Cara Schrack

Daily, Simple Ways to Support Learning

It's hard to believe that the trees are just about absent of leaves and the school year is well under way. As a parent of a 3-year-old, I spend time talking about the change of seasons as we listen to the sound of the leaves as they crunch beneath our feet. My husband and I take any opportunity that comes our way to explain the world around our son to help prepare him for his future in school and life. In essence, this is a nice comparison to the intent of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

It's often hard to keep up with what's happening in education, but it's important to stop and understand what CCSS will mean for all of us, so I thought I would use this opportunity to review the most important aspects of the reading standards. To begin with, it is important to know that all of the standards have been developed to be

  • Aligned with expectations for college and career success;
  • Clear, so that educators and parents know what they need to do to help students learn;
  • Consistent across all states, so that students are not taught to a lower standard just because of where they live;
  • Inclusive of both content and the application of knowledge through higher-order skills;
  • Built upon strengths and lessons of current state standards and standards of top-performing nations;
  • Realistic, for effective use in the classroom; and
  • Informed by other top-performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society.

Save the Children's after-school programs support the effort of the CCSS, specifically the reading strand. Our mission is to help increase the number of children who are reading at grade level, helping to provide them with a brighter future for academic success and beyond. When attending our after-school programs, children have the opportunity to practice reading independently each day with books for their level that they select themselves, providing the opportunity to do some "close reading," a common term within the CCSS. In other words, children are provided with text they have not seen before and have to read it carefully to understand its meaning. Providing access to books is an important mission for Save the Children, but equally important is providing the guided support to ensure success with these books.

The program also provides children with the opportunity to hear a read-aloud every day, as an adult models what good readers do when reading independently. Children also play games with vocabulary words embedded in context and participate in fluency-building activities. These latter activities, such as singing songs, reciting poems, and acting out reader's theater scripts, are great learning opportunities that I am sure many of us can remember doing while attending elementary school. In addition, they provide the opportunity to see the same text several times, increasing fluency skills and ultimately making it easier for children to understand while reading. All of these activities support the CCSS by helping to accelerate children's reading growth and creating a platform for school success.

Parents can learn about their local CCSS curriculum and how the standards will be met by looking on the local school district or state websites. In addition, parents often want to know how they can help foster and support their child's education at home. Daily, simple activities, such as reading to or with your child, talking about his or her favorite daily activities, and explaining the world around him or her can support learning. The beauty of the fall season lends itself to perfect, teachable moments for your family, all the while preparing your child for a bright future ahead.

Cara Schrack is currently the deputy director of education at whole child partner organization Save the Children. Formerly a reading staff developer in a Title I elementary school in Maryland, she assisted in writing curricula, provided county and school-based professional development, and aided teachers in implementing best practices in reading instruction. Prior to this position, Schrack taught 4th grade for two years in Maryland and 3rd grade for three years in New York. In her current role, she uses her expertise in reading to help raise student achievement in Save the Children sites across rural America.

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