Our Grade 3 (UK Year 4) language arts programme is centred around Brave Writer’s The Arrow.
We love how The Arrow exposes us to new literature and inspires us to use language in new and exciting ways. I say “us” because part of the Brave Writer philosophy is that parents learn alongside their kids – I probably get as much out of The Arrow as Cordie does!
Our language arts goals are for Cordie (9):
- to enjoy using language to express herself
- to improve her written communication skills so as to enhance her self-expression
- to appreciate great literature, and
- to learn in a fun way how to spell accurately and use good grammar
This term we looked at the “hero’s journey” plot structure as we read the fantasy story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. We also enjoyed Frindle, a funny and thought-provoking story about a ten year old boy who makes up a word.
Copywork and Dictation
Each Arrow contains four passages from the month’s book to be used for copywork and dictation. These simple practices help teach punctuation, grammar and spelling and and introduce concepts like paragraph indentation and how to write dialogue.
In my heart I know that The Arrow probably provides all the grammar practice Cordie needs. But sometimes I get to wondering why, then, do schools and most homeschool curricula spend so long teaching the mechanics of grammar? My compromise was to look for a grammar book that Cordie would enjoy using independently.
Nelson Grammar is an old school book that was donated by emigrating friends. Cordie loves it. Each unit is nicely set out over a double page spread. Cordie’s using Pupil Book 4 which is apparently for Year 6 (Grade 5) students. You can preview the inside of each book at Google Books if you’re not sure which level would best suit your child.
Our shelves also contain a number of spelling books collected over the years. We selected CGP KS2 Spelling (Book 3) because Cordie can work through it independently and the wordlists were pitched at about the right level.
Each list of 23 words is designed to be read, copied, then covered and written again, and finally clues are given for each word so that the student can test herself.
In theory Cordie learns one wordlist a week; in practice she doesn’t do it that often. I don’t insist – I’m not convinced spelling programmes are the best way to learn to spell. But I like knowing that one is available to Cordie should the mood take her!
Language Arts Websites
There’s lots of practice available on subscription websites like Grid Club, Education City and Study Ladder, and free websites like BBC Bitesize. These sites make learning good English so much fun – incomparable with the mind-numbing reading comprehensions I endured at primary school!
Last term we celebrated poetry tea every Monday afternoon with local homeschooling friends. Sadly our friends have now moved to the other end of the country, but the poetry tea habit is firmly in place and we have several other friends keen to join us. We even held poetry tea with Daddy over the Christmas break!
I never set Cordie writing assignments other than those we work on together using The Arrow, but she writes spontaneously and often – comic strips, a diary, recipes, stories, songs, letters and poems and posters (usually aimed at her brother).
She also from time to time writes “mini essays” (her description) about aspects of her project work, like this one about electrons.
When we have time, Cordie creates history notebook pages. I like the way notebooking helps organise thoughts on a topic. It also develops planning and organisational skills which will be increasingly used later on.
Finally, Cordie is going to be having a few creative writing sessions with a home-educating mum friend who is also a homeschool tutor, an arrangement which came out of a casual conversation between us. Cordie loves the idea.
I think it will be a great opportunity for her to have the benefit of someone else’s perspective and will add some positive accountability to inspire her to write.
Of course, no language arts curriculum would be complete without a mention of reading. Luckily, this requires very little planning in Cordie’s case as she reads (or listens to) everything book can find. (I have to warn her off certain books in our shared Audible account. I’m not sure she’s quite ready for Stephen Fry’s autobiography!)
Recent family car-listens have been The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Gerald Durrell’s wonderful My Family and Other Animals (part of his Corfu trilogy). We’re just starting on the Narnia series which Jasper (7) hasn’t read – Cordie made me read them to her back-to-back a few years ago, but we’re both more than happy to re-experience C.S. Lewis’s magical fantasies.