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 Getting Excited Stage
Language learning in this stage continues to be very fluid due to the varied rates at which children learn. Some will be strong readers by the beginning of second grade while others will just be starting to “get it” as they come to the end of this stage. Don’t get stressed about reading skills, but instead allow your student and yourself flexibility.
- Give read-alouds and comprehension discussions/activities a high priority during this stage. Use quality living books to ensure that your children are being nourished with content as well as solid language mechanics.
- Continue to focus on phonics and foundational reading skills, especially at the beginning of this stage. If you have a strong reader already, you can choose to use phonics to strengthen spelling skills.
- Instead of simply presenting a word list and having your children memorize it for a spelling test, use multi-sensory activities to encourage solid spelling skills.
- Incorporate copywork and narration into the daily routine, choosing sections from favorite books to keep it engaging. If your child struggles with handwriting, start with very short sentences and gradually increase the length over the course of this stage. This can be combined with handwriting training, if desired.
- Build writing skills by continuing to help your child make up stories, tell about a fun experience, or give instructions in sequential order.
- Keep writing time separate from grammar training, focusing more on order and flow than mechanics and spelling. Don’t hesitate to continue to be your child’s scribe, if needed. Focus on coherence, sequencing, and making sure that all parts of a paragraph or story fit within the focused topic.
What About 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. This stage offers a great time to start investing in this training, but only if your child is well established in the fundamentals of reading.
- Formal grammar training can begin as early as third grade, but can be put off until middle school if necessary. Continue phonics and reading mechanics training as long as necessary to establish 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.