If your student is struggling, the solution may be in finding the right story to tell.
The Power of Story
Storytelling is the first and most powerful way of teaching. The ancient Greeks taught with stories. Jesus taught with stories. Marketers today teach with stories.
Stories arrest our attention when a speaker finally looks up from the script and gets personal. Stories inspire change in people and even whole cultures. Stories are memorable.
Some of the world’s greatest leaders were inspired by the biographical stories of men and women who went before them. Abraham Lincoln read George Washington’s biography. Uncle Tom’s Cabin inspired abolition of slavery. Stories have changed my life.
Years ago, a seminarian told our Bible class the story of a woman he met in South America. She lived in a tin shack near a garbage dump. The shack was filthy and crowded and was in proximity to a river of human waste. The woman had recently come to faith in Christ. But she was also dying. She had excruciating pain in the last stages of pancreatic cancer. The seminarian and his team asked what they could do for her. “Nothing,” she said, “I have Christ. What more do I need?” I was not able to retell this story without weeping for a long time. I have never forgotten it and her faith has never ceased to inspire me in my darkest moments.
My personal stories of wasting my education to homeschool and sending my homeschooled child to public school are two of the most popular posts on this blog. Stories resonate. They also teach.
I read stories from Mathematicians are People Too to inspire my children to learn math. I then successfully used Times Tales stories to teach my children their multiplication facts. Stories are much easier to remember than plain numbers. When I discovered Life of Fred curriculum, I utilized the power of story to teach my children more advanced mathematics.
I used the power of story to teach my children history. Homeschool history curriculum is often written in story format. But I extended the use of story to teach history with historical novels and biographies.
I even used the stories behind musicians and artwork to teach fine arts.
The Power of Story to Teach Language Arts
But one day a few years ago I realized something shocking. I wasn’t using the power of story to teach my children language arts. I certainly read to them. But literature terms, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and composition were divorced from story in our homeschool. We learned parts of speech by dissecting meaningless sentences. Even the rhymes and songs I used to aid memorization told no story. How had that happened? I didn’t know, but I knew the results of it.
When I pulled out our English materials, the children groaned, complained, and begged to skip the subject for the day. English was their least favorite subject. As an avid reader and writer who enjoys every aspect of language arts, this broke my heart. That’s when I had a crazy idea. What if I created my own language arts curriculum using story to teach the concepts? I share the story of not feeling qualified to write curriculum here.
I wanted a curriculum that would harness the power of emotion and not just repetition to aid retention. I noticed that the majority of the same grammar concepts are taught from first grade through twelfth grade! No wonder kids hated it. I wanted to tell funny stories that sometimes used language arts terms as characters. Kids couldn’t forget what a prefix was when Prefix was an evil programmer who introduced the re- virus into the computer system.
I wanted a curriculum that gave kids a powerful why. Textbooks merely defined terms and rules. I wanted to use story to show the results of not having books labeled fiction, of not having pronouns, and of not having adequate handwriting speed.
I wanted a curriculum that used story to make kids feel like participants in something bigger than themselves. I wanted them to see that the kids in the story struggled with reading and writing, too. I wanted them to see that by reading and completing short missions, they could defeat the Gremlin and save the English language.
This is what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t know the end of the story when I started writing Grammar Galaxy. I had no idea how it would be received.
Then I heard the story of a boy who was very unhappy learning language arts prior to receiving Grammar Galaxy. “He’s never hugged curriculum before,” his mom said.
Another mom wrote, “I really can’t say enough or put into adequate words just how much Grammar Galaxy has changed our entire homeschool experience. Other subjects like History, Science, Health, etc. have become so much easier to teach now that their reading ability and comprehension have improved. They actually ask to dress in their vests [that I made them] the minute they see the mission manuals come out and wish they could work in them every day.”
A mom wrote to tell me she had misplaced the storybook and had to buy another because her eldest was begging to do more missions. She said, “Thank you for your help and your program. You’ve made a subject that I hated as a kid into a weekly lesson through which we ALL giggle.”
Finally, a mother told me they started Mission 8 of Volume 1. “Let me tell you, it’s been fun, but my son lost his mind on this lesson! I have NEVER seen him laugh so hard during any lesson, for any subject since we started homeschooling. When the queen told Ellen, “I hate you” with tears in her eyes, he fell off his chair. He actually begged me to read the story to him again! I laughed equally hard at your instructions to try mixing up synonyms and antonyms at dinner (but to let your parents know what you are doing). Our 5-year-old was so offended when he told me dinner was just terrible! LOL You really did it. You truly made grammar fun. I didn’t think it was possible but you obviously deserve some kind of medal! THANK YOU!”
The second volume of Grammar Galaxy, Protostar, is now available and on sale. It is specifically written for third graders or students who have completed Nebula level or its equivalent. I would love to hear your child’s story of success in using it.
Let’s face it. Teaching grammar, vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, and composition can take a LOT. OF. TIME.
Even if you love teaching language arts like I do, you don’t have hours and hours to devote to it.
Then there’s the problem of motivating kids. Sure there are a few kids who just can’t wait to get their hands on language arts workbooks, but most kids would rather do chores! Hm. There’s a chore motivator I haven’t tried.
A Quick, Fun Way to Teach Language Arts
Like most of you, I wanted a quick, fun way to teach my kids who range in age. This year mine are in 3rd to 9th grade. I’m happy to report that I found a way!
In less then ten minutes a day, I have seen my children’s language arts skills improve significantly. They remember what they’ve learned, look forward to the lesson, and the curriculum cost me less than $15. Interested? Read on!
I found the book Caught Ya!: Grammar with a Giggle by Jane Bell Kiester on Amazon when I was researching language arts curricula. I was immediately excited about the concept.
Students are told an engaging story typically with one sentence a day. I write the sentence on a white board that they can all see.
I define the new vocabulary word in the sentence and assure them that it is spelled correctly. The students must then write the sentence correctly in their notebooks while I walk around checking their work. If they have made a mistake, I say, “Caught ya!” My kids are very invested in not getting caught as they are writing the sentences with their siblings. When everyone is finished, I ask them to tell me what is wrong with the sentence and we review any spelling errors or grammar rules. Here are some of the benefits of this approach we’ve experienced.
- It’s an easy way to correct handwriting problems on the spot. I often make my kids erase improperly formed letters or words that are too close together. And no, I am not being too picky! I only make them correct significant problems.
- Handwriting speed increases. The youngers try to keep up with the olders so they can be done. Handwriting speed is very important to a young student’s confidence.
- Grammar skills are practically applied. Students who can get every workbook problem correct often can’t translate those skills into editing and writing. Learning where to start a new paragraph is a skill Caught Ya teaches that is rarely learned in workbooks.
- The story line and competitive aspect helps students who are less interested in grammar pay attention to it. This has been especially true for my sons. Sometimes they can’t wait to find out who is right about a particular error.
- Caught Ya combines the benefits of copywork and editing into one short practice that is more effective than longer workbook lessons.
Are you ready to buy? Wait just a minute.
There are some potential drawbacks to this approach.
- The book is written for classroom teachers. A lot of time is spent explaining how to use this approach with a large group of students in and out of class and that doesn’t apply to homeschoolers. I did recommend it to my teacher neighbor, however!
- The book assumes you know language arts. The corrected sentences are given to you, but if you don’t know all the rules for why sentences are punctuated in a certain way, for example, you will need to look it up. The fastest way is to use an online query or to turn to an English handbook. You can do this while your kids are writing so you still seem to know what you’re doing. 🙂
- The included stories are really long. You are encouraged to write your own stories for your students. I would love to do that, but I just don’t have time. I use the included stories that are designed for a 5-day a week classroom. They move too slowly to complete on our homeschool schedule. I am choosing to just continue the stories into the next school year, but I would also considering editing the stories to shorten them. There are many different Caught Ya books with different stories for different grade levels I would like to try. One of them may be right for you.
Just 10 Minutes? That’s Not Enough!
I agree. Children need lots of time to read and be read to and plenty of time to write as well. What children do not need, in my opinion, is lots of time spent doing boring English drills that kill their interest in the language arts. Caught Ya is a great replacement for language arts workbooks or could be a great supplement for more enriching language arts teaching.
If you like the principles behind Caught Ya, I think you’ll love my upcoming elementary language arts curriculum. Be sure to subscribe to Psychowith6 so you’ll be the first to be notified. If you’d like more ideas for making language arts fun, check out my lists of grammar websites and games and follow me on Pinterest.
This week I’m very thankful for the Internet. Through it, God enables us to enjoy the immense talents He has given to so many homeschoolers! I’m thankful, too, for the homeschool bloggers who share their creativity with us. If you’re featured this week, please grab the “Featured” button in the right footer. If you’re a blogger, I’d love for you to link up. If you’re a Pinterest person, please pin the great ideas from the What’s Hot in Homeschooling board. If you just want great articles and resources, read on!
5 Important Reasons to Educate Your Daughters
Whether daughters that we hope will be homeschooling moms should be educated beyond high school is a hot topic these days. This article from Intoxicated on Life is great encouragement to provide continuing education.
How Do I Stand Being with My Children
It’s a question I’ve been asked many, many times. Karen of Simply Living for Him does a great job of answering it.
Of course, we don’t want to just “stand being with” our kids. We want to really enjoy them. A Humble Vessel shares how we can do just that!
Homeschool Language Arts for Free
If I could only choose one subject area to teach my children well, it would be language arts. When our kids can read well, they can learn God’s Word and even math well. Only Passionate Curiosity has assembled a great list of free curriculum for teaching these critical skills to 1st through 6th graders.
Teaching Strong Sentence Writing
Speaking of language arts, teaching kids how to write good sentences can be a challenge. The Chaos and the Clutter offers us a simple and fun method for making writing click. Can’t wait to try it with my kids!
All About My Homeschooling Family Printables
So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler points out that many worksheets that ask students to write about their families aren’t appropriate for homeschoolers. So contributor Jill made some and they’re free!
Now it’s your turn. What’s hot in your homeschool this week? Please grab my button from the blog’s right footer or link to this post. Please visit the blog linked before yours and thank them for the hot ideas!