Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Invisible Illness, Visible God, Available now!

I'm so excited to finally announce the release of Invisible Illness, Visible God! I've been working on this for the past 10 or more years. Those of you who are familiar with my other blog, Hope Is My Anchor, know that my husband has Chronic Lyme disease. It's not the journey we expected in life, but it's been an honor to walk by his side and seek the Lord together on this journey.

“Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He meets us in the valleys of life, which are normal for His followers. I so appreciate believers who are real, like David throughout the Psalms, and the Marinello's in this precious book. Thank you for your courage and candor in facing the problems of life and finding the man of sorrows on your journey.”  
~ Steve Demme
Founder of Math-U-See and Building Faith Families

"...like a daily balm for your weary soul reminding you that God is near in your journey...a must read."
~ Shelly Esser

Author and Editor of Just Between Us Magazine 

Invisible Illness, Visible God

When Pain Meets the Power 
of an Indestructible Life

~ 101 Devotions ~

by Merry Marinello

In Stock

Read more about it and check out a sample chapter here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Copywork Part 2: Teaching Literary Elements

As I said in my post on Copywork andDictation Part 1: Teaching Mechanics, I love copywork as a tool for gently teaching all kinds of things, from grammar and mechanics to literary styles and that ineffable quality of “voice.” You can make a whole language arts course out of copywork and dictation if you want to.  So, in this post I want to focus more on literary elements, although my example below includes some mechanics I mentioned as well.

You can teach literary styles just like you can mechanics. I really think it just depends on what you make of it, and how you plan it out.  One year I focused on copywork/dictation as our main language arts.  Here's a copy of a Sonlight post I wrote that year about The Journeyman—how I chose passages and how I taught them:

First, here are some things that I look for in a dictation passage: Did I go "wow" when I read it? Did it strike me as powerful, poignant, a beautiful description? Did it have a great message? Is it good advice? If it's good to read, it's good to study and emulate. A passage I didn't get around to using, but has great description, is the sunrise on the top of p. 37. The two I did use, I'll post below.

The 2nd I absolutely love for it's beauty and it's power. The first I chose because I thought the message was worthwhile, and in many ways, what summed up Mr. Toppan's teaching also sums up mine.

"Will it always be beautiful, Mr. Toppan?"

"Yes," he answered with conviction, "if you keep true to your own feeling for beauty."

"What do you mean by keeping true?"

Mr. Toppan looked at him until his eyes seemed not to see the boy Jared, but the man Jared might become. "It's letting God have your life, so that your hands do the work He wants you to do. You've begun rightly, Jared, for that's the beginning and end of all my teaching."

Notes: I had my kids do this passage over 2 days (btw, from p. 31). I split it where the line break is. I edited some phrases out and the attributions to make it shorter. It's clear from context who's saying what, and I wanted to get to the heart of the passage without wearing out my children. We discussed what it meant when Mr. Toppan looked at Jared and the kids acted out that kind of expression. We talked about what the message meant too. 

We discussed the use of capitals (names, titles), abbreviations (Mr.) and commas in quotes (lots of practice here). We had been discussing commas in quotations and for phrasing, and this selection added a third usage—around the name of someone we speak to. (There's not one after Mr. Toppan because it's the end of the sentence, but there is one before, and then below there are commas before and after Jared's name when he's addressed.)

I don't go looking for passages that teach certain concepts necessarily—I look for powerful writing and then I ask my kids what they notice, then I point out what I notice, we look at literary elements, then we look at the physical aspects of writing. It gets easier as you get in the mindset of pre-teaching.

The 2nd passage we used: "It was a night for the stars to bless with light—for Eliza, who through the travail of her body had given a child to the world, and for Jared, who through the travail of his soul was giving a man to the world" (p. 98).

This passage might not display its full power until you read it in context, but when you do, wow. When I asked my kids what they noticed, my son noticed the parallel clauses right away—the two travails etc... We talked about why this was a powerful metaphor and what Jared was going through. We talked about em dashes and commas around clauses. This one would have been possible to also do from dictation (sometimes I put names or harder words up on a white board).

Sometimes I point out spelling patterns we are working on. For example, you could point out the igh in night & light.  Or that the wor in world is a pattern when "or" stands for the /er/ sound. The ai in travail. How to turn "give" into "given." I wouldn't necessarily go over all of these, just pick a few to focus on so it won't be overwhelming.

I asked if there were any rhyming words, and my daughter found those.  Things like rhyme and meter sometimes show up in prose and add to the beauty of the language, so it can be fun to look for these in addition to alliteration and other such devices.

By the way, this would be a great book to discuss foreshadowing! I don't want to post a spoiler, but I'll just say if you're looking for it, you can guess much of what will happen. This is a book to relax into and enjoy the beautiful language and the unfolding of the story line. There are lots of other passages one could choose for copywork, I remember almost every chapter having choices, you can't really go wrong in this book. Oh, here's another one: "The moon threw a silver cloak across his shoulders and before it was withdrawn, he was asleep" (p. 44). For that one, you could discuss how personification and imagery are used.

If you can’t think of anything great to discuss, that’s ok. It’s fine to just enjoy some passages, or to ask, “what do you like about this sentence?” and then tell your child what you like.  It's also fine to let your child choose something he or she would like to copy. Good literature is meant first and foremost to be enjoyed.

Copywork and dictation used in this way can be foundational to your language arts, or they can just be a fun extra to do as a break from your everyday language arts program. Use it all the time, or save it for just those times when you are inspired. Most of all, have fun with it!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Copywork and Dictation Part 1: Teaching Mechanics

A lot of different curricula use these methods.  Here are some reasons why it can be helpful, and how I have used it over the years.

First, I see two main reasons to use these approaches:  They can be helpful for teaching mechanics (from spelling to punctuation, capitalization, and so on), and they can also be useful for modeling good writing and teaching literary elements. I love copywork as a tool for gently teaching all kinds of things, from grammar and mechanics to literary styles and that ineffable quality of “voice.” It’s also great for helping a child who struggles with writing to build up stamina. You can start with short segments and gradually lengthen them.

When you know your goal for using the strategy, it can help you to know which one to use.  For example, All About Spelling uses dictation.  It pre-teaches the words so that students have ample practice with them, and then uses dictation to practice them in a more “real world” scenario.  Dictation is also helpful for reviewing previously learned words, to ensure that they are mastered, and it makes a good intermediate step between spelling and writing.

You can use dictation similarly for teaching things like capitalization and punctuation.  Teach the skills, and then let a student practice on a short passage.  You can even do things like “French” dictation where you leave blanks for certain words for students to fill in.  Or present a passage with no punctuation or no capitalization, and see if a student can correctly add the needed mechanics.  I found this approach very helpful when I was teaching dialog, for example.

When doing dictation for mechanics, your goal is to read a phrase or sentence once, have the student pay careful attention, and write what you have said. This also helps students build up working memory skills, which are needed for putting all of the necessary skills together for writing independently. If a sentence is too long, break it up into parts or dictate phrase by phrase.  You can gradually work your child up to longer selections.

If your student makes an error, I wouldn't have them recopy the whole thing. Simply put a light pencil X next to the line for each spelling error (or I write P for punctuation and C for capitalization), have them find their errors and fix them.  If they need help finding or fixing any errors, help them and add that topic back to your list for more study.

If there are lots of errors, the passage is too difficult.

You get a ton more mileage out of copywork and dictation if you pre-teach the passage. This is a step that some curricula skip.  Some students may pick up on things naturally, but many others benefit from a direct approach. Here are some ways to pre-teach a passage for either copywork or dictation:

Are there any unfamiliar spelling patterns that your child hasn't yet studied? Teach him the patterns and any related rules that you know.

Are there any spelling patterns he has been taught but struggles with? Review those.

Are there any words that he might not know the meaning? Discuss the vocabulary. If you aren't sure whether he knows them all, have him read the passage to you and ask him if he knows all of the words. Also make note of any words that are hard for him to read--you might specifically ask if he knows what that word means. If not, look it up in the dictionary together.

Point out the capitalization. Are there any new capitalization rules you should teach? Any you should review?

Point out the punctuation. Again, any new rules you should teach, or anything you should review?

Comprehension--does he understand the passage he's being asked to copy? What does it mean? Think about why it's a good passage to copy and point that out to him--it might be because it uses beautiful language or is meaningful, or because it relates to a story he read--does he remember that scene and what happened? Or it might be good to copy because he can learn some new mechanics from it, or because it's interesting.

If you are regularly finding more than a couple of new things to teach per passage, it's too hard. If a student makes more than 3-5 mistakes, it's too hard or too long. Shorten it until he can copy it easily, and then gradually work up to longer passages.

One important thing to note: Just because the words are in front of a student, doesn't mean he has the skills to be able to copy them well. He needs to understand what he's copying, or it may as well be in a foreign language, or be a list of phone numbers where we must copy figure by figure without understanding the meaning--and it's easy to make mistakes when copying things without meaning. This actually reinforces wrong strategies (things like guessing, thinking our language is arbitrary etc...) and could be detrimental instead of helpful. So, you want to make sure, however long or short the passage you choose, that he completely understands all aspects of it.

You may find that you need more than one day to work on this--you may need one or two days for pre-teaching the passage before you have him copy it. Count that as part of your total language arts time and keep things doable for him.

If you have a child who struggles greatly while doing copywork, check out #2 on 6 Writing Mistakes to see if this is a strategy you should avoid for awhile. Focus on spelling for awhile using direct, incremental methods such as AAS which uses dictation instead. It might seem like copywork should be the easier of the two, but it's really not easier in some cases.

Next time I’ll write about using copywork and dictation to teach literary elements.