Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Well Trained Wednesday: Grammar Stage- Language Arts Pt.3
We have now made it to our 3rd installment on our series about Grammar Stage language arts. So today we are going to discuss what writing looks like in the Classical Education model.
At the Grammar Stage writing starts at its earliest as developing penmanship skills later on transferring to writing well written sentences and toward the end of the grammar stage introducing the composition. A major way most Classical homeschoolers build good penmanship skills in there young learners is through Copywork I already gave an explanation of copywork in Language Arts pt. 2. So you can refer back to that if need be. I must point out the fact that Classical if not anything is a holistic approach to learning. You will constantly see the overlapping of certain skills and methods through the curriculum helping to bridge the gap between subjects till it one day comes together as a whole. Copywork is a handwriting exercise as well as an exercise in grammar and spelling.
Now there are many arguments that I have heard for whether or not start with print or cursive and both arguments are valid. I personally begin with print(manuscript) and go along with TWTM recommendation to start cursive at the beginning of 2nd grade. My 2nd grader began this year with cursive this fall with some copywork of just basic lettering and then we started halfway through the year with an excellent program called Handwriting Without Tears. We are doing the 3rd grade cursive book cause in traditional education programs they begin cursive in 3rd grade. TWTM recommends the Zaner- Bloser Grade 2C student book to start out in with cursive.
Susan Wise Bauer had this to say in regards to beginning copywork:
"Look at his work, praise what he's done right, and then correct his mistakes with a red pencil so that he can clearly see the correction. Ask him to compare his work with the original. Do this two or three times per week. Put the child's paper in the notebook under copying. Does this stifle creativity? No- it builds the skills the child needs in order to be truly creative. When a first grader copies a sentence from Charlotte's Web he's learning spelling, mechanics(punctuation and so forth), basic grammar( subject- verb agreement, adjective use), and vocabulary from a master of English prose. He'll need all this information in order to write down the sentences he forms in his own head."
The next step in building and developing writing skills in the Classical method will be to introduce dictation. You want to start with short sentences dictating slowly as they write. Check for punctuation, capitalization errors and have them make corrects. But keep in mind that at first it will take some time to do dictation. Try not to frustrate the child give them a little to go in if they need some help figuring out proper spelling till they get used to it. TWTM says:
"The child who's spent the first grade copying will already have a visual memory of common words. But during the transition from copying to dictation, you'll need to help him develop the skills of sounding out and writing down words without looking at a model."
Dictation will help the child develop the rules of good style and expression necessary for writing compositions later on.
Another suggestion is to have the child do letter writing( thank- you notes, letters to grandma, etc..) as soon as possible to being using the writing skills. TWTM does warn against requiring the child to be creative in the grammar stage cause they are still absorbing and taking things in. This is not to say to stop a child who is naturally creative but not make it a mandate. It will come eventually when the child has acquired more skills.
So I guess you are wondering when should we start a formal writing program. Well if you are like myself you would feel as though your 2nd grader was just not quite ready for formal writing so you held off another year and continued to grow with your grammar and spelling program in the meantime. But in a traditional classical model you would start formal writing in 2nd grade. I think this is adjustable though. Look at your child for clues of readiness. There is no need to rush them into something they are not prepared for cause you can cause them to grow to hate it. Once a child hates writing its a hard thing to get to point of loving it. TWTM recommends that you being a formal writing program in supplement of your grammar program. The Wises suggested Writing Strands as a good start for formal writing. I am considering it for next year for my oldest. But its a debate between Writing Strands and IEIW( Institute for Excellence in Writing). I think that IEIW combines a lot of the language arts into one program which is what makes it so appealing. The creator of the program Andrew Pudewa has a nice selection of free audio seminars that explains the IEIW approach very well.
So that is it in a nutshell. I will return next week for my last installment in the Grammar Stage language art series with Reading and the Classical Model.