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Teaching Language Arts: Beginning to Understand

When it comes to language arts, there are as many teaching philosophies as there are curriculum options. It’s enough to make any parent’s head spin! Many of these philosophies and the accompanying curricula focus on one or two aspects of language arts training while considering other aspects to be of lesser importance. The key is to remember that being well-rounded and teaching to your student’s learning strengths is more important than following this philosophy or that.

Tips for the Beginning to Understand Stage

5th - 8th Grade

Various facts and bits of information often click into place in this stage. Even students who have struggled often have light-bulb moments as they flow from fourth grade into fifth. That’s why this stage is ideal for solidifying and helping your child begin to grasp the why behind language arts.

  • Continue to enjoy living books together. Although independent reading will be much more prominent in this stage, don’t stop reading aloud to your child. Choose a combination of books that allow you to laugh at times and discuss at other times. Use both independent reading and read-aloud times to build comprehension skills through questions, narration, and discussion.
  • Introduce vocabulary studies into the routine. You can choose to use resources that process through word lists or resources that introduce Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes for word-building skills.
  • In fifth and sixth grade, formal grammar should be the primary language arts focus as you help your child solidify a functional understanding of sentence structure, parts of speech, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, use of resources such as a dictionary and thesaurus, etc.
  • In the first half of this stage, continue to keep writing training a solid secondary focus. Increase the length of copywork and narration, and greatly reduce the number of times you are your child’s scribe during this stage. (Consider introducing typing or keyboarding instead.)
  • Point out grammar issues in writing assignments, but keep the grading of these projects focused on coherence and logical structure than grammar.
  • In seventh and eighth grade, begin to transition to a more blended approach to grammar and writing, especially if you were able to start grammar training in third or fourth grade. Allow sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, and formatting to make up about twenty percent of a writing assignment grade. Encourage longer assignments such as short essays or news reports.

An Extra Note on Grammar

Children gain great appreciation from reading and hearing great literature, just as they can learn art and music appreciation from immersion. But, in order to create art and music, they need lessons to teach the mechanics and details. The same is true of writing, and formal grammar training provides those mechanics.

Grammar training should only begin once a student is well established in the fundamentals of reading. For some, this will start in the Getting Excited stage, but others may need some extra time. Unless there are very extreme learning issues, grammar should be incorporated by fifth grade at the latest.

  • Continue phonics and reading mechanics training as long as necessary to reinforce good reading skills (the ability to read for comprehension and enjoyment, regardless the speed).
  • When you do start formal grammar training, begin with exercises that teach types of sentences and basic punctuation and capitalization rules, followed by an introduction to parts of speech and sentence structure.

With five kids in their teen and early adult years, Rebecca shares the many ups and downs of parenting, homeschooling, and keeping it all together. As the Well Planned Gal she mentors women towards the goal of discovering the uniqueness Christ has created in them and their family and how to best organize and plan for the journey they will travel.

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