Category Archives: Common Core Standards

Common Core Standards and Reading Informational Text

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 2.33.50 PMSummer is the perfect time to really read the Common Core Standards for your child’s grade level. You can find out what they should know and then identify areas that could use a little extra work. You don’t want to “drill” content into your kids but it is a great way to direct downtime and to find suggestions for a child who might be bored.

Many fourth graders are wonderful readers and love the world that opens to them through fiction. Some parents hope to also encourage an interest in informational text for a variety of reasons. We looked at the Common Core Standards for fourth graders and came up with some great books and activity ideas to encourage your child to explore more informational texts. We have listed the Standards here from, and then listed our book and activity ideas.

Picture of poet Langston Hughes

Reading: Informational Text

Key Ideas and Details

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6 Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.10 By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Presidents, Eyewitness Books, James David Barber

I Wish I Knew That: U.S. Presidents: Cool Stuff You Need to Know, Reader’s Digest

Who Was John F. Kennedy, Yona McDonough

Yes We Can, A Biography of President Barack Obama, Garen Thomas

Rocks, Fossils, and Arrowheads, Laura Evert

Rocks and Minerals, A Gem of a Book, Simon Basher

Rocky Road Trip, Judith Stamper

Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne

Heart and Soul, the Story of America and African Americans, Kadir Nelson

We are the Ship, The Story of Negro League Baseball, Kadir Nelson

I, Too, Am American, Langston Hughes

  1. Write a book review newsletter for your friends. Read four or five books and summarize them in 6 – 8 sentences. Type them up and leave blank spaces for illustrations. Come up with a catchy title for your book review and publish!
  2. Pick a favorite president and learn five things about them that surprise you. Share the facts with at least three people. Call a grandparent, write a letter to a pen pal, tell a friend.
  3. Interview your friends, neighbors and relatives about their favorite president. Then, create a graph showing which president is most popular. Try an online graph maker for kids such as:
  4. Read about rocks and minerals. Go for a long walk in the woods or on a trail and find interesting rocks. Try to avoid gravel. When you return home, try to identify your rocks by searching for them online.
  5. Learn about how rocks are formed. Then, make pancakes to see how something can change when heat is added (igneous) or pressure such as from a spatula is added (metamorphic). Can you think of another experiment that would demonstrate these changes.
  6. Read three books about presidents or about rocks and minerals. Discuss how the information is presented. What are some similarities and differences? Pick the book that you feel presents the information in the best way. Write a recommendation for this book on amazon or on paper to give to a libriarian.
  7. Read Nelson’s book on the African American experience and then paint your own picture. Try to synthesize what you have learned about this volatile history.
  8. Read Nelson’s book Heart and Soul, and then look up other African American artists who illustrate their history artistically. In particular, research Romare Bearden’s paintings reflecting the Great Migration. Research this time period and how American was changing during that period of time.
  9. Read about the Negro League and then go watch a baseball game. Talk about how baseball has changed and how our country has changed in the last 20, 50, and 100 years.
  10. Read Langston Hughes and talk about what it means to be an American. Take the citizenship quiz online at Would you pass this test?

Common Core Standards

So many people are strongly against the Common Core Standards. As a mom with kids who move frequently due to my husband’s job, I actually love having them. I refer to them so I know what my kids would be expected to know in the U.S., and I use them to fill in holes in their current curriculum. I appreciate that when we go back to a public school in the U.S. I will know exactly what they should know. As a former teacher, I can see how children are supposed to progress from year to year, what major concepts they should learn, and developmental milestones outlined in each grade level. I hope to go back to teaching soon, so reading and understanding the standards are a great way to stay on top of what is going on in my chosen profession.

Recently, I read two articles that I would love to share with you. First, the Foundation for Excellence in Education reviews math problems through the lens of the current standards and previous teaching methods. It is easy to see how children are now being taught to think through the problems and understand how they come to the solutions. Good teachers have always done this, of course, regardless of standards, but it is enlightening to see how the Common Core Standards actively encourage this. Take a look here:

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 10.11.03 PMThe second article was recently published in the Washington Post. It talks about what went into the standards and how they would actually be hard to replace. This kind of national effort utilizing some of the best and brightest teachers and administrators actually came up with a great list of skills and concepts that children should know and understand. It is the result of a tremendous amount of work and effort. It’s not perfect, but it is pretty darn impressive. Check out the article here:

I know many of the concerns about the Common Core center around the testing and how that will affect kids, teachers, and schools. Taking that part out of the equation and looking just at the standards we think there are five reasons they will, and should, last in the schools. Here are our top three reasons for supporting national standards:

1) Standards give schools a minimum expectation for achievement. Creating a better list of standards is great and if a school has the time and resources to do this they should. However, many public schools are struggling with increased expectations and lowered resources. Common Core Standards release these schools from creating standards so they can focus on kids, families, and communities.

2) Standards that are similar across state lines help our increasingly mobile society ensure that children in transition will not have gaps in their education.

3) Colleges will know what students learned and can be well prepared to build on and expand that knowledge. It will be easy for colleges and universities to evaluate and integrate students into their schools.

Fun and Educational Resources from EducatorLabs

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 9.44.55 PM

The Fun and Educational Resource Collection for Students of All Ages – from EducatorLabs

Hands-on Math Activities for Kids

Free Collection of Online Calculation Tools

Hands-on Science Resources for Home and School

Physics: Learning Activities

Understanding Flight Dynamics

Arts & Crafts Activities for Kids

Botany Activities and Lessons

A Basic Guide to Tree Identification

25 Activities for Reading and Writing Fun

Music Appreciation for Kids

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 8.52.33 PMThe Common Core focuses on language arts and mathematics. Your school probably puts a lot of emphasis on these subjects and maybe history or social studies and science. It used to be that music, art, and physical education were also important, but with high stakes testing we are seeing that these subjects are being cut down or eliminated altogether. A well-rounded education includes these basic subjects, not just for enjoyment but because of the emotional and intellectual benefits that they provide.

I did not receive a musical education. I always loved music class and I participated in choir until high school when the next level required a try-out. Years of hearing about how I did not have a nice voice, a sense of rhythm, or an understanding of melody scared me off. It’s true, I’m pretty musically inept. However, I do like music and I wish I understood it better. This is what we can do for our kids as a part of their education. We can help them appreciate and enjoy music. We can show them the connections between music, history, art, mathematics, and literature. If your child isn’t getting enough musical education at school, what can you do to help?

We recommend music lessons such as piano, guitar, or the drums. You can usually find a piano teacher quite easily, although the price might be prohibitive. One lesson a week with daily practice of 10 – 15 minutes should do the trick. If this isn’t possible, we recommend these books for at home study options for musical instruments and music appreciation. Do you have anything we can add to our list?

John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano, John Thompson

John W. Schaum Piano Course, John Schaum

The Piano Adventures Series

My First Guitar, Learn to Play, Ben Parke

DVD, 9 Hours of Guitar Lessons, Learn How to Play Guitar

Story of the Orchestra, Robert Levine

Stories of the Great Composers, June Montgomery

10 Questions about Common Core Standards and Low-Income Schools

We want to follow up our post from yesterday on our ten questions about the Common Core with a few more. This time, we wonder how Common Core affects low-income schools. Many upper-income schools have complained that the Common Core is too easy and that they already meet the Standards. Some lower-income schools have complained that it is to hard, and impossible to meet. As we try to bring all students up to a level that has been deemed minimum, how can the Common Core Standards help this objective? Again, we are talking just about the standards, not the high-stakes testing that accompanies the current program.

  1. Do uniform standards throughout the country bring up standards at low-income or underperforming schools?
  2. If most low-income schools have teachers who are less educated, less experienced, and less effective, can they write their own standards? Can they teach to national standards?
  3. If low-income schools struggle with low attendance, high rates of violence, and low motivation among students, will the common core make a difference?
  4. Should we, as a nation, expect that all schools and all students should (and can) perform at a basic level? Can Common Core help make that happen?
  5. Can National Standards highlight the discrepancies between low-income and high-income schools? Could this jolt the nation into doing something about the lack of opportunities available for many of our youngest citizens?

As a bonus question, what other changes might help us address the inequalities in school success? School choice? More charter schools? Online options? Paying students for progress?

10 Questions about the Common Core Standards

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.04.19 PM

  1. Is there value in having a set of information that every child is guaranteed to master before graduation?
  2. Do colleges and universities find it helpful to have a sense of what each incoming freshman has already mastered when outlining their schedule of courses?
  3. Should we take into account the fact that 15% of families move to a new home each year? Is there value in keeping all schools on a similar track so that these children do not fall behind or miss key learning due to transitions?
  4. Who should decide what children should learn? A small group of local teachers? A diverse group of college professors, teachers, and advisors? The administration at a given school? Local government? State government? The federal government?
  5. How should we assess how children learn? Should each child be assessed in the same way or should teachers decide on an individual basis?
  6. Should standards and expectations be available for all parents? Should they be published so everyone can see them?
  7. How should parents use the standards? Should we give them resources to reinforce learning at home? If teachers are writing standards, curriculum, and assessments, will they have time to share resources with families?
  8. Do we want our teachers and administrators to focus on writing standards and curriculum or interacting with the children? Do teachers have time to do it all? Should they?
  9. What is our basis for deciding what children should learn? Should the curriculum ensure that every child gets a good job? That every child gets into college? That every child can analyze a poem? Is there room for character building and self-esteem? Which subjects are most important? Why?
  10. What is our ultimate educational goal for our nation’s children? Can we state it in three sentences or less?

12 Things to Memorize with your Child

Leahs_LogoEducation has, rightly, moved away from rote memorization to critical thinking. Children are expected to use mental math, explain how they get their answers, analyze history, and write with intention. Long gone are the days when the child with the most memorized facts got the best grade on the test. Now, that child would have to explain the why, the how, and make connections in order to succeed. But, there can still be value in memorization.

Memorization trains the brain, improves elasticity, and teaches children to focus. Many people find that poems they learn when young stick with them for the rest of their life, and teach rhyme, rhythm, and meaning. Knowing math facts can speed along many processes in daily life, and historical memorization encourages connection and a sense of place. Memorizing facts can enrich conversations as participants have concrete information to share in fluid discussions. Finally, memorization presents a challenge and a feeling of victory and accomplishment when it is done successfully.

Present memorization as a fun challenge for your child, for yourself, or for your family. Work together to memorize and practice a little bit each day (or, better yet, every morning and night). Make flashcards, draw pictures, make connections, do whatever helps you learn the material. Then, give yourself a reward. Did your child memorize their favorite Shel Silverstein poem? Buy them another book of poetry! Did they learn their multiplication tables? Have a pizza party and talk about fractions!

Here are 12 things we suggest you memorize with your children:

  1. The Multiplication Tables
  2. The metric system
  3. A long poem of your choice
  4. The Presidents of the U.S. in order
  5. The 50 states
  6. The Preamble to the Constitution
  7. The Gettysburg Address
  8. The Pledge of Allegiance
  9. The Scientific Method
  10. 10 of the most basic elements
  11. The planets, in order
  12. The colors of the rainbow, in order

Finally, some tips to help you memorize. First, become familiar with it and try to understand the vocabulary and concepts behind it. Second, break it into smaller parts. Third, write it down, read it to a friend, record yourself or videotape yourself reciting it. Finally, practice cumulatively. With each part memorized start again at the beginning to practice it as a whole. Then, teach it to a friend or share it frequently.

Good luck! And, let us know if you can think of anything else to add to our list of things to memorize with your children. Thanks for reading!