WINNEMUCCA - A combination of ideas emerges again this month: a continuation of Common Core English/Language Arts standards and the wisdom of first graders.

Writers frequently begin a story in first person, i.e., I, we, us, and then they suddenly launch into second person, you and your. "My goal is to work hard and get strait (favored student spelling) A and to do this you will have to turn in your homework." I point out to them that if I turn in my homework that that will not affect their grades.

After practice and discussion, most understand and when they write "you" they quickly cross it out (never erase on a rough draft to have a reminder of the error). These students who long for better grades often want them so they can go to "collage." While some courses are replete with "cut and paste," college is an entirely different experience.

Help your child understand first, second and third person (he, she, they, them). As you read together point out examples of each and explain why person is important. I could not write a piece about my adventures with writing using "she" just as an advice column needs to speak to the reader "you."

Find examples of how changing person affects the story. The biography of Eleanor Roosevelt is not my story nor is that of Rin Tin Tin.

The next trick is tying this knowledge to writing. If I am telling the tale of my nauseously turbulent flight out of Reno I cannot revert to you, unless, of course, you experienced the same event with me. He is not I, we are not they. Chat as you point out how one paragraph and set of ideas link to the next.

Another CCS is "purpose." Why did the author write a particular piece? Typically, the purpose of fiction is to entertain; non-fiction is to persuade, describe, teach, interpret, inform or explain. All fiction, regardless of the terror or joy involved, is designed to entertain us. If we learn a lesson, fine; if we tremble and sob even better. But the point is to amuse the reader with a tale.

Non-fiction, however, comes in many types. Advertisements work to persuade us and if they succeed, we buy. Travel books describe with the hope that the details lure us into a voyage. Self-help books teach while psychology books inform. Directions to recipes and how-to projects explain what we are to do step-by-step.

Students may say that writers write for money and fame, and some do, but that will not be a correct response with the common core.

Select several excerpts from a variety of sources. Read these together and then discuss the writer's purpose. Find proof within the writing to support the response. Ask for the particulars, "Why does this advertisement make people want to purchase the product?" "What lesson did we learn from the autobiography of Anne Frank?"

Now look at titles or bold print. Ask why the title "International students' numbers rise" is right for this article. Next create a title that is better. This improved title needs to be all encompassing, not just reflecting details of the first or last paragraph.

Ask, "Would the author agree with this change? Why or why not?" No, you cannot contact the author but you can re-dig into the story to be certain that they new title includes the main idea of the article.

Adventures in first grade this past month involved health screening day. As the teacher handed out the cards to be completed by the nurses, one little girl whispered, "What are they going to do to me?" I assured her it was to check her eyes and teeth as the teacher reminded students that nothing would hurt (no shots!). At the eye test, one student told the nurse she couldn't read the letters. Concerned, the nurse motioned the teacher over and quietly said, "She doesn't know her letters."

A smile and a pat with gentle words, "Do your best" led to a perfect response. It seems the little one in question just wanted to get glasses. Not only does she know her letters her journal contains words like "cefalo-thorax," a very sound, sounding-out spelling!

One day these teachers introduced several methods to determine even and odd numbers. As perplexed faces reigned one of the young strugglers raised his hand and advised, "It seems you need to try a new instructional strategy. This isn't working."

Amazing kids listen, think and surprise!

Gini Cunningham writes a monthly column for the Humboldt Sun on education topics. Contact her at