02 03 Gallimaufry Grove: How I Teach Language Arts 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

How I Teach Language Arts


I don't know what skill level your child has currently mastered, so it is a little difficult to say.  I will tell you some of what we have used, and perhaps you can google them and see if they might be helpful in your situation.  Every child is different, and I am big on finding what will work in your unique situation.  Also, it seems to me that often boys (or highly energetic girls) benefit from holding off on the sit down work books a little bit.  They mature a lot, learn to sit still and buckle down to lessons as they get older, but at that age, it is still difficult for them, especially for a kinesthetic learner.  I like to keep sit down lessons short.  For younger ones, I will usually keep each kind of task to about 15 minutes before changing things up.  I have been known to have a young squirmy child jump up between lessons and race around the house three times, or some other crazy, fun and unexpected thing.  All that being said, here is some of what we have used.
To teach reading: Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Seigfried Engelmann -- Lessons are only about 10-15 minutes and suitable for the very young or for children that are struggling with other methods.  I didn't do the writing part with my young learners.  There is plenty of time to teach writing later.   I successfully taught my 3 oldest children to read at very young ages using this book.
To teach handwriting and cursive: Italic Handwriting Series by Getty & Dubay  -- Again, the lessons are short and the style is very natural.  This style was far easier for my boys to grasp than other methods.  Many boys seem to struggle with handwriting.  I waited to introduce handwriting for 1 year with one son and for 2 years with another.  They were much more ready then, thus reducing the frustration and tears.  They caught up very quickly because I waited until they were actually ready instead of feeling forced by someone else's idea of when they should be ready.  I just had them dictate their answers in other subjects, so they were able to excel without being slowed down by handwriting issues.
Journals: Once they have their handwriting under control, my kids keep a daily journal.  When they are young, the entries don't have to be long.  This helps them learn the rules of capitalization, punctuation, etc.  I don't correct these -- they are far too personal for mom to start red-marking them.  But keeping a journal gives them an opportunity to practice the skills they are learning.  The grammar and spelling in their journals will improve over the years.
      Later, the kids really enjoy reading through their old journals.  There are a lot of good memories in those pages.
For Spelling: I often pull spelling words from misspelled words in their history and other written assignments.  I don't make a big deal about it, but compile study lists for them to work on.  I have also used Spelling Power by Beverly Adams-Gordon and Better Spelling in 5 Minutes a Day by Mark Pennington (different years and short lessons, of course.  We have a lot of years to help them master spelling, so I work slow.  Even my kids that struggled with spelling have become good spellers this way. And they found it painless.)
      One more tip, when giving them a spelling test on a list of words, I will use the words to make up a spontaneous story.  I will say the word, then use it in a sentence (which is part of the story I am weaving), then say the word again.  They write the word, then I repeat the process with the next word.  Because the words are unrelated, we end up with a really silly story that makes little sense.  The kids love it -- it keeps things fun for them.
For Grammar: I keep grammar very simple at this stage.  I used to teach grammar every year, but now I alternate years.  I have found that I have plenty of time to give them a good foundation without hammering it every single year.  For the earlier years, I use Simply Grammar by Karen Andreola and Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl (this is an reprint of a very old schoolbook, so some rules have changed, I just explain it and move on.)  I do these books by dictation at this stage.  They read the lesson and then tell me the answers.  I feel free to skip things or spend more time on things as I feel necessary.  For older kids (3rd or 4th grade and up) I have used Easy Grammar by Wanda C. Phillips.  It requires memorizing the prepositions up front (it isn't as hard to do as it sounds), but once you know them, sentence structure becomes super simple.  They were diagramming sentences with their eyes closed (not really, but you get the idea.)
The single most important thing I have done to teach language arts:  READ!!!  We read really great, classic books from the time they are very small.  Even our babies know books are special.  We have stacks of the best picture books (a good source for book lists for young ones is the Five in A Row Series.  Even if you don't use the curriculum, the books lists are worth looking into for ideas), and lots of well written classics (You can google Homeschool Book Lists for some book ideas). 
     The kids read in their free time, they read to each other, I read to the young ones and I do read alouds in school.  For school read alouds, I will often choose something that brings history alive and is on a reading level they wouldn't necessarily be ready for.  For instance, when studying Ancient Greek History one year, I read them the Odyssey.  Another time, I read Beowulf.  I don't just go for the hard things, though.  I find riveting historical novels and biographies that correlate to the subject we are studying.  I also find really interesting books to read to them that may not have anything to do with what we are studying - I just don't want them to miss out on a good book. 
     I let them draw, give them a snack or have some other activity to keep their hands busy while I read.  That helps keep their attention.  And of course, I choose riveting stories.  I try to stop when they are still wanting more, that way they always look forward to our reading time.
There you have it.  Using these methods, all of our kids love to read and tell stories.  They do well with spelling and grammar.  The oldest two have both written their own novels and short stories (unpublished as of yet).  They do it for fun in their spare time, without my prompting.  Even my 9 year old likes to weave a good story.  My 2 year old, of course, hasn't got to that stage yet (her "stories" make little sense), but she LOVES to be read to.  Be careful if you sit down on our couch.  She is likely to bring you a book.

Have a great day!



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