Thursday, August 01, 2013

Countdown to School: Middle School Language Arts, Part One


Part Two is here.
Part Three is here.

It's five weeks till school, and this week I'm working on Language Arts, that school subject that didn't exist for Charlotte Mason.

I have a seventh grader this year.  We're up to "middle school."  It's time to graduate our methods from the elementary level, to do more, ask more, think in new ways.  But still, what's core is reading and writing--right?

I look at the provincial standards for grade seven Language curriculum--the headings are Reading, Writing, Listening/Speaking, and Media; but the actual requirements are pretty nebulous.  Do we even mean the same things by Reading and Writing?
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
I look at the publisher's website for a popular public school Grade 7 language textbook.  The units are cool, there's lots of media awareness, some neat poems and stories; somebody has obviously put lots of thought and work into this book.  Maybe that's the problem--the teachers are having more fun than the students. When I try to apply that outline to the amount of reading we have planned, I run into trouble:  are we overloading, or are they underloading?  There's something else that troubles me about it. When the "preview" to the first poem in the book is longer than the poem itself, there's something wrong.  Didn't Charlotte say, somewhere, that we package things up so neatly that nothing can possibly get lost...but that nothing else can get in?

Well, there's one thing I do like about the textbook, kind of.  Dividing up the year into half-term units makes sense, and having a few smaller writing assignments plus one larger project planned for each unit would also work.  I find a teacher's grade 7 webpage divided into similar groupings, but using "real books," and his approach is to assign one "critical" and one "creative" assignment for each.  Yes, we could do that too; not for every book on the list, but for the major ones.

Browsing the grade 7 lists, I come across one of the last places I would have looked for help:  the World Book Typical Course of Study, that's been reprinted all over the Internet for years.  Can someone explain why a short list like this is closer to our CM plans than any current government outline?  It certainly wasn't designed with Charlotte Mason or homeschooling in mind...but maybe it's just older.
  • Improving reading skills--yep, Mr. Adler is covering that.
  • Literary terms--yep, we're doing The Grammar of Poetry.
  • Novels, short stories, plays--yep.
  • Myths, legends, ballads--Age of Fable.  Sigurd of the Volsungs.
  • Types of poetry--see number 2.
  • Biography and autobiography--got it covered.
  • Planning and producing dramatizations
  • Speech activities--like narrating?
  • Listening skills--you have to listen before you can narrate.
  • Refining dictionary skills
  • Spelling
  • Parts of speech--that would be Easy Grammar Plus.
  • Person, number, gender of nouns and pronouns
  • Punctuation of conversation
  • Clauses and phrases
  • Compound sentences
  • Writing descriptions, reports, journals, and letters--yes, all good things to write.
  • Note taking and outlining--Mr. Adler talks about that too.
  • Extending reference skills: atlases, directories, encyclopedias, periodicals, on-line information services, CD-ROMs, and other electronic reference material
  • Library organization
Thank you, World Book.  That makes me feel a whole lot better.

Stay tuned for Part Two, or, when Language Arts starts to make more sense.

Linked from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: Citizenship at The Common Room.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Maybe that's the problem--the teachers are having more fun than the students. Ha!

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