Teachers will also do more with informational books and do less with all those fun storybooks.
So instead of reading a children’s book like "Frog and Toad," teachers might now opt for a science book about frogs. Kristen Cruz Allen, administrator of curriculum frameworks at the state Department of Education, says that's part of helping children gain skills they'll need in the future.
“They actually can do" the more complex work, she says. “It’s really making them think critically about the text that they’re reading and preparing them later on, when they’re going to write arguments with text evidence.”
Many kindergarten teachers say they understand why the shift in standards is necessary but are still concerned about students who didn’t go to preschool, who speak another language at home or who simply need more time to grasp the new concepts.
“What would be nice is if we didn’t have to put an evaluation on them,” says Renee Smith, a kindergarten teacher in Fremont. "When you have to give it a grade, it doesn’t necessarily show you growth. When we have to stick something on kids, that judges them."
Smith and others say the reality is that kindergarten has become a boot camp for first grade.
“You don’t want to turn them off to school at age 5,” Smith says. “The hardest part is how do you still make it fun and get them to come back every day.”
One expert who is trying to put the fun back into lesson plans is Heidi Butkus.
The veteran teacher has created her own Common Core-aligned curriculum called Heidi Songs, which teaches kids how to read using memorable songs, physical activities, and bold images and videos.
“Play develops language and vocabulary better than any lesson you can give them,” Butkus says.
She says the problem with the new standards is that teachers take them too literally and suck the fun and imagination out of the schoolday.
She says some teachers don't know how to bring play back into the classroom because they’ve “lost that skill.”
Parents like Strong understand there is no avoiding these new standards, so they're planning to put their trust in teachers, yet keep a close eye on how they're teaching the new content.
“I’m just happy that he’s trying to sound out the words,” Strong says. “It would be nice if my son was reading (fluently), but it will come.”