Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: Language Arts

True to Squirreling form, Crayons learned to read to herself quite young. She's a strong enough reader now to handle stories from Lang's Coloured Fairy Books. One of her favourites is "The Princess on the Glass Hill," in The Blue Fairy Book. (Available online at The Baldwin Project.)
He stole away to the door, which was ajar, to see what was there, and a horse was standing eating. It was so big, and fat, and fine a horse that Cinderlad had never seen one like it before, and a saddle and bridle lay upon it, and a complete suit of armour for a knight, and everything was of copper, and so bright that it shone again. "Ha, ha! it is thou who eatest up our hay then," thought the boy; "but I will stop that." So he made haste, and took out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse, and then it had no power to stir from the spot, and became so tame that the boy could do what he
liked with it. So he mounted it and rode away to a place which no one knew of but himself, and there he tied it up.

So she doesn't exactly need readers; sometimes it's hard to get her to stop reading.

But--again, not surprisingly--she's not a natural speller; she can read and understand great big words but still hesitates putting even simple words down on paper herself without asking how something's spelled. She's also just average for her age (or slightly behind) in printing skills.

This is nothing new around here--in fact, that's one of the reasons we got started homeschooling. The Apprentice was much the same (although she never had many spelling issues). Reading, yes! Writing, no.

Language Arts, or English, or whatever you want to call it, is bigger than grammar and mechanics anyway, though that's often what you think of first, especially if you're old enough (like me) to have had very dreadful Language Arts textbooks throughout elementary school. (This was one of ours.) As has been said many times--you want them to be able to read, write, speak, listen, and otherwise use the English language successfully; and if they're reading and you're reading to them and having them narrate orally, you've already covered three of those areas. Mechanics, while important, is just one small piece of language.

But it still needs to be learned; and even young Squirrelings sometimes need to go back over some of the phonics areas they've skipped madly over. (It does help with spelling.)

There are a couple of different approaches we've taken with this over the years. When The Apprentice was small, I often used old children's magazines and had her circle or cross out things: all the words on a page that started with "th"; all the question marks; all the names of animals, and so on. You can do this with even older children, having them look for adverbs or other grammar items.

One thing we've done is to use copywork lessons in Ruth Beechick-style, usually over a short period of time and with one book, story, or group of poems. One year I took several paragraphs from Bambi and made up language lessons, following Dr. Beechick's models in You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully. Last year I used sentences from Snowshoe Thompson to do the same thing. You can do the same thing informally, too, rather than putting lessons together ahead of time: point out spelling or grammar points in a child's regular copywork.

This year I'm committing the heresy of covering the same mechanics via workbooks. I have both the grade 1 and grade 2 levels of Gifted and Talented: Reading, Writing and Math. They're very similar and can actually be used together--if you can do the grade 1 pages on synonyms, you can probably do the grade 2 pages. And that's what I'm planning for Crayons. Reasons for doing this instead of making up my own? 1. I already have the books. 2. She's already reading so much that doing a workbook page is something different for her. 3. Like instant potato flakes, they're convenient, and, perversely, some children seem to like them better than the real thing.

Crayons will still be doing some regular copywork, along with printing practice in the Canadian Handwriting workbooks. Probably one or the other each day.

And for spelling...I think we're going to fish out a few Magnetic Poetry words each week, stick them on the fridge, and use them as a spelling list. (I read through the simplest lists in Kathryn Stout's Natural Speller, and many of them are the same as the magnetic words we have.) Of course you could just write a list on paper, but it's a novelty, and it's harder to lose or avoid seeing the list when it's right there while you pour your juice.

Related Posts:
Crayons' Grade Two: Social Studies


Jacqueline said...

I love reading these posts about your plans for next year. Thanks for sharing.

Birdie said...

Excellent stuff!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

My Chem Geek Princess is not a "natural speller" either. In fact, she still has problems, even though she devours books whole and leaves nothing but the spine, lol.

We did some tutoring with her for spelling, but ultimately, she says, SpellCheck and "are a godsend to the spelling impaired."

And ultimately, she's turned out well--she has a degree in Chemistry and a job.