Common Core Standards: K-5 Foundational Reading Skills - dummies

Common Core Standards: K-5 Foundational Reading Skills

By Jared Myracle

Common Core Standards emphasize skills that will improve your child’s reading abilities. Students use the standards for foundational skills in kindergarten through Grade 5. These standards are the first stepping stones toward literacy skills that are expanded in later grades. For parents, one of the best things about these standards is that you don’t have to be an English major to understand the concepts students are asked to master.

Don’t forget to check out the resources available in Appendix A of the English language arts standards. Within, you’ll find even more specific guidance on the skills and concepts your child needs to master.


In kindergarten, students get familiar with the appearance of printed text and how words are organized on a page, such as spacing and uppercase and lowercase letters. They also make the connection that words they hear spoken can be put into text form.

Students also use words that rhyme and are able to break down words into syllables and phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound that distinguish one word from another word with different meaning, such as the letter c in the word cat.

Finally, students practice phonics and begin to read words that appear frequently in texts for beginning readers.

Grade 1

Students extend their understanding of specific features in printed text, such as capitalizing the first letter of the first word and adding punctuation to the end of sentences. They also explore phonemes at a deeper level, learning to sound out single-syllable words into separate phonemes.

For example, with the word cat, this involves sounding out each letter into distinct parts. Students continue to use phonics to read one- and two-syllable words, including words that end in –e and words with inflectional endings.

Inflectional endings are suffixes that change a word from singular to plural, such as dog to dogs, or change the tense of a word, such as rain to rained. They continue to read appropriately leveled texts with fluency and accuracy, which means they read without a lot of stopping and starting and say and understand words correctly.

Grade 2

In Grade 2, students continue to work with phonics, including the use of short and long vowel sounds. They continue to use their understanding of phonemes, syllables, and vowel sounds to decode words.

Students in Grade 2 should also correctly spell commonly misspelled words appropriate to their grade level. Students are expected to continue reading grade-level texts independently and orally and to use context clues to support their understanding of what they’ve read. It’s important to emphasize to your child that it’s 100 percent acceptable to reread a text in order to understand it better.

Grade 3

Students work to read and understand multi-syllable words, along with common prefixes (such as un-) and derivational suffixes. Derivational suffixes are endings added to words that give the words new meaning, but that are still derived from the original meaning — for example, changing run to runner, music to musician, or help to helpful. Students also learn to use and spell words with Latin suffixes, such as sup-port, de-pend, and pro-gress.

Don’t get confused trying to categorize different types of prefixes and suffixes. It’s more important that you child can recognize a prefix and suffix when it’s used, understand how it affects the meaning of the root word, and read and comprehend the word when she sees it in a text.

Students in Grade 3 continue to read grade-level texts, including prose and poetry, fluently and keep using context clues to find meaning when something is unclear.

Grades 4-5

In Grades 4-5, students use what they have learned about the relationships between letter combinations and sounds to decode and find the meaning of words with multiple syllables. As in other grades, the standards seek to ensure that students continue to read texts that are at grade level.

It’s important that you closely monitor your child’s reading comprehension and make sure she stays on track. In these grades, “learning to read” has largely given way to “reading to learn,” so the standards focus on the application of decoding strategies as students read various texts.