Common Core Standards: K-5 English Language Rules and Conventions - dummies

Common Core Standards: K-5 English Language Rules and Conventions

By Jared Myracle

The Common Core Standards for language outline the grade levels at which students should master particular aspects of the English language used in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Here is a brief overview for each grade level. For a comprehensive look at the language standards, visit


Students in kindergarten are getting familiar with sounds, letters, and the meanings of words, and the language standards support the development of these understandings. Capitalization, punctuation at the beginning and end of sentences, and the use of phonics to aid spelling all play key parts in the kindergarten standards. Here are a few of the other topics covered:

  • Nouns and verbs

  • Interrogatives (words used to ask questions, such as why)

  • Plural nouns

  • Prepositions (words that indicate the position or relationship of one thing to another)

  • Antonyms (words with opposite meanings)

  • The difference between words with more than one meaning and verbs with slightly different but related meanings

  • The use of affixes (prefixes and suffixes that change the meaning of a word)

Grade 1

In Grade 1, students tackle uppercase and lowercase letters, different types of pronouns, and common adjectives. They also use sentences with various types of ending punctuation. Students broaden their understanding of vocabulary by using context clues, affixes, and root words to discover the meanings of unknown words. Some of the other skills addressed in Grade 1 are:

  • Understanding basic subject-verb agreement

  • Using verbs of different tenses (past, present, and future)

  • Working with conjunctions (words that join sentences, such as and)

  • Using commas to separate items in a series

  • Separating words into different groups based on various criteria (such as size or function)

  • Distinguishing between similar adjectives (such as damp and soaked)

  • Making connections between vocabulary words and things to which they can be related in the real world

Grade 2

Students work with more specialized forms of nouns, pronouns, and other parts of speech in Grade 2. They learn to capitalize proper nouns and to add punctuation within a sentence. Students continue to use their understanding of context clues and root words to identify the meanings of unknown words and compound words. Here’s a sampling of the other topics covered by the standards in Grade 2:

  • Irregular forms of plural nouns (such as geese)

  • Reflexive pronouns (pronouns such as himself or yourself)

  • Past tense of irregular verbs (such as spoke and sang)

  • Commas used in salutations in letters

  • The use of print and electronic reference books

Grade 3

In Grade 3, students are able to explain the parts of speech and how they are used in sentences. They also extend their use of punctuation to include using possessives, writing addresses, and appropriately using commas and quotation marks when explicitly citing verbal statements. Students also expand their use of figurative language.

Some other topics addressed in Grade 3 are:

  • Making sure a pronoun in a sentence agrees with its antecedent (the preceding noun). For example, in the following sentence, Bob and his are in agreement based on gender and number: Bob threw away his old baseball glove.

  • Using comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs. A comparative adjective involves comparing two nouns, such as saying that someone is taller than someone else. A superlative adjective involves comparing something to the rest of a group, such as observing that someone is the tallest in her family. Comparative and superlative adverbs operate in the same way with adverbs — for example, saying that someone arrived earlier (comparative) or earliest (superlative).

  • Figuring out coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Coordinating conjunctions connect two clauses that are unrelated using words such as but, and, and or. Subordinating conjunctions connect two clauses that are related in some way using words like because, as, and that.

  • Using prefixes and suffixes to form additional words.

  • Differentiating between words related to the likelihood of an event (such as probably and certainly) and a state of mind (such as knowing and assuming).

Grade 4

Students in Grade 4 continue to use various parts of speech and punctuation in more specialized instances, along with editing their own work to ensure proper use and complete sentences. Vocabulary usage grows more extensive as students use additional affixes and figurative language. A few of the skills and concepts identified by the standards in Grade 4 include:

  • Relative pronouns (such as who and whom) and relative adverbs (such as when and where)

  • Past, present, and future progressive verb tenses (such as he was eating, he is eating, and he will be eating)

  • Words that are often confused with other similar words (such as to and two)

  • Use of the suffix –graph to determine the meaning of words

  • The meaning of similes (comparisons that use like or as) and metaphors

  • Synonyms and antonyms

Grade 5

In Grade 5, students use more parts of speech, punctuation, and types of words and phrases. This includes writing and speaking in various tenses and making use of different types of punctuation to accentuate text for various purposes.

Here’s a look at some of the important topics in Grade 5:

  • Conjunctions (words that connect sentence parts, such as and) and interjections (exclamatory words that add feelings to a sentence, such as Ouch).

  • The perfect verb tense — a verb tense that indicates an action being completed, such as “I have danced today, I had danced before, and I will have danced three times by the end of the month.”

  • Correlative conjunctions — pairs of words that combine parts of a sentence, such as neither and nor in the statement, “Neither Jacob nor Justin wanted to come inside.”

  • Commas in a series and with introductory clauses.

  • The meaning of common sayings.

  • Similes, metaphors, and homographs (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, such as bat and rose).