understanding language arts educational progression

Getting a clear picture of the step-by-step process of having a well spoken and well read child can aid parents immensely in assisting their children to understand the complexities of the English language. Learning To Read: Whether your child is in elementary school, or is still a toddler, knowing where to start, and where to go is an immeasurable relief to parents. One of the most frustrating parts of home education is knowing the progression one should take. The following outline should help clear the air in understanding the Language Arts Progression. This entire section of the progression should be learned between Kindergarten and about 3rd grade. While I avoid trying to place my children into a single grade (something home schooling gives us the freedom to do) I know that many parents like to measure their child's success against those of similar ages.

I. Introduction to Language - this can be started when a child is very young, just by reading to your child each night can help expose them to these processes. A. Learning the alphabet - being able to recognize the letters are invaluable in learning to read. But, many make the mistake of relying solely on the alphabet song. Help your child to recognize the letters in random order. Also when reviewing the letters, say the letter sounds, why not teach them the basic sounds at the same time as recognizing the letter itself? They should also recognize the difference between upper and lower case letters. By about 4th grade a child should have a clear understanding of when to use lower or upper case letters. B. Basic Vowel Sounds - all of the words in the English language are dependent on the vowels and their relationship to each other and to consonants. Being able to recognize which letters are vowels, as well as their sounds is an invaluable tool in learning to read. C. Unvoiced and Voiced Consonants - Consonants are largely ignored when teaching children. Sadly many people think once you've said the k says "kuh" that you're done...but the e isn't the only silent letter in the English language, just look at the b in dumb, the b is unvoiced or silent. It's important for adults and children to understand the rules when learning to read. D. Diphthongs & Digraphs - this can be for both vowels and consonants, and essentially these explain the phenomena of them relating to each other. Diphthongs are 2 vowels in one syllable. Digraphs E. Vowel and Consonant Sound Rules - to this day my children chant "When two vowels stand side by side, the first one says it's name with pride." Knowing and understanding the rules around the letter sounds makes it much easier to read words. F. Prefixes, roots, and suffixes (ab and pre, annu and bio, ac, and ment) - again understanding when to use a prefix (or suffix) and understanding what the root means, go a long way toward comprehension. II. Word Make-up 1. Syllables - starting with simple single syllable words, then building to two and three- syllable words. This makes it easier to break a word down to sound out it's parts. 2. Compound Words - these are two simple words put together into one big word. It is important to learn to recognize the smaller words within so they may sound out the longer, more complex words. III. Parts of Speech (step one in making sentences) 1. Nouns, Vowels, Adjectives, etc. 2. Tenses - recognizing how to make words present, past or future. IV. Punctuation (complete sentences) A. Making a statement - when to use a period. B. Exclamation - when to use an exclamation point C. Question? - Asking questions, and the most common - who, what, where, when, why and how. D. Quotations - When to use quotes E. The comma and semi-colon - this is probably the most difficult of all the punctuation marks, and understanding when to use one is vastly important in building a solid understanding of the written word. V. Painting a Picture with words. A. Poetry B. Idioms Dolch Sight Words: There is a collection of words that appear quite often in the English language. Standard practice is to use these words as Sight Words or Memorized Words. By helping your child learn these words on sight will take them a long way in learning to read. The Dolch High Frequency List of words was developed by Edward William Dolch, Ph.D. in his book, Problems in Reading, The Garrard Press, 1948. Recognizing the words alone won't make a good reader out of a child, as sometimes a child will recognize the word on a cue card, but fail to recognize it in a story or text. Therefore you should be creative in the tools of working with sight words. When I'm working with sight words with my children. I have a set process. First I place cue cards up on our board, that way we can clearly see the words on a daily basis. Each morning we go through the list, each month the list consists of about 10 words. The following is my process of working with the Dolch list: 1. One the first morning I read the list, spell it, and use them in a sentence. From the next day through the month (until the next list is started) my children will read the words, spell them, and use them in a sentence. 2. When we read stories or poems through out the month, the children get a sticker on their "Good Work" board by pointing out the Dolch words of the month. 3. Using home-made alphabet cards (3x5 index cards with a letter on each of them) the children will make the dolch words without looking at the board. I'll say the word out loud. Rather than making them feel bad for a misspelling, I don't give rewards for getting words right. Instead we strive over the month to get the entire list right. For each words they spell wrong they must write the word 5 times on the blackboard. 4. Patterning. Placing the words in alphabetical order, grouping the words by first or last sounds or by a common vowel sound. Dolch Word Lists and activities can be found at many web sites like http://www.theschoolbell.com/Links/Dolch/Dolch.html Learning To Write: believe it or not, we're not born with the mechanics of using our hands for writing. It is definately a learned tool. It can also be frustrating for those who have a hard time focusing or for the teacher who is teaching a child who writes with the opposite hand. As a lefty, here's a couple tips for writing lefty: 1. Since our hands cover the words or letters we've just written one of two things must occur, either the student will bend their wrist to get the hand out of the way, or they will angle the paper. I highly suggest teaching your lefty to angle the paper slightly to the right, as this will help in clearer penmanship. 2. Site behind the student when wanting to give a guiding hand. It is virtually impossible for a right handed person to sit next to the student and hold their hand wile writing - mostly because the mechanics of writing is different for each hand. The easiest way is to sit slightly behind the student and to the side. This way the entire length of your arm runs along the students and will make for clearer writing. 3. Pencil cushions. Lefties tend to squeeze the writing implement in order to attempt to control the execution of writing. This actually makes things words. Getting a little rubber pencil cushion will help for more comfort, and a more relaxed hand when writing. Steps To Developing Good Penmanship: 1. Scribbles - believe it or not the messy coloring pictures young children make serve a purpose. They are strengthening the fingers and making the neuromuscular system more comfortable in the act of holding a writing implement. 2. Tracing Lines - squiggles, zig-zag, straight, etc. Tracing a variety of lines prepares the child and the hand for tracing letters. 3. Tracing letters - This is the easiest way to teach a child to write their letters. Whether you choose to start with script (or manuscript) or printed letters, tracing them is the first means of transmitting the recognizable letter to something they've created with their hands. 4. Free writing - This is a continuation of tracing the letters. Once they have no problem following the lines they are ready to attempt to write the letter without the tracing. 5. Coloring within the lines - this may seem out of left field, but it really is a measure of hand - eye coordination. 6. Vocabulary - writing out their vocabulary words helps them to get used to blending the letters together into words. References: How To Teach Your Child, Weltisezar B. Bautista, published by Bookhaus Publishers, Farmington hills, Mi, 1991 More Parents Are Teachers Too, Claudia Jones, published by Williamson Publishing Co., Charlotte VT 1990

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