. It was not created by politicians. In fact, it was created by a non-partisan team of educated, experienced educators.
I understand that there are other programs that have been attached to the initiative to implement the Common Core that include a not very well designed grant program and an assessment. I am not here to argue about those things. I am here to shed some light on why it came about, what it actually is and how it can benefit you even if your children do not attend school.
You probably don't even realize that you are already teaching the Common Core. I have pulled 5 Standards (learning objectives) from the 1st grade Common Core to illustrate what they are, why you need them, and how you probably already teach them.
Standard #1: PHONICS
Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
Are you teaching your child to read and write using phonics? If you are using Hooked on Phonics, sounding out words when reading or writing, and teaching about the relationship between letters and sounds, you are teaching the Common Core. If your children are watching Sesame Street or Super Why, they are studying the Common Core.
Here's more detail about how phonics is applied in first grade.
Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs.
This means that your child should know that M says mmmmm as in Mommy, milk, moon, math, miss, and any other word that starts with "m" that your child already knows.
Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.
This means your child should be able to sound out words with one syllable such as 'cat', 'dog', and 'miss'.
Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
This means your child should be able to recognize words that end in 'e' in which the silent 'e' makes the vowel before it a long vowel, such as 'hide', 'bore' and 'male'. It also means that your child should be able to recognize word with two vowels togther that make a long vowel sound, such as 'boat', 'mean', and 'pail'.
Standard #2: INFORMATIONAL TEXTS
Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
If your child uses any device that has menus or a set of buttons to choose from to start, run, choose, or stop a program, your child is practicing the skill described above. If your child looks up page numbers in their lesson books, recipe books, or users manuals for their toys, they are practicing and employing this standard. If they know how to use a map in the mall or to find the right floor for their doctor by using the directory on the wall next to the elevator, they are employing this standard.
Standard #3: LANGUAGE
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
If you are teaching your children to speak what is known as "standard American English", you are completing this standard. You may do this simply by modeling your own competence and fluency in "standard American English" or you may be actively teaching them the rules in a more formal setting.
Here are some more details about how this standard is accomplished in the 1st grade:
Print all upper- and lowercase letters.
This means your child knows how to write all of the letters in the alphabet in "big" and "small" or CAPITALS and lowercase.
Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.
This means your child can say the names of things, say people's or place's names in sentences and knows how to use the words 'mine', 'yours', 'his', 'hers' etc.
Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He hops; We hop).
This means your child knows how to match the subject and verb. In your foreign language class, you probably learned this as knowing which "person" the verb form should be in. English is much simpler than many other languages so it's more a matter of whether the subject is one thing or person or more than one. (Side note: this is actually one of my biggest pet peeves in informal conversation. Please teach your children how to use "There is....one of something" vs. "There are....many of something". The number of adults who get this wrong on a daily basis is maddening. Most people alway default to "there is" even when they are talking about many things. Example: "There's so many flowers bloomed out there" should be "there are so mnay flowers out there.")
Standard #4: ADDITION and SUBTRACTION
Add and subtract within 20.
Relate counting to addition and subtraction (e.g., by counting on 2 to add 2).
This means that your child can add and subtract numbers that add up to 20 or less. Notice that it does NOT specify whether you are supposed to teach them the left to right method, right to left method, number line method, Cheerios method, choreography method, basketball method etc. As long as they understand that adding and subtraction are essentially short cuts to counting, then you are teaching this standard.
Standard #5: SHAPES
Compose two-dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, trapezoids, triangles, half-circles, and quarter-circles) or three-dimensional shapes (cubes, right rectangular prisms, right circular cones, and right circular cylinders) to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from the composite shape.1
If your children build with blocks or do paper crafts, they are practicing this standard. If they play Minecraft, or watch UmiZoomi, they are exercising this standard. Any time they are making shapes, or using shapes to make something else you are teaching them the Common Core.
I hope I have managed to demystify the Common Core a bit and make it just a little bit less scary. I also hope you can see the real life praciticality to it in that you are likely already utilizing all of these learning objectives with your children. The Common Core can be a really great thing for our kids. We just need to get the politics and our natural fear of new things out of their way.