Grammar-land: A Living Book about the Parts of Speech

We use living books in our homeschool for most subjects:  history, science, music, art, and even maths.  Books which are passionately written,  bring their subjects to life, and are as enjoyable to read – for both adults and children – as they are educational.  But a living book to teach the names and functions of the parts of speech? Surely not!

Enter Grammar-land – 135 years old and brimming with more life than any twenty-first century workbook ever did!

Where is Grammar-land?

The story takes place in – you guessed it – Grammar-land, “a place every bit as real as Fairy-land, and much more important”.  Grammar-land is ruled over by stern, old Judge Grammar, who is “far mightier than any Fairy Queen, for he rules over real kings and queens down here in Matter-of-fact-land”.

The Parts-of-Speech

We are told that just as William the Conqueror divided England among his nobles, when Judge Grammar took possession of Grammar-land he gave all the words to his nine followers.  He called these nine followers the Parts-of-speech, “and to one or other of them every word in Grammar-land was given.”

Included among the Parts-of-Speech there is “rich Mr. Noun, and his useful friend Pronoun; little ragged Article, and talkative Adjective; busy Dr. Verb, and Adverb; perky Preposition, convenient Conjunction, and that tiresome Interjection, the oddest of them all.”

The Premise

As some of the Parts-of-Speech are richer (have more words than) the others, they are given to quarrelling, and one day they make so much noise that they wake Judge Grammar from a very comfortable nap.

Angrily, Judge Grammar summons his learned counsellors, Dr. Syntax and Serjeant Parsing, and demands an explanation for the noise.  The counsellors explain to Judge Grammar that some of the Parts-of-Speech are greedy, and have stolen their neighbours’ words:

“Some of them have got hold of new words, which the others say they had no right to make, and some of them are even inclined to think that Dr. Syntax is old-fashioned, and need not be obeyed.”

To prevent the laws of Grammar-land going to wreck and ruin, Judge Grammar summons every Part-of-Speech before his court, intending to settle any disagreements once for all.  The judge also invites “our friends in Schoolroom-shire … to keep an account of what we do”, since “if we wish to have peace among the Parts-of-Speech it is most important that the people of Matter-of-fact-land should know how to use them well.”

Sneaky Practice

In subsequent chapters, Judge Grammar cross-examines each Part-of-Speech in turn to find out which words properly belong to it, and how those words may be identified.

To help the children of Schoolroom-shire in their role of keeping account, Judge Grammar sets a short practice exercise at the end of each chapter.  Jessica Cain  has generously shared beautifully formatted versions of the exercises here.

How We’re Using Grammar-land

Listening to one chapter of Grammar-land per week has been a fun part of our Grade 2 English curriculum this term.  I’m not a fan of repetitive grammar drills or rote-learning of lists of prepositions and the like, so the rest of our grammar curriculum consists of good quality literature, daily copywork and games like Mad Libs.

C (8) is going to start learning Latin soon (we’re both loving the look of Visual Latin) and what she’s learning from Grammar-land is a great foundation for beginning to understand concepts like adjective agreement and verb declension.

Grammar-land for Free

You can find the complete text of Grammar-land free online,  here, for example, and there is also a beautifully narrated free audio version.  I came across Grammar-Land among various other gems I bought as part of a bargain package from Yesterday’s Classics.  It’s also available from Amazon.

Now, to find a living book on punctuation.  Suggestions welcome!

More Language Arts Posts

Grade 2 Language Arts: Brave Writer’s The Arrow

Shakespeare for Younger Children in 3 Easy Steps

Our Homeschool Curriculum – English (Language Arts) Grade 2

Advertisements

Our Homeschool Curriculum – English (Language Arts) Grade 2

C (aged 8) began homeschooling a year ago.  Words are a strong suit for her  – she is very articulate, has great cursive handwriting, and reads quickly and fluently. She also has strong opinions about what she does and doesn’t want to do, and one of my challenges is to find a careful balance between boring her and demanding too much!

In this area, my aims for C are:

  • to develop her skills in the mechanics of writing without subjecting her to excessive drilling,
  • to provide an environment which stimulates her creativity and enriches her vocabulary,
  • to provide access to a steady stream of resources to help satisfy her appetite for words.

I mentioned in my post about our Grade 1 English that I am quite “unschool-y” about language arts; I want these skills to be learned as much as possible in a real-world context, and there are plenty of opportunities for that to happen.

General Approach

It’s important for all writers to keep the mechanics of writing from getting in the way of creativity, and this is especially true for children, for whom the gap between the two skill-sets is larger than for adults.  By “mechanics” I mean not just the physical process of handwriting but also the niceties of grammar, spelling, punctuation etc.  I’m not under-estimating the importance of getting those things right – as a former lawyer I’m all too aware of how a misplaced comma can change the whole meaning of a sentence –  but I also know that sometimes it’s best just to get the words down on paper and then tidy them up later.  I love that the very first exercise in the Nanowrimo Young Writer’s Program  (which C and I dabbled with and will return to later this year) is to draw a picture of your inner editor and then lock him/her/it somewhere out of reach where they can’t intrude on the creative process!

Strewing  reading material works very well with C.  If I leave a book on the table she will be read over a meal, near the sofa and I will come down early in the morning and find her engrossed, or on the upstairs landing and it will disappear into her room. With the recent loss of our guinea pigs (RIP Oscar and Ollie) and the consequent freeing-up of floor space, I’ve installed a new bookshelf in our living area with slanted shelves for displaying books relating to our studies. (Ikea magazine rails  work great for this.)

Resources

Grammar

Evan-Moor Daily Paragraph Editing (Grade 2)

Daily Paragraph Editing  provides near-real-world grammar practice.  Each unit is made up of four related paragraphs containing various spelling and grammatical errors.  Different genres of writing are covered, such as non-fiction, biography, realistic fiction, historical fiction.

I print out the relevant paragraphs from  the e-Book, and C puts on her editor’s hat and hunts for all the mistakes the “copywriter” has made, keeping to hand the book’s list of standard proofreading marks and checklist of proofreading errors while she works.

I look ahead  to see what’s coming up, and discuss anything new with C in advance.  I stay close by while C works so she can raise any queries with me as she goes along.  If I notice that she’s unsure about a new concept (for example, plural possessive apostrophes recently)  I plan a bit more practice on it over the next few weeks.

Mad Libs

Both C and J love mad libs. They’re such great practice for both creativity and knowing the parts of speech, yet it doesn’t feel like “school” at all – win win! We’ve been using Best Of Mad Libs .

Spelling

I wasn’t sure whether to use a specific spelling program with C at all as she is such a naturally good speller.  But there are words that she misspells and although these might naturally be picked up over time, I followed Jimmie’s  tip and invested in Spelling Power, on the basis that it will last right through school and I can use it with J as well.  Spelling Power has placement tests so the student begins the program at exactly the right level, and C seems to be really enjoying it so far.  Her biggest complaint is that she gets so few words wrong on the pre-tests, she doesn’t get to do many of the fun exercises like spelling out words with her finger in a tray of salt!

Creative Writing

I’d love for C to write more stories.  She wrote some great ones back when she was at school (though often with much whining, at least when they were set for homework).  A few times I’ve suggested some writing, but so far C hasn’t been keen.  She’s enjoyed a couple of exercises from The Writer’s Jungle, but I’m encouraged by Writer’s Jungle author Julie Bogart’s advice that most children start writing in earnest when they’re about 9 or 10 years old.  In the meantime one of her favourite pastimes is to invent characters in picture form, giving them names and qualities; I’m hoping this is good practice for character-development in future story-writing!  (Incidentally the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op is currently offering a 50% discount on Brave Writer products.)

We’ve also been reading aloud Spilling Ink, a light-hearted look at the creative-writing process by two female novelists,  which is a fun and nicely aligned with my motto of feeling good around “school subjects”.

Literature

C reads a lot on her own – mostly library books and books on her new Kindle. She also listens to library audiobooks and we listen to Audible  purchases together – we recently finished Anne Of Green Gables and we’re onto Anne Of Avonlea.  I always read aloud a chapter book to C and J together as a bedtime story.

This term I plan to do more reading aloud of good quality literature and great stories – stories from Shakespeare, Homer and other classics – as part of our school day.

Extra Resources I’m Planning To use

I’ve just subscribed to the Evan-Moor subscription service Teacher-Filebox  which gives unlimited access to all Evan-Moor’s eBooks.  (30% off  via the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.)  I’m looking forward to exploring Filebox.  For language arts we already use Daily Paragraph Editing (C) and Building Spelling Skills (J), and it looks like there are some good grammar resources there, like Language Fundamentals.  More about this when we’ve had a chance to play with it some more!

I’d love to hear of any extra resources people use that we might enjoy.

My Library Thing

%d bloggers like this: