Common Core Standards for English and Math | What Parents Need to Know

What Should I Know About Common Core You may have heard about the new Common Core Standards, which most states have adopted into their curriculum. What exactly are they, and what does it mean for your child? Learn more in this guest post by San Diego tutor Natalie S

Having a unified educational system is an incredibly important factor when considering how to make sure each child is given the best chance to learn and succeed. This is why 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English and Math. However, most people don’t know what these Common Core Standards are, or even that they exist! Read below to find out more about how these standards impact your child.

What Are the Common Core Standards?

The Common Core Standards are academic standards for English and Mathematics. They map out learning goals for what students should be achieving from Kindergarten to 12th grade. These standards are designed to better prepare students for rigorous college courses and for entering the workforce. Recently, these standards were updated, and we’ve summarized the changes below.

What Are the Changes in the Common Core Standards for English?

The Common Core Standards for English include instilling academic practices like having children read and comprehend complex texts with increased difficulty. For example, each year, students read texts that are more complex (whether that be through prose or through themes) than the year before. Certain types of texts that the Common Core Standards website specifically lists include US documents, international myths, and Shakespeare.

The Common Core Standards for English also emphasize teaching students how to use textual evidence when making arguments in essays, as well as building specific knowledge about the non-fiction world.

What Are the Changes in the Common Core Standards for Math?

One major change in the Common Core Standards for Math is the increased focus on specific concepts. Instead of trying to cram a vague understanding of a hundred different concepts into your child’s head, the Common Core Standards dictate that students should study a concentrated number of concepts in depth and master them. For example, students will still study multiplication and division, but they won’t learn how to implement those functions of math until the third grade. This should help students improve their understanding of basic mathematical foundations more thoroughly before implementing newer, harder concepts.

The changes also aim to better link seemingly unconnected topics in math. For a full list of concepts covered in various grades, take a look at the Common Core Standards website.

How Can You Help Your Child Adapt to the Common Core Standards?

One of the biggest changes made to the Common Core curriculum is the new emphasis on linking topics across each grade level. This is a good tactic because it gives students a greater understanding of what they’re studying, however, it also means that it is imperative that students keep up with their work and do not fall behind. If you want to help your child learn with the Common Core Standards, it is important to check on them and make sure they understand their lessons in English and Math. Go over the readings with them, check their homework, and drill math problems at least once a week.

If your child starts to struggle and fall behind, this is a good time to consider hiring a tutor. Make sure the tutor is familiar with the Common Core Standards, and that he/she is aware of what your child should be learning at this time of his or her educational career. If you need further advice or assistance selecting a tutor, TakeLessons is here to help!

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and test prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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The 6 Toughest English Writing Rules – and How to Remember Them

English Writing Rules and Tips

In this article, online tutor Natalie S. shares her best tricks for remembering some of the toughest English writing rules…

Grammar isn’t for everyone. In fact, most people tend to forget the majority of their English grammar and punctuation lessons by the time they graduate from high school. Even though grammar tends to be a boring subject to learn about, it’s still important to understand and utilize grammar and punctuation rules correctly. These seemingly small details make a big difference in the quality of your writing.

Below are a few tips to help you easily navigate some of the trickiest grammar, punctuation, and overall English writing rules!


This is one of the most abused and misused punctuation marks in the English language. Semi-colons are used to connect two complete sentences (often called independent clauses) into one sentence. For example, “I went to the beach; it was too hot.” This single sentence shares one common idea (the beach) and contains one complete sentence on either side of the semi-colon. Pro tip: Try to split your sentence into two complete thoughts. If you cannot do it, a semi-colon doesn’t belong in your sentence.

Fewer Vs. Less

“Fewer” means a quantifiable number. For example, “I had three fewer items than Tom.” “Less” is used in a non-quantifiable situation, such as “I was less sad after eating chocolate.” Pro tip: If you can attach a number to the sentence and it still makes sense, you should be using the word “fewer.”

Who Vs. Whom

“Who” is a subjective pronoun, whereas “whom” is an objective pronoun.  Pro tip: If the word, “he” can be substituted into the sentence, use “who.” If the word “him” can be substituted into the sentence, use “whom.” For example, “Who went to the store? He went to the store.” “She bought an apple for whom? She bought an apple for him.”

Its Vs. It’s

This is one of the easiest English writing rules to remember, but it’s still one of the most common mistakes that people make. “Its” is possessive. For example, “The cat licked its paw.” “It’s” stands for “it is” and it’s an abbreviation.  Pro tip: To remember which one to use, try replacing the phrase with “it is.” Does the sentence still make sense? If yes, then you use “it’s.” If no, then use the possessive “its.”

Writing in Active Voice

Avoid sentences like, “Bob was chased by the crowd.” Instead, write, “The crowd chased Bob.” The first example illustrates passive voice. The second sentence is an example of active voice.  Using active voice makes your writing more compelling to read. Pro tip: If you can insert the phrase “by zombies” at the end of your sentence and it makes sense, you are using passive voice! For example, “Bob was chased by zombies.”

Ambiguous Pronouns

Pronouns can be used in place of nouns to make your writing flow better. For example, start with these three sentences: “Nancy went to the store. Nancy bought ice cream. Nancy bought oranges.” To make it flow, we use pronouns in place of Nancy: “Nancy went to the store and she bought ice cream and oranges.”  When using pronouns, be careful to avoid the ambiguous pronoun. For example, “Sarah went to Jenny’s house for a party. She had cake.” The pronoun “she” in the second sentence is ambiguous.

Pro tip: Ask yourself questions like, “Who had cake? Was it Sarah or Jenny?” to figure out how to correct the sentence. Technically, Jenny is the “she” in this sentence, but considering that the subject of the sentence is Sarah, the writer is actually intending to use “she” in place of “Sarah.” It should say something like, “Sarah went to Jenny’s house for a party, and she enjoyed eating the birthday cake.”

Writing assignments can be difficult; they require a lot of focused time and effort. If you remember and implement these simple tips and tricks, you will create writing that is easier to comprehend and more compelling to read.

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors online in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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How Can I Support My English Language Learner Child?


Parents, you play a huge role in helping your child learn in between private tutoring sessions. Here are some ideas to help your English-learner work on their skills, from North Hollywood, CA tutor Brittany G


When I first got my teaching credential, I was in suburban Connecticut. The majority of students in the classroom where I did my observations and student teaching were native English speakers, with a handful who spoke another language as well. When I moved to California, the most noticeable difference was the number of non-native English speakers in the classroom. This inspired me to get my Master’s of Education in TESOL, Literacy, and Culture from the University of San Diego. Through this program, I was given the opportunity to conduct an action research project investigating best practices for supporting Kindergarten English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom. These findings can be generalized to help parents and tutors uncover methods for supporting their English language learner children outside of the classroom as well in phonics and phonemic awareness.

Some Background on English Language Learners

Between 1980 and 2009, the number of children in the United States aged 5-17 who spoke a language other than English at home skyrocketed from 4.7 to 11.2 million, the equivalent of a jump from 10 to 21 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The California Department of Education website states that English learners make up 23.2 percent of the total enrollment in California public schools in 2010-11. Nearly 37.4 percent of the state’s public school enrollment speaks a language other than English at home, and the majority of these ELLs are enrolled in Kindergarten through sixth grade (California Department of Education [CDE], 2012).

Tools You Can Use

  1. AlphaFriends is an adorable program by Houghton Mifflin that introduces each letter with a corresponding song to highlight the letter-sound correspondence. If your child is having trouble matching letters to sounds, take some time during the week to introduce an AlphaFriend and practice singing the song. One teacher’s compilation is available here.
  2. Alphabet Bingo is a fun way to practice letter-sound correspondance. You can call out a letter, name the AlphaFriend, or choose another word starting with the same letter, and your child has to find and mark the picture on their Bingo card. Over time, you can increase the difficulty by having your child look for middle or end sounds, for instance, “Find the middle sound in the word ‘cat.’” Your child should break apart the word into /c//a//t/ and search for the letter “A.” Here’s a link to some printable Bingo cards.
  3. Let them write! Ask your child to write down their favorite food. Instead of being focused on the proper spelling, work with them to figure out what sounds they want to make and what letter best represents it. For example, I’ve asked students to write out “Ice Cream,” and the process looks something like this:

Teacher: What sounds do you hear first?
Student: I
Teacher: Okay, so what letter is that?
(Student writes “I”)
Teacher: What sound do you hear next?
Student: Ssss
Teacher: Great, lets write the /s/ sound.
(Student write “s”)
Teacher: Next up is /k/.
Student: That sounds like K…

When all is said and done, you might have Iskrem. This is a perfect opportunity to talk about how the letter “c” can make the sounds /s/ and /k/! Create a comfortable environment where your child feels comfortable to take risks and knows that even if they make a mistake, it’s better to try than not. Get your child talking and you will see amazing things!

Identifying letters and sounds are crucial skills for kindergarten and first grade students. Without these building blocks, it is very difficult to move forward into more advance reading and spelling skills. By setting aside 10-20 minutes a day to provide extra support, parents and tutors can help low-level English Language Learners (ELLs) catch up with their peers. It is so important to get involved early and help your child stay on track.

I hope some of my ideas can come in handy, and would highly recommend that you experiment on your own to see what other methods might work for your child.

BrittanyGBrittany G. tutors in a variety of subjects in North Hollywood, CA, as well as through online lessons. She graduated from the University of Hartford in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and has also received a Connecticut Teaching Certification for Elementary K-6 and a Certificate of Clearance to teach in California. Learn more about Brittany here!


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