Monday, October 4, 2010

Language Arts 2009-2010

I honestly believe that the grade 1 year is one of the most exciting years of a child's education. So much learning and growth happens during this year. We certainly found this to be the case with Mason last year. He started the year reading the basic early readers (3 and 4 letter words and some sight words) and ended the year reading at a confident grade 3/4 level. He loves reading now and delves easily into chapter books. As far as writing goes, he was a very reluctant writer 10 months ago. He was one of those kids who wouldn't compose anything unless he knew how to spell every single word. This took away from the creative process. Now, thanks to his spelling ability, he composes sentences, paragraphs and stories with ease. I would say that 60% of our learning last year focused on language arts. These are the resources we used:

How To Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
Mason finished with this program two summers ago and it certainly gave him the foundation he needed to really delve into reading. Mickey finished it in the spring and I feel that she has a good foundation as well. With Mickey we didn't do any of the rhyming work and we did it, on average, once a week. Some weeks we might have done two lessons and other weeks none at all. If you really wanted to move your child into reading quicker, I would suggest doing it every day. The first 50-70 lessons take approximately 10-15 minutes and the rest take approximately 30 minutes, depending on your reader. This program looks boring, and the stories are weird, but it definitely provided both kids with a thorough understanding of phonics. I would recommend it but you must be patient and give the process time.

Progressively Phonics
After Mason finished with the above book we did a number of the Progressively Phonics online books which we printed out. I like their approach. They work on one sound at a time and a small selection of sight words. As you move through the books, the kids progress, adding more sounds and more sight words. The words/sounds and sight words being learned are written in red. These are the words the child reads aloud. The other words are read by the parent/teacher. As I said, I like this process, but the stories are LONG. Once we reached a certain stage, Mason was able to take off with his reading and we moved on to whatever he felt comfortable reading. Often with chapter books, I would read a paragraph, then he would read one. Then we moved on to full pages. Now he is enjoying a good selection of junior level chapter books and fiction. The online progressively phonics books (online or printed) could easily be delivered by a caregiver.

Explode the Code

I love these phonics books and the kids seem to like them as well. The kids work through them at their own pace. Ideally they work best if the kids can read them, but it is possible for the child to work on them with the parent assisting. I think these books are largely responsible for Mason's reading ability today. When both kids started with them, they were barely reading. I would assist and gradually as their reading improved, they were able to work on them on their own. These books (online or printed) could easily be delivered by a caregiver.

First Language Lessons - Grade 1
I would love to hear what others think of this Susan Wise Bauer book. I completed Grade 1 with Mason and to be honest, Mickey learned a lot of it as well just from listening in. Her book focuses on grammar, parts of speech, copywork, memorization (poetry), reading comprehension and some punctuation. The lessons are nice and short which I love. They can generally be done in 10-20 minutes. We did a lot of the copywork but not much of the memorization. I would definitely add this next year. A number of lessons are repetitive for a reason. For example; you really hammer in the meaning and use of a pronoun. It works though. A few of the lessons I skipped or shortened. For the most part, I liked this program. I ended up introducing/teaching concepts that hadn't crossed my mind. This is why I think it's important to use a variety of resources (books, curriculum, internet, people, etc...). We can't think of everything! These books (online or printed) could easily be delivered by a caregiver.

Brain Quest

The Brain Quest books are what I call fluff. They aren't without their purpose but generally they're just filler. I shouldn't generalize because we've only tried the Kindergarten and Grade 1 books. Perhaps the ones for older students are more challenging. These books give a very basic overview of printing, word work, addition/subtraction, time, graphing, etc.. I like them because they are perfect for taking to someone else's house when I'm working. They give the kids extra practice on the basics without completely overwhelming them. Are they stimulating and challenging - no! Do the kids like them - yes!

Spelling Power and Spelling City
Each year, or sometimes twice a year I test their spelling level and plan their spelling goals based on their ability. We use Spelling Power which I quite like. I've actually started using this program in my school classroom as, it allows me to provide differentiated spelling instruction. To accompany this program Mason and Mickey both use Spelling City which is great for practicing their spelling words. This is another activity that could easily be done with a caregiver.

In addition to the above, here are a few other things that we are working on:

- family novel (currently Harry Potter): discuss main idea, plot, setting, characters and character development, inferencing, suspense, predictions
- reading for pleasure
- reading comprehension (short stories)
- parts of speech
- poetry
- letter writing
- calendar development and writing
- abbreviations
- story writing
- word usage

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure that there will be more as the year progresses. I'll post about our math program soon.

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