Common Core

You’ve probably heard or read about Common Core. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are the new guidelines that describe what every K-12 student should know and be able to do in the areas of Language Arts and Math. Getting familiar with them now can help you help your child be ready for Kindergarten.

The CCSS have generated a good deal of controversy, particularly with respect to the literacy standards for Kindergarteners. Some critics believe that the standards are not developmentally appropriate for five and six year-olds and diminish the importance of imaginative play, hands-on exploration, social learning, and oral language enrichment at these ages.

Supporters of CCSS have responded to these criticisms by asserting that good instruction in Kindergarten always includes dynamic, multi-modal, play-based activities and frequent opportunities to hear and use rich language. They argue that good Kindergarten teachers know plenty of methods to teach academic skills to young children in a fun, dynamic manner. Further, they note that some children do not get enough exposure to literacy at home to be ready for Kindergarten and that these students particularly need robust reading and writing instruction during Kindergarten so that they can “catch up” and not fall further behind during these crucial foundational years. For more information about the current debate going on about Common Core, see Play, Common Core, and Reading Untangled.

There’s no doubt that Common Core is here to stay. Here are some ways you can ensure that your child is ready for Kindergarten: (start by reading the Common Core State Standards. They’re easy to understand and will give you an understanding of the types of information and skills that your child is or will be expected to learn).

1. Read non-fiction books as well as fiction. Because the emphasis in secondary education is on non-fiction text, the CCSS also are weighted this way. While reading, talk about “concepts of print” (front/back of the book, words, title). Ask questions. Describe the pictures. You can find examples of the types of books your child is expected to read by the end of Kindergarten at Text Project.

2. Use “grown-up” words with your child. A strong vocabulary predicts just about every type of success your child can have. There are three tiers when it comes to vocabulary:

Tier 1 words: common words that just about everyone learns: hat, book, chair, car, foot, etc.

Tier 3 words: very rare words that are specific to certain disciplines: hemisphere, amoeba, octave, magma, etc.

Tier 2 words: uncommon words that are found throughout many different kinds of books: words like “describe,” “involve,” “compare,” “type,” “organize,” etc.

Tier 2 words are the ones you want to use as often as possible with your child. The more “Tier 2” words your child hears throughout the day, the more ready for Kindergarten he will be!

3. Talk, talk talk! There is absolutely no better way to prepare your child for Kindergarten and beyond than by talking with her about everything she does, sees, and touches. Pay close attention to what is holding your child’s attention and make comments about it. See for five specific ways you can talk to your child to increase her intelligence.

Did you notice that all three suggestions above involve different ways of talking with your child? The current research is crystal clear that talking is the key to raising a smart kid who’s ready to learn. For more information about the importance of talking to your child, see

The CCSS tells teachers what kids need to learn, but they do not tell teachers how to teach. Regardless of specific standards to be taught, great teachers have high expectations for all students and teach using enjoyable, dynamic activities.

As their child’s first great teacher, parents must do the same! Getting your child ready for Kindergarten really means getting him ready for life. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a bunch of money or plan “instruction time” to make the most of your child’s first five years. So instead of buying sets of flash cards and all the latest “educational toys,” just talk!


Written by Susan Coon, one of the founders of Simply Smart Kids, LLC. You can read Susan’s bio here: Who We Are

Simply Smart START! P.O.W.E.R. Tools® provide a complete, research-based system that teaches parents the five most powerful strategies for raising a smart, successful kid. To learn more, check out our product page.

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