Language arts is critically important to our children’s academic and life success. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean teaching these skills has to take hours, be difficult, or even worse, be boring.
In my search for curriculum to teach my children to read and analyze good literature, build a strong vocabulary, spell accurately, use grammar properly, develop legible handwriting, write creatively, write to inform, and speak well, I found myself alternately delighted and depressed. Some things worked brilliantly–others, not so much.
After 17 years of teaching language arts to my own six children and eleven of my friends’ children, I’ve learned there’s a better way.
Language Arts Teaching Can Be Fast
My initial attempt at potty training my oldest son took a very. long. time. Once he was ready, it took no time at all. I didn’t have to remind him or clean up accidents at night. He had it.
Teaching grammar, in particular, can be like potty training. You can teach the abstract concepts year after year before a child’s reasoning has developed, or you can wait until teaching grammar takes no time at all. You can take your high school student through a course like English Grammar 101 and be done with that aspect of language arts in no time. Meanwhile, you can skip the dry grammar workbooks that could squelch your child’s desire to ever learn it.
My fourth son was potty trained very fast because he happened to think potty training was fun. Formal teaching doesn’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — take a lot of time. This list of children’s reading behaviors by grade levels makes it clear that elementary students cannot sustain attention for long periods. Kindergarteners’ attention span is just 10-15 minutes!
The best way to use those minutes of limited attention in younger students is to read. Students who read (or are read to) frequently will develop better vocabularies, spelling skills, and writing skills than students who don’t — even without workbooks.
Language Arts Teaching Can Be Easy
I hear from many homeschooling moms who aren’t confident in their ability to teach language arts. Some of these moms choose a curriculum that looks difficult so they feel confident their child will learn more than they did. Harder must be better, right? Wrong!
Many reluctant readers avoid reading because the books they’re given are just too hard for them. The way to motivate them is to give them books they can be successful reading. As homeschooling moms, we want to choose curriculum that makes language arts concepts simple for us to understand, too.
Language arts teaching can be easy for parents by focusing on reading. Ask your child questions about what was read. Look up new words together. Spell words in the car. Write things incorrectly and see if your child can guess what’s wrong. And did I mention the importance of reading? 🙂
Make language arts easy for your child by giving as much assistance as is needed. Read the directions for him. Allow your child to dictate spelling words or entire stories. Put off work that is too difficult in favor of learning what makes her feel successful.
Language Arts Teaching Can Be Fun
The best way to make language arts teaching fast and easy is to make it fun. Kids learn faster when they’re having a good time and it’s much easier to teach a happy child than a crabby one. This also works in reverse. Short, easy lessons are a lot more fun for kids than long, overly difficult ones. I’ve shared how to make grammar fun, but vocabulary, spelling, and writing can be fun, too.
I did my master’s research on humor and learned that surprise is a key component of what makes us laugh. Read books with a surprising and funny twist. (Kids prefer funny fiction, so give it to them!) Surprise the kids by playing games instead of doing seatwork. Let them surprise you with their funny writing.
Let your child lead you in making language arts enjoyable. Incorporate your child’s personality and preferences into your teaching. Does your child love to play video games? Have him read game hacks online. Does your student love movies? Read the book first and have a movie party to celebrate finishing it. Do you have competitive kids? Turn every aspect of language arts into a challenge.
Grammar Galaxy is Fast, Easy & Fun Language Arts for Beginning Readers
I wanted a curriculum that was all of these things and hadn’t found it, so I created one.
Grammar Galaxy is Fast.
Whether you’re homeschooling multiple children or your child attends a traditional school, you don’t have a lot of extra time. That’s why Grammar Galaxy is designed to take just ten minutes of teacher/parent time a day. Your beginning reader can use the extra time to read and write for the fun of it!
Grammar Galaxy is Easy.
If reading and writing aren’t your strengths, you’ll love Grammar Galaxy. Concepts are presented in an easy-to-understand story format. And there’s no prep work! Just read with your child and do the short activities that reinforce the learning.
Grammar Galaxy is Fun.
The evil Gremlin tries to destroy Grammar Galaxy and the guardians have to save it by completing missions. Grammar Galaxy includes humor and mystery, but it doesn’t include dry exercises. Young writers are asked to do very little handwriting. Instead, they enjoy learning by doing.
Learn More Shop
You can click the “Learn More” button to download a sample and check out reviews or “Shop” to take advantage of introductory pricing that ends after April 17th.
I explain the story behind Grammar Galaxy and how to use it in the video.
Groans. That’s how grammar lessons taught in the traditional way are usually greeted. And we can’t blame our kids for dreading grammar. It can be dry and tedious.
Skipping it isn’t a good option, however. Grammar is important because it comprises a significant part of college entrance exams. It also determines how our kids will be viewed by peers and potential employers.
Fortunately, there’s another way. Grammar can be fun! When it is, it helps make grammar lessons stick. Here are six easy steps for engaging grammar teaching.
#1 Make it Humorous
Students perceive they are learning more from instructors who are humorous. If you don’t think you’re particularly funny, don’t worry. There are great ways of introducing humor into your grammar teaching that don’t require stand-up skills.
My favorite way is to search for grammar fails online. Of course, you’ll want to review your finds before sharing them with your kids.
Be on the lookout for other humorous grammar examples. I just read from an instruction manual that was obviously not written by a native English speaker. It read: “Dont’s use the power button.”
#2 Make it Relevant
A research study found that depressed patients, who normally didn’t find anything funny, enjoyed psychiatric humor. Our kids will not only laugh at jokes they can relate to, but will enjoy grammar lessons that are about them. Instead of working with textbook sentences, have your students make up their own. They’re likely to be funny and a lot more enjoyable to analyze or edit.
#3 Make it Active
Grammar lessons don’t have to be limited to pencil and paper. They can involve movement and should, especially if you’re teaching younger boys. Grammar can be more fun if kids can move around while giving their answers orally.
Give your students motions to use for punctuation, for example. Have them jump up and down when you read a sentence that should end in an exclamation point. Or send them on an adjective scavenger hunt.
#4 Make it Social
Grammar can be a lot more fun to learn with other students or family members. You can have your child play one of the many free grammar games I’ve listed with you or a sibling. Or you can let them entertain one other by making grammar humorous and relevant. My kids and their friends had fun with dry sentences by reading them with funny accents.
#5 Make it Short
Anything stops being fun when it goes on too long. Long lessons also make it less likely that your child will remember what’s being taught. Even though grammar is important, it isn’t as important as reading for pleasure.
#6 Make it Suspenseful
Even though I liked English when I was in school, I didn’t look forward to learning new concepts.
Suspense is what makes us eagerly await the next chapter of a book or the next episode of a favorite show. We can build the fun of anticipation into our grammar teaching by having students edit a continuing story line by line or by teaching grammar within the context of a continuing story.
Grammar Galaxy: The Easiest Way to Make Grammar Fun for Beginning Readers
Speaking of suspense, I’ve been working on a complete language arts curriculum for two years. I’ve been telling my readers and podcast listeners about it all this time and I can finally announce that the first two levels are done!
Grammar Galaxy teaches grammar in a humorous, relevant, active, social, short, and suspenseful way. It uses the same approach for teaching literature concepts, vocabulary, spelling, composition, and even public speaking to students who have just started to read. Grammar Galaxy is most appropriate for advanced first graders, second graders, and older beginning or reluctant readers through the sixth grade. It’s perfect for teaching siblings, as Gena Mayo of IChooseJoy.org shares in her thorough review.
When my friend, who has two dyslexic sons I have been teaching literature and writing to for years, saw the cover of Grammar Galaxy, she said,
“This just looks like fun!”
That was my goal. Teachers read a short, humorous story about the royal English family living in Grammar Galaxy to their students. The English family has an enemy called the Gremlin, who tries to destroy the English language. In one story, the Gremlin labels all the fiction books in the library system as nonfiction, bringing them to life. The king appoints his three children Guardians of Grammar Galaxy, but there is more work than they can do alone. They recruit other students in the galaxy to complete missions to make things right and let them know if they solved the crisis.
Students spend just 10-15 minutes three days a week completing fun, active missions in their Mission Manuals that require little handwriting. They spend the rest of their language arts time reading, being read to, or listening to audiobooks.
To learn more, click here or on the rocket below. See you in Grammar Galaxy!
Handwriting was one of those things I thought would just happen. I didn’t expect to have to actually teach it. I even wondered if it mattered. You know–everything’s done on a keyboard these days. But I’ve discovered that it does matter.
When your child is slow and insecure about handwriting, he will likely be slow in completing homework, too. Unless things change, the writing portion of college entrance exams will still have to be handwritten. And believe me, your child will be taking these in no time if my experience is any guide.
The Mastery Approach
At a certain point, I realized that my son’s handwriting wasn’t developing with standard workbook practice. I couldn’t read it and my mom wondered why he wasn’t writing in cursive yet. I switched to a popular handwriting curriculum that prevents upset kids. The idea is that there’s a skill set required for handwriting and with some simple guidance, kids can master it.
My son’s handwriting improved and I started using the new teacher-directed approach with all my kids. But I still wasn’t satisfied. I had to purchase new workbooks every year and their progress seemed designed to have a slow, public school pace. I started wondering if there was a curriculum that used the same idea (that letters had parts that could be consistently created), but taught the mastery of handwriting in one book? I found it!
Happy Handwriting and Cheerful Cursive are lesser known gems in the treasure of handwriting curriculum. Not only do these comb-bound volumes cover all the handwriting skills your child needs to be taught, but they can be photocopied to use with your entire family. I prefer to buy a copy for each child because they’re economically priced.
Happy Handwriting Sample Page
Cheerful Cursive Sample Page
Cheerful Cursive Sample Page
Kids Love It
Not only am I happy having to purchase just one book each for manuscript and cursive handwriting, but my kids love doing handwriting. Here’s why:
+Lots of opportunity for the youngest writers to trace and then fill in the letters
+Cute letter characters are engaging
+Constant review of the alphabet helps young students put writing skills to the test
+Includes phonics activities with manuscript practice
+Teaches recognition of letters written in many different styles
+Includes real world handwriting exercises like envelope addressing
How to Have Happy Handwriting
I purchased my curriculum, so this review is completely unbiased. You can purchase it, too, by checking out the handwriting page at Mastery Publications and then printing and mailing the order form. But I’m thrilled that the nice folks at Mastery Publications have generously offered a copy of both books for me to give away to one blessed reader (valued at over $35 with shipping). I’m praying that just the right homeschooler will win. Please enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below and share it with your friends.
What most appeals to you about this handwriting curriculum?
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