"Do you think it would be important to tell Santa what type of animal you are?" Velotta, who has taught at El Morro for eight years, asked her students.
After class, Velotta explained the difference in how she structured the assignment from a year ago.
"Last year, it was more of a narrative. The kids didn't have a strong argumentative voice," Velotta said. "My big thing is supporting a claim, to go back in the book and use examples to support [an argument]."
Students in El Morro kindergarten teacher Tami Mays' class aren't writing reports, but they journal.
"The biggest change is bringing in more writing," said Mays, who has taught at El Morro for four years. "The more they write, the better they'll be at reading."
Mays's students will write about penguins when they return from winter break, she said.
They'll focus on nonfiction characteristics, such as habitat, and pull in fictional stories about the animals, according to Mays.
One advantage of Common Core is combining, to a degree, various disciplines, which Velotta did with English and science in the letters to Santa.
"They argued which animal is best for the job, which integrates with science since we're talking about adaptation and how different animals adapt to their environment," Velotta said.
Velotta is creating a writing workshop where students brainstorm, write a rough draft, edit and compose a final version.
Velotta's students focus on three styles of writing; narrative, persuasive and informational, she said.
Mays disagrees with critics who argue that Common Core dumbs down standards.
"It give teachers more freedom and power to teach the right way — fostering creativity and engagement," she said.