Building Strong Content Knowledge Using Common Core Standards

The common core standards talk about “building strong content knowledge”. This skill is very important for students entering college. Students should know about subjects not only in their chosen major but also about alternate topics and general education. Meeting or exceeding this standard will not only help students through the first two years of university level study but they will also help students understand cross-disciplinary issues that will come up later in the work force. (READ: “Get an early start on the common core standards).


A. The State of California states that students should “engage[e] with works of quality and substance”. What qualifies as quality?

My recommendation: Start that summer reading with a list of the great books that are appropriate for your child’s age and reading level. Some of the novels on this list include “1984” by George Orwell, “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce. To view a suggested list of high school level great books look here: Modern library’s 100 best novels. (Reading is crucial for academic success, if you’re struggling, or just want to improve your critical reading skills, call TutorNerds and we’ll match you with the perfect Orange County private reading tutor)


A little more picky than reading just any classic? No problem. I suggest using Good Reads to find similar books to the ones you already enjoy. For instance, if you like “This Side of Paradise” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the website suggests reading “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets: and Other Tales of New York” by Stephen Crane. Why else should you join Good Reads? Because it’s also a social networking site where you can log on and discuss the book you just read with other literature fans. Talk about being in with the right crowd!

If your child is younger, I suggest asking their teacher to give you a list that will suit your child’s particular level. Reading should become a part of weekly life at a young age.

B. Students will also need to learn about new topics and subjects through “research and study”. Research is one of the hardest things to learn but it’s like riding a bicycle, once someone knows how to do it, it will become a lifelong skill.

My recommendation: If your child is not yet in high school, have them do a research project over the summer. Research is best learned when the student picks a topic that they are already interested in and then they can use the developed skill for more dry topics later on (our in-home Irvine tutors will be here to help with the latter). So if your kid loves comic books, ask them to find out everything they know about the original Marvel comics and gather it. Go through the information together and decide which elements are important and exciting and which are not entirely relevant. After that, you child can sit down and write a couple of pages about their favorite superhero.

If something is fun to do the first time around, it will generally stick in your child’s mind as a good thing. Unfortunately, the opposite also holds true so, if possible, that first research project should not be too stressful.

C. Students also have to be able to “read purposefully”. Once they have reading down as a skill, it’s time to learn how to pick out key information effectively.

My recommendation: Pick out a book that you, as the parent, have already read or can read along with your child. Make yourself a cheat sheet ahead of time with a list of all the important characters (both main and secondary) as well as a short description of the plot, setting, and a general summary. Have your child read the book and complete all of the same activities that you did. Can they describe the setting accurately? Did they understand the general plot? Can they write a paragraph or draw you a picture of at least three characters in the book? If the answer is yes, then they are probably on the right track. If not, try doing this project again with a simpler book or consider asking your child’s teacher for help or arranging for a tutor.

common-core-standardsNext, try doing a similar activity with a non-fiction text, such as an article about science or current events. Make a list of the key elements yourself and then have your kid do the same. If you can locate two articles that have both differences and similarities, try doing a compare and contrast bubble with your child.

Mastering these skills can be quite difficult at first but they will help students at every age level. Even the young at heart can benefit from picking out key elements later in life and career.

tutor logo Brain Games for the SummerAll blog entries are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at [email protected] for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us post about.

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