Cheat Sheet

Common Core Standards For Parents For Dummies

The best way to help your child succeed with the Common Core curriculum is to read the actual standards and understand what skill each is addressing. Reviewing writing samples in Appendix C of the English Language Common Core Standards and helping your child grasp key math concepts, instead of relying on a calculator, can go a long way to help your child excel in school.

Making Sense of the Common Core Standards Codes

Each of the Common Core Standards contains a unique code that makes it easy to reference for organizational purposes. Each code contains four aspects that indicate specific information: subject, grade level, strand, and standard number within each grade.

  • Subject: Each of the codes starts with one of four subject labels that indicate whether it is a math content standard, math practice standard, English language arts standard, or literacy standard. For example, a standard that starts with "CCSS.Math.Content" is a math content standard, while "CCSS.Math.Practice" is a standard for mathematical practice. The English language arts standards and literacy standards begin with "CCSS.ELA-Literacy." Although these two sets of standards start the same way, the coding for the strands enables you to tell them apart.

  • Grade level: Another aspect of the code indicates the grade level (or subject in high school) of each standard. For example, "CCSS.Math.Content.8" indicates a math standard for Grade 8. In the English language arts and literacy standards, the grade level comes after the strand coding.

  • Strand: The strands, such as "Operations and Algebraic Thinking" or "Reading: Literature" are abbreviated to a few letters, such as OA and RL, respectively. For example, "CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT" indicates a math content standard in Grade 5 for "Number and Operations in Base Ten." The coding "CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8" is found in the English language arts standards for "Reading Informational Text" in Grade 8. The strands depend on what grade your child is in, but a quick look at the standards shows you the ones to look out for.

  • Standard number: The final part of the code for each standard indicates the order of the standards in each grade. For example, "CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3" indicates the third English language arts standard for "Reading: Literature" in Grade 6.

Navigating the Student Writing Samples in Appendix C of the ELA Standards

Appendix C of the English Language Arts Common Core Standards offers student writing examples that may help you and your child better understand the standards. Here's an overview of what you'll find and some thoughts on how to use the appendix.

  • Review the student writing samples: The writing samples contained in Appendix C are organized from kindergarten to Grade 12. The table of contents in Appendix C indicates the type of writing (argument, informative/explanatory, or narrative) and the subject of each piece of writing. You'll also see feedback on each piece of writing that will help you and your child better understand the expectations of the writing standards.

  • Use the samples for practice: One great way to use the writing samples is to let your child write to similar prompts. After she does that, you can compare her work to the samples in Appendix C and the expectations of the standards.

  • Evaluate the samples: Build familiarity with the standards by seeing how well your child can evaluate a writing sample and determine if the sample meets a particular standard.

Using Calculators with the Common Core Standards

Calculators are useful tools, but when should you let your child use one? Many parents consider that question as their children encounter difficult math concepts. The Common Core Standards don't provide specific guidance about when a calculator should be used, so consider the following criteria when making decisions about calculator usage.

  • Understanding the concept is important. Although students can solve problems quickly and efficiently with a calculator, they also need to devote attention to understanding important concepts. If your child rushes to use a calculator instead of thinking critically about the concept she is using, it's possible that she'll wind up with the right answer but without a clear understanding of how and why it worked out that way.

  • Students need to be able to mentally compute numbers. When solving math problems, students encounter many situations where being able to mentally compute numbers without a calculator is much more efficient. You don't want your child to become so calculator-dependent that he feels the need to use one every time he has to complete simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Furthermore, the standards call for students to be able to complete operations fluently in some grades with no mention of calculator usage.

  • School and/or testing policies may limit calculator usage. Some schools limit when and how students can use calculators. It's also possible that your child won't be able to use a calculator on tests that assess the standards. For more information on these types of policies, contact your child's teacher or school administrators.

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