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wow - talk to me about Michael Clay Thompson language arts!


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I sort of ignored it when my oldest was homeschooling, as it was NOT something he would have liked. Somehow that put it in the "not for us" column in my brain, even as I moved on to teaching very different kids. 

Well, since it is that time of year, I took another look, on a whim. My DD11 would LOVE the whimsy! Plus, it is SO visual - she's my artist and a visual learner for sure (also verbal comprehension...but dyslexia...so anyway...)

How do you use this? Start at Island with an 11 yr old who is struggling? Can you move through it more quickly if they are older? I'd like to get her to paragraph town, but don't want to skip over Island. 

The samples I saw, the student book and teacher book looked nearly identical - is that right? Is there any written work in the student book or is that all in the practice book? I couldn't  tell if the practice book was a required item or extra practice or??

And what about Poodle? I think my rising 3rd grade could benefit and would like it - this past year he did some minor grammar and it did not stick. We spent way too long arguing about what an adjective is, etc. It was too abstract, he wasn't ready. But next year, doing Poodle might be a nice, less pressure way to go at it. It doesn't look like there is a practice book for that level - is it all oral or?

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5 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I had a thread about this, although it's possible it was under my old username and has gone poof 😞 . Have you done any searches? 

searching now...

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Its been a couple years since I’ve been to a homeschool convention and talked to MCT, but I believe they have everyone start with Island. Yes the student and teacher books are very similar, but there is additional info on the teachers’ book. I am going to be away from the forums today, but I’ll try to get back and post some pictures for you.

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We use MCT here. It’s worked for both NT and dyslexic kids. Although many people like to follow/create a schedule, we just work by timer here.  So - IMO - yes it’s easy to go “fast” .... or go “slow”
 

I have no idea about Poodle as those are recent additions. We just start with Island as that is what is on our shelves. I think your DD could start on Paragraph Town without missing anything. There is ALOT of repetition between levels. 

There is a little bit of written work in the student book - but not enough to call it a consumable. We do those orally or I make a copy or do it on the whiteboard. Yes, the TM is super similar. In the early levels you could squeak by with just the TM and use post it notes to cover up some things. But as they get older I find it easier to each have their own book - mostly so no one is craning their neck to read the text.  Also the text gets more dense with information so it gets to be a lot more work to cover text with stickies. 
 

the practice book is ESSENTIAL. This is where the rubber meets the road and where a lot of the learning occurs. (Think of it as college lectures vs recitations, where the lecture provides the overview and the recitation is the practical application and out working of that information.). I treat the practice book as a consumable because (1) I want the tactile-ness of paper and pencil (2) it gives them a bit of ownership (3) they can see their progress through the book.  Some families just buy the TM of the practice book and then do it all together on a whiteboard during Morning Time. So it depends on why you want with the Practice books. 
 

note that I appreciate the Grammar portion most of the MCT program. I don’t use the Writing portion other than reading it to know what makes good writing. (It’s not explicit enough for my kids.). The poetry is good - but often gets neglected/dropped as other things compete for time and attention. The Vocabulary portion is also a strength of the program that I definitely make time for. 

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Also - I usually photocopy (in color) the back cover of Practice Island for the kiddo to use as a reference sheet as we go through the course. It’s been especially helpful with the dyslexic to see the visual of each stage of the analysis. I think that those 4 graphics are not given enough credit or attention in other people’s reviews of the program. 
 

also to note - they currently sell iBooks until the end of June. These were designed to be be “interactive” especially for the 4 level analyses. However they can be buggy since the support for these books has long ceased. As an alternative they are going to be releasing the books as Kindle ebooks in the future - but they won’t have the interactive features.   So if you want the interactive features - say for someone with dysgraphia - buy them now knowing that future support of the books will be non-existent (and hopefully they stay in the cloud and be downloadable). But if you don’t want to hassle with the unknown, then don’t buy electronic books now but wait for the Kindle version.

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57 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

How do you use this?

I'd get Grammar, Sentence, and Practice Island and just open Grammar Island and go.  At some point, add in one or two sentences from Practice Island each day.  We did everything together on the couch, and I did the writing in the practice book because that made things go more smoothly.  You don't need to do the writing assignments in Sentence Island, but there is some important instruction about grammar in that book.  Then move into the Town materials.

In addition to the whimsy, which unfortunately ends after the Town level, MCT's passion for language shines through.  It is truly inspiring.  

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This program was a game-changer for my older kid.  You can definitely move more quickly with older kids.  You might be able to do the island level in a semester with an older kid - it's shorter.  We discovered it when my (advanced) kid was in 5th and I think we did the first 2 levels in one year.  Level 3 (Voyage) was the longest for us - it's challenging.  Level 4 is shorter and a little quirky - I think it's a bridge between the earlier levels and the more advanced ones.  We found the writing in the first 3 levels to helpful, and the grammar and vocab are excellent.  The poetry is enjoyable.  

It's expensive, but we find it helpful to have both student an teacher books even though there isn't a ton more in the teacher book.  We do the practice sentence orally, so there are no consumables, which I like since I don't have to order extras of anything to use it with one kid and then pull it out a few years later for the next one.  

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2 hours ago, Clemsondana said:

We do the practice sentence orally, so there are no consumables

This made me chuckle because another reason I treat it as consumable is because I need to assign independent work so I can teach the other kids.   Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, yet I love to see how each family customizes these programs. 

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I totally agree with @domestic_engineer.  The grammar and practice books are terrific.  We read through the main textbook over however many days it took, then spent the rest of the school year analyzing 2 sentences per day.  The grammar is solid and they make it logical and easy to remember.  

I haven't seen anyone mention Caesar's English vocabulary.  Do not skip these books!  They are just lovely and as was mentioned up thread, it reveals MCT's love of literature.  The Word Within the Word sequels were a disappointment by comparison.  

We skipped the poetics books, which I have come to regret.  I now understand that an understanding of poetics can really enhance your prose writing.  I wish we had stuck with it, but we were also short on time.  

For me the essay writing textbook did not provide enough guidance and by that time I decided to outsource teaching writing because I was just making a mess of it.  I guess what I mean is if teaching writing isn't already your strength, MCT won't be much help.  

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On 5/22/2021 at 8:46 AM, domestic_engineer said:

As an alternative they are going to be releasing the books as Kindle ebooks

This makes me so happy! I’m missing Practice Town & didn’t want to have to place an order just for that, but prefer to have DS work in dry-erase rather than a digital format. 

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We absolutely adore MCT! We’ve completed Island & are now working through Town. The poetics books are my favorite; DS adores poetry, so he has soaked it right up. I love the grammar. The composition & vocabulary are solid. MCT absolutely has a passion for language that shines through the material; it’s wonderful!

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Posted (edited)

I found one of the threads  from back in 2011 where I discussed my problem with MCT's upper level books: 

In addition to that issue, he also incorporated way too many block quotes into a 3 page essay.  (IIRC....it has been a long time.....there could be as many as 4 block quotes in a single essay.)  Block quotes should be used in a limited manner.  The pt of essay writing is to teach a student to use quotes to support their position.  Too many block quotes means that the writer's voice is not the dominant voice but the quotes'.  It is not acceptable writing practice.

I have graduated a lot of kids since 2011.  My kids have all gone on to be A students in their writing courses (I'll brag for a minute and share that my recent college grad won 2 first place monetary awards for her sr thesis), and if I were writing the linked post today, it would not be one of questioning but stating factually that the examples would not have passed in our homeschool.  My kids would have been handed back his teaching essays and been told they had to rewrite them only using quotes to support their position not to be their position.

Whether or not the books have been updated to correct the mistakes, I do not know.  

Edited by 8filltheheart
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Ok, so maybe we just want the grammar part....for writing we are looking for more step by step for this kid. I'm actually thinking of doing a run through IEW Level A for her, to build confidence 

So may for language arts for her, start with Grammar Island, reading it together and working through it, and IEW Level A, plus her daily practice on Nessy reading and spelling (on the computer) to continue working on spelling and reinforcing phonics. She's also reading a page a day in Wise Owl Polysyllables, to cover a bit of vocabulary and boost her confidence reading longer words. 

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Question - could the grammar and writing books be read through and discussed as a supplement to other language arts? Sort of a cozy way to introduce or reinforce concepts?

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, ktgrok said:

Question - could the grammar and writing books be read through and discussed as a supplement to other language arts? Sort of a cozy way to introduce or reinforce concepts?

Yes, you could do that. 

The grammar portion of MCT is where the program really shines, at least through Island and Town level, (we haven't gotten past Town). I did not like the writing assignments in Island level. They seemed stuffy and dull, so we skipped almost all of the writing assignments and just read through the book.  DS12 is doing all the writing assignments in Town level and finds them more interesting than the Island writing assignments.  We also liked the poetry book a great deal. 

You don't need a full set of student and teacher books; just the teacher books will be fine. I don't worry about "grade level"; if Island level seems like the right combination of interest and challenge for your child, then that's the level where they should start. My kid likes goofy stuff, so the story in Island appealed to him, (and still appeals at nearly age 13). I could see some kids complaining that Island is "babyish" because of the story and not wanting to read the books. 

I think it's kind of like Beast Academy, in that the programs appeals to a certain type of kid (and parent). We aren't very structured or schedule-bound homeschoolers and do a lot of discovery and self-directed learning here. MCT clicked for us because kiddo could scoop up the books and read them independently, (and he often chose them for late-night reading under the covers, lol). I've seen some parents complain that there isn't a firm schedule for the program. We read the books one after the other, except for Practice. I think we started Practice somewhere around half-way through Sentence Island. If you need a firm "Read pages 1-12, then complete assignment #3" type of structure, you will probably be frustrated by MCT. 

Edited to add: Also, there are no tests of quizzes in the books, so if you want/need that sort of thing, you may not be happy with the program. 

Edited by MissLemon
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Would you start an 11 year old who has had prior grammar instruction in one of the higher levels? I’m considering MCT for DS (ADHD, dysgraphia) who just turned 11. He did FLL 1-3, then Growing With Grammar in 4-5th. I don’t love GWG at all, but chose it because I wanted him to have something with which he could work independently (we have been working a lot on EF skills).  But I’m so underwhelmed with GWG that I’m thinking of jumping ship. 
 

I was also considering JAG or AG at a slow pace. My ideal is to finish all grammar instruction by 8th grade. 

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We did all of Island and Town, and parts of Voyage. There is a lot of repetition between levels, so the only book from Island that an older student might need is Sentence Island. Every single thing in the grammar, vocabulary, and poetry books are covered again in Town. 

Unlike others, we really like the writing instruction in Town and Voyage. Thus far, it’s the only writing program that has really clicked for my daughter to develop academic writing.

The vocabulary books were great. That’s totally my kid’s thing.

The poetry was solid, though rather focused on dead white folks.  It was super repetitive between levels, so we did not do the Voyage book.

The grammar . . . Yes, it is thorough. It also gets really dry a couple levels in, and is extremely repetitive. 

Overall, we started out loving MCT. The whimsy was exactly what drew my daughter in. Unfortunately, all the whimsy is gone by Voyage level, and I doubt we continue past it.

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8 hours ago, WTM said:

Would you start an 11 year old who has had prior grammar instruction in one of the higher levels? I’m considering MCT for DS (ADHD, dysgraphia) who just turned 11. He did FLL 1-3, then Growing With Grammar in 4-5th. I don’t love GWG at all, but chose it because I wanted him to have something with which he could work independently (we have been working a lot on EF skills).  But I’m so underwhelmed with GWG that I’m thinking of jumping ship. 
 

I was also considering JAG or AG at a slow pace. My ideal is to finish all grammar instruction by 8th grade. 

I doubt he would learn any additional grammar with MCT.  The grammar is very basic.   I'd go with AG for more complexity.

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7 minutes ago, 8filltheheart said:

I doubt he would learn any additional grammar with MCT.  The grammar is very basic.   I'd go with AG for more complexity.

Thank you, @8filltheheart! Do you have a specific recommendation for AG at a slower pace over JAG? 

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  • 1 month later...

Sorry I know this is an old thread but just wondering if anyone has any comments on starting this with an older kid.  Grade 9 going in to grade 10?  We made it through writing with skill level 1 and it just about killed is.  We’ve done a couple of years of IEW.  I like IEW but it’s a bit too formulaic. I know a lot of people just diy for the high school years.  I’m not a bad writer but for us the combination of an argumentative kid who likes to reduce the overall workload and my inability to make realistic plans and stick to them means we tend to do better with curriculum.  We may head in to distance ed next year anyway so it might be that we only need something for six months.  I will also need something for DD12 who is also finishing up WWS1.  They combine well because she has more advanced analytical thinking skills for essay writing etc (grammar and spelling, not so much!). If it’s possible to combine them that would be a win.  
 

Im obviously not wanting to start with sentences or even paragraphs at this point.  I’m wondering if it’s possible to jump in to one of the higher level books without having completed the earlier ones and which level you would start with with a 14 and 12 year old (oldest is a more reluctant writer though his vocab is good thanks to lots of reading).

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