Monday, September 10, 2012

Planning Language Arts Simplified

Why is it that Language Arts seems to be the most difficult subject to plan?  One reason is that it encompasses so many subjects--phonics, reading, penmanship, listening skills, spelling, grammar, writing, poetry, literature, vocabulary, speech...  It's overwhelming at times to consider all that we could do, and to try to figure out what we should do.

Another reason is that it can be an area of struggle for some kids.  34% of children struggle with learning to read.  (As a side note, if you are dealing with a child who struggles, here's a free webinar on that topic).  Many struggle with spelling or complain about writing.  

I remember in my early homeschooling years, longing for an all-in-one language arts curriculum.  I knew if I chose separate curricula for all the various topics that I would either miss something or end up with 3 hours of work per day for my kids to do!  The trouble was, I could never find an all-in-one that fit us.  Kids tend to learn to read faster than they learn to write or spell, and programs that lined up these subjects frustrated us by being too slow for reading or too advanced for writing.  

So, I decided to come up with some basic goals.  Why do we teach language arts?  What are we trying to accomplish?

At the basic level, language arts is all about communication.  Taking in information, and being able to communicate with others.  We've actually been working on these skills from babyhood.  We have already taught them a lot about how to speak and to listen, vocabulary, grammar, syntax, all before they even hit school-age.  We don't really think about it, but we've been busy! 

Practically speaking though, I needed a plan for moving forward.  What order should I teach skills, and what priority do I give them?

Reading Aloud

For all children, 20-30 minutes minimum reading literature aloud to your child is a wonderful way to naturally build language arts skills as well as pass on your values, character training, and just enjoy some snuggle time. 

You can cover so much through this.  It's a great way to teach vocabulary (I often stop to see if my kids know a word, or they will stop me and ask for a definition.  If I don't like the one I come up with, I pull out the dictionary and we look the word up together.)  Syntax and grammar and the flow of our language are taught informally.  Poetry can teach rhyming, alliteration, and the musicality of language.  You can work on listening skills and oral comprehension by asking simple questions like, "What do you think will happen next," or, "Why do you think the character did that?  Would you have done that?"  Most of all, reading aloud can help your child develop a life-long love of learning.  I still read to my high school and junior high students, and will as long as I can get away with it!

Building a Plan for Daily Work:

To reign in our budgets (both time and money!), I recommend some basic time limits for daily work.  I like to do 30-60 minutes or so for kindergarten and first grade, and 60-90 minutes for second grade and up.  

To fill this time, set your priorities.  A basic beginning plan might start like this:

Phonics and reading instruction:  20-30 minutes
Penmanship: 10 minutes

When a child becomes somewhat fluent in reading simple three and four sound words, add in:
Spelling: 20 minutes

When a child can read chapter books fluently, then that Phonics/reading instruction time becomes:
Silent Reading:  30 minutes  

You may still want to have your children read aloud to you on a daily basis.  We cover this during our Bible time, but you could also choose to have them read a paragraph from a reader to you each day.

When your child is ready for more, you can add in grammar or writing instruction.  I start off working on these topics informally, as I find it easier to add in a formal writing program after a child can spell around a thousand words.
Writing or Grammar: 30 minutes

Writing and Grammar do not have to be taught simultaneously.  You can choose to focus on one per year, do units in 6, 9, 12, or 18 week segments, alternate days, or use a program that incorporates both.  

Eventually Speech can be woven in to that writing/grammar time slot.  

So that's it!  Think through your goals, the skills of your child, and step by step build your plan.  You don't have to do every language arts topic every year.  Next time I'll cover what each of these topics might entail, and some of my favorite curriculum choices.

1 comment:

  1. This is so helpful and encouraging, as this topic is the one I struggle with the most!