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Language arts help for grades 2+?


Carolina Wren
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All right, some background first. I used to teach (and tutor) English for grades six and up. However, I have practically no experience at the elementary level. I'm trying to put together a rough plan from here to high school--not just for writing, but all the language arts.

 

My DS loves stories and puns--we make up silly stories together all the time. He currently reads comfortably at a first- to maybe early second-grade level (using LOE Foundations C and the Amish Pathways readers), and he's comfortable discussing what he reads and what I read to him. He has a decent vocabulary, but often has to ask about a word on a few different occasions before it sinks in. His spoken grammar is fine--recently emerged from the Junie B. Jones stage, thank goodness.

 

But he hates picking up a pencil, even sighing when asked to copy a three-word sentence. He's trudging through the HWOT yellow book. Every activity from Jot It Down we've tried has been a flop, except the numbers one, even if I am scribing, so I'm reluctant to buy Partnership Writing. I do have The Writer's Jungle and plan to reread it this winter.

 

 

I'm looking at where to go from here. I definitely plan to buy Treasured Conversations (recognizing that it will probably take two to three years for him to complete) and I already have LOE Essentials for next year. (I also own a number of other resources he won't be ready to use for quite some time.) I don't know that WWE is any better than what I'd do just making things up, but I'd like to use WWS eventually.

 

Those who have BTDT, would you be willing to pop over to my spreadsheet and come back and give me some advice/critique? A lot of the books I have in there are based on what I've read in writing threads here, but most I've never seen in person. It's too soon to tell how he'll do with spelling, so I'm simply guessing. (I was a natural speller, but then I was also an earlier reader.)

 

Obviously plans are not going to be set in stone--they're not even set in real ink, only pixels--but I'd like to make sure to go in an order that makes sense and to have a realistic pace in mind. I'm not at all attached to sticking to one program/series--IME they tend to be awfully repetitive.

 

Your thoughts?

 

Thanks in advance.

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It seems ambitious to me. But I'm not big on planning so far ahead. I'm good if I can see a month or two into the future, and even then my glass ball is often pretty off. 

I know that I pushed a little too hard in the early grades with my guys when it came to spelling and grammar. Spelling turned out to be something that I shouldn't have worried about at all, and grammar is just now beginning to make sense for them. I could have skipped a lot of it. They've probably picked up more grammar from writing and from Latin than from any grammar program we've used. 

Probably the thing I did right was to build up writing stamina in those early years. We traced and traced and traced and copied and copied and copied. They liked to use colored pencils, and I would often display good work. I encouraged them to copy passages from books that they liked to read or look at. Because it was their choice and on subject material of interest to them they tended to pay better attention to spelling and punctuation. 

I spent a lot of time with the whiteboard teaching how to outline a passage, how to pick out the important things and how to get them down on paper. I asked them to read their work to me. Today I listen to any story they bring me and we talk about the ideas or things they can do to improve their expression of that idea. We discuss things like character in writing, or how the author used particular words to describe something, we discuss how stories have their own outlines (plot study currently). And that sort of evolved from what I used to do when I would draw story webs, and talk about why a character did this or that. 

What I would have done differently are things I am doing this year: having the boys pick words from stories that they want to learn (spelling, meaning and use) and really working on making the study of language connected deeply to their own personal writing. I think that has been the biggest change this year and it isn't really related to curriculum at all. 

 

I don't know if this is the kind of feedback you are looking for, so disregard if it isn't. 

 

 

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I don't think he sounds ready for Partnership Writing anyway, does he?  He'd still be in a Jot it Down stage.

You make up silly stories together all the time--are you writing them down?  I think the point of Jot it Down is not to do exactly her exercises, but to teach your children that their "voice" has worth, and can be written down, and that written words are a way to have a voice.  And you can do that *better* with the silly stories he happily makes up than with exercises from a book that aren't appealing to him.

 

Maybe have him use *his own* stories as copywork sometimes.  Not all the time, perhaps, because it's nice to get some really great sentences from classic literature in there as samples.  But some of the time, definitely!

 

Your spreadsheet looks...very planned.   :lol:   Sorry, I mostly only do "what are we doing next?"  So I have no idea what most of those are or whether they're level appropriate or not, and *definitely* no idea whether they'll be appropriate for him at the age he gets there.  I really would suggest a bit more of a "do the next thing" attitude.    Rather than worrying about grade 7 and grade 8, what does he need now?  He needs you to jot his stories down.  He needs to either practice a bunch of writing, or possibly to back off it completely and wait for a developmental leap instead.  What do your instincts say about that?  And for that matter, how are his physical skills in other areas?  Does he have good balance?  Is he physically competent?  Or is he struggling with other physical skills too?

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I was impressed by your spreadsheet.  I went with an all-in-one programme as soon as I found a good one (Galore Park) where all the elements were directly related to each other.  I did also use a more focused how-to-put-a-story-together programme with Calvin, when he was resisting writing, as well as doing a lot of free writing (more details if you would like) in order to break through the writing barrier.

 

Calvin also had problems with the physical act of writing.  We worked a lot on handwriting and also on hand strength and trunk strength (Play-doh, Lego, playing the recorder, swimming, TKD, playing on climbing frames).  We slowly increased the writing - first he just wrote the title, then the title and the plan, then the title, plan and first paragraph....  Everything else, I scribed.  It was painfully slow but we got there.  Making sure that he learned to type early and fluently took some of the pressure off too.

 

When your son is writing, is his pencil grip flexible or very rigid?  And does he support his body by leaning on his arms, or is he able to support the trunk with his stomach/back muscles?

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Thanks! Yes, these are the kind of insights I am looking for, and if you have specific feedback on which choices may look too ambitious and ought to be moved, that's helpful as well.

 

DS is doing very well physically other than with handwriting--loves to run and climb, takes swimming and piano, does mazes and uses scissors well, etc. He's left-handed, and DH and I (both right-handed) struggled with handwriting, so I'm not shocked that he's still having to work hard at printing letters and words.

 

I think more scribing of our stories is in order. Thanks for the suggestion. Anything else I should be thinking about?

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I like your list of reading that you've been doing down below. That should be very good for building his vocabulary. 

One thing I did this year that has just been so awesome for the boys is to type in their stories for them (not typing yet, but they are itching to learn so that is in the works for the coming year!) and then to make sure they get copies, and they design the cover for the book. I then make a copy of that cover for them and it goes up on the wall above the breakfast area over where they sit. It's their own accomplishment wall. It used to hold pictures that they drew, or special handwriting, now it is a record of their writing. 

Both of them recently had the opportunity to take their stories and read them to a friend of the family, and this lovely woman listened to both stories, and wrote hand written cards thanking them for the reading and for their signed copies of their manuscripts. They guard those little tokens of appreciation like dragons sitting on a hoard. And they love to read their stories, so since your son likes to make up stories, having him read some of them aloud after they are typed up like a book might go a long way to linking the creative process of the mind to the actual writing. He certainly could do copywork from it, and dictation when he's up to it if you like.

 

As for which choices looked most ambitious, I would say that he might or might not be ready for the formal writing program in second grade. I tried to start Aesop CW in third grade, and that was just too much. It worked much better for me (with tweaking) in fourth grade. 

Honestly, I could have started formal grammar this year and we wouldn't have been behind. They retained nothing from formal lessons, but did retain quite a bit from Latin grammar. Not as much as I'd like, but it has taken Latin to teach them the types of adjectives. They have learned more punctuation from messing up in their own writing, then seeing the corrected version when I type it. My son happily informed me that he was using quotation marks in his writing. He just wanted me to know that he was aware of it, and making sure he was handling the conversation in writing with a great deal of attention. We knew about the things in third grade and all last year, but he never thought to pay attention to them until it was his characters doing the talking. 

 

I think the single biggest thing one can do for a child when it comes to writing is to plant the seed and nurture the love of seeing the creative process come to fruition. It makes it worth the effort to learn. It's just not enough to keep hoeing ground, teaching soil cultivation and then never planting anything. Kids want to see the plant come up, they want to watch it grow and they want to see the fruit ripen and come to something. It isn't that the mechanics of writing are not valuable. It's just that they are not always fun, and they are always work. To have seen what one is working for just seems to make it less...stingful. That's sort of my own personal opinion though. I can't base that in anything other than what I'm seeing this year and what makes sense to me. :laugh:

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Left-handed writing can be more difficult.  I've got a left-hander in 1st grade.  He still has to work on stamina to keep his pencil moving for longer periods of time.  His hand gets tired, and he pushes w/ his opposite hand after a while.  I am assuming you are letting him form letters the 'left-handed way' by pulling back to cross Ts, ect., instead of pushing forward?   HWT is a good program, but you should probably do some simple copywork, too.  We are also in LOE C, and I don't think it has near enough handwriting in it.  We also work on letter formation, and copy spelling words, and do copywork.  We do a little creative writing, but my boys don't seem interested in it right now.  I'm going to focus in the reading/spelling right now, and work into writing next year, in 2nd grade.  I'm not sure what I will use, but am considering WWE1 and WriteShop for 2nd grade.  

 

I do have some ideas planned for the future, but I really don't think you can plan much more than a semester ahead.  You can have a rough idea, but some kids grasp certain parts of LA, but struggle with others.  You won't know what type of program you will need until he's there, KWIM? 

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All right, some background first. I used to teach (and tutor) English for grades six and up. However, I have practically no experience at the elementary level. I'm trying to put together a rough plan from here to high school--not just for writing, but all the language arts.

 

My DS loves stories and puns--we make up silly stories together all the time. He currently reads comfortably at a first- to maybe early second-grade level (using LOE Foundations C and the Amish Pathways readers), and he's comfortable discussing what he reads and what I read to him. He has a decent vocabulary, but often has to ask about a word on a few different occasions before it sinks in. His spoken grammar is fine--recently emerged from the Junie B. Jones stage, thank goodness.

 

But he hates picking up a pencil, even sighing when asked to copy a three-word sentence. He's trudging through the HWOT yellow book. Every activity from Jot It Down we've tried has been a flop, except the numbers one, even if I am scribing, so I'm reluctant to buy Partnership Writing. I do have The Writer's Jungle and plan to reread it this winter.

 

 

I'm looking at where to go from here. I definitely plan to buy Treasured Conversations (recognizing that it will probably take two to three years for him to complete) and I already have LOE Essentials for next year. (I also own a number of other resources he won't be ready to use for quite some time.) I don't know that WWE is any better than what I'd do just making things up, but I'd like to use WWS eventually.

 

Those who have BTDT, would you be willing to pop over to my spreadsheet and come back and give me some advice/critique? A lot of the books I have in there are based on what I've read in writing threads here, but most I've never seen in person. It's too soon to tell how he'll do with spelling, so I'm simply guessing. (I was a natural speller, but then I was also an earlier reader.)

 

Obviously plans are not going to be set in stone--they're not even set in real ink, only pixels--but I'd like to make sure to go in an order that makes sense and to have a realistic pace in mind. I'm not at all attached to sticking to one program/series--IME they tend to be awfully repetitive.

 

Your thoughts?

 

Thanks in advance.

I'll only speak to your immediate plans, sorry, I don't have experience with olders and I only plan 1 or two yrs ahead at a time :)

 

Is he doing LOE C in full? By this I mean, is he copying all the spelling words, doing the dictation and copywork excersizes? I ask because you mentioned him being a hesitant writer. If not, I put my struggling writer through LOE C twice, once learning the phonograms to read (aka he had to know oy when seen) and doing copywork, and then again learning the phonograms to write (when I said oy he had to be able to write oy/oi), and doing the dictation work.

 

It was well worth the extra time spent and I think he will now be ready to begin Essentials in the spring in a way he wouldn't have been before. Writing and marking 15 words at a time would have been difficult for him even a few months ago.

 

As for the rest....it seems like a LOT.

 

I would stick with the grammar instruction within LOE, instead of adding more programs. That is the point of an (expensive) all in one program.

 

I would save Treasured Conversations for 3rd, it scales fairly quickly in complexity.

 

So..

 

2nd- LOE Essentials for spelling/grammar. Add in journaling and/or copywork for writing.

 

3rd- Treasured Conversations for grammar/writing. OR CAP fables, TC, CAP narrative, if you want to go the CAP route. Add a spelling list of words commonly misspelled in his own writing to Mmark and study.

 

Save the LOE advanced list for 4th.

 

That's what I would do atleast.

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I don't like the handwriting in LOE, which is why I've been using HWOT (and will use something else for cursive) and a little homemade copywork.

 

I think I am going to buy TC and then see where it fits around/after Essentials.

 

We have done fables to death starting in preschool, so if I use CAP, it will be starting with narrative.

 

Thanks for the input! More is welcome, if anyone else wants to chime in.

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