Charlotte Mason Style Language Arts by Suz in Frogpond
HANDWRITING - Best taught through copywork. I start my
dc on the basics. Whatever scheme or style you decide on, start
with the basics - the foundation strokes, shapes, etc. Then, we
move on to the letters and numbers. By the time 1st grade comes
around, we're ready for short sentences. I use Bible verses,
nursery rhymes, lines from FIAR stories, whatever. A good rule
of thumb is one sentence per grade, so by the time they are 4th
or 5th grade age, they should be up to copying paragraphs. When
learning letter formation/cursive connections/spacing, I use a
yellow highlighter and write out the selection for them. Once
they get a good "hand" on it, I just let them copy from the
book, the Bible, whatever.
SPELLING - take the words straight from their own
writings. Make them learn the correct spellings of the words
they've misspelled. We keep a list of words each student needs
to work on. On Monday, I pretest. Any word spelled correctly
isn't studied that week. (Why bore them with something they
already know. Plus, we all occasionally misspell something,
right? Leave some room for the casual or careless mistake.) I
write each word on an index card or on their white board
"slates." They study the words, reviewing each day. (We use our
slates, word searches, Scrabble tiles, magnetic letters, funky
colored markers, you name it, so daily review isn't boring or
tiresome.) On Friday, we test on that week's words. Any missed
words go back on the list, but NOT the next week's list. This
prevents burn-out for poor spellers. We review occasionally,
especially words that might be unusual or uncommon. Using their
own misspellings makes the work more meaningful, less drudgery.
Also, they learn the importance and the difference correct
spelling can make in their own writing. As they age and
read/write more, they will encounter most, if not all, of the
spelling "rules." If they have a difficulty with words that
follow any specific rule, I try to make sure that their
handwriting selections and/or reading selections contain words
that follow that rule, so they gain more practice with it.
(HINT: a good source for lots of varied rules is poetry, as
often the rhyme scheme calls for many words with similar letter
patterns.) Charlotte used dictation to test for spelling, but
I've found from experience that my dc didn't retain the
spelling. It was kind of that old "learn it for the test" thing
VOCABULARY - Have the dc keep a notebook handy while
reading, both independently and with you. Any word they don't
know the meaning to, they have to write it down, find the
definition (either from a dictionary, or from context clues) and
write that down in their own words. This really helps them to
cement the meaning of the word in their minds. Once they have 10
to 15 words on their list, you may want to review or test them
in whatever way works best for you. I like to have them write
sentences or paragraphs using the words, as that way I know for
certain whether or not they've mastered the definitions.
GRAMMAR - Charlotte Mason's students DID use a text
for grammar. However, I believe that the text was used with her
older students, high school aged. Her younger students used
their reading, written narrations and copywork, along with their
foreign language work, to learn the basics. It's very easy to
use a Bible passage/verse, nursery rhyme, a favorite story or
poem or their own writings to point out things like parts of
speech, punctuation marks, capitalization, and the like.
If you truly want to go text-book free, you'll need a scope
and sequence (list of topics to teach when) and a good resource
or reference book, so you know you are teaching them correctly.
My favorite is "Grammatically Correct." However, it is a
reference more for writers, so I don't know if it would work for
everyone. My oldest dd likes WriteSource's "Writer's Inc." I've
found the best way to test their knowledge of grammar is through
their writings - essays, stories, compositions and poems. In a
way, learning to write and learning good grammar go hand in
COMPOSITION - I don't believe ALL students can learn
to write simply by reading and being exposed to good writing.
However, I CAN say it doesn't hurt the cause, either. One thing
that I like to do is to have the student study a particular
passage in a particular style, say a passage of really good
dialogue or a very well-done descriptive scene. (Dickens and O.
Henry are great for both of these, btw.) Then, after they've
read and studied it, paying attention to the way it's written,
not just what is written, I'll ask them to write a passage or
two of their own, in a similar style. Then, we compare their
writing to the original, to see how well they've done. A
practical example - A wonderful example of foreshadowing is
found in the opening scenes of "A Christmas Carol." Have your
junior high age-student spend a 3 or 4 days studying these
passages. Then, read them the rest of the first Stave, so they
can see what all this was building up to. Then, ask them to
write their own passage of foreshadowing, only make it a mystery
or a birthday party or something other than a Victorian ghost
story. Again, if you don't have a good resource book on how to
write, you might want to invest in one, or get your student an
age appropriate writing guide, like WriteSource, Writing Strands
or "Igniting Your Writing" sells. (I have several published by
Writer's Digest - for adults, on both fiction and non-fiction
writing, that I find very helpful.) Written narrations can serve
as a good basis for how much about writing your student knows,
and a way to test their newly-developed skills.
COMPREHENSION & NARRATION The best way to test your dc's
comprehension skills is through narration, either oral, written
or "active." Here's are the narration "starters" that have made
more than one appearance on these boards, for those of you who
may wonder just how to "do" narration while keeping it fresh or
relevant. In the next post, you will find a list of "narration
starters." These are the things you ask your dc to get them
started narrating. (Please note anywhere there is a ____ or a
"him/her" or "setting/time period" you would fill in with
particulars from your reading.) They are arranged somewhat in
order of the complexity of thought needed to adequately "answer"
them. In the post below that list is the list of "active
narration ideas." I use these with my younger dc, and sometimes
with older ones as a break from oral/written narration. They
accomplish the same task of finding out how much the dc knows
from the reading, while taking some of the "work" out of
narrating. Now, how do I use these? With starters, I typically
write them at the top of the page. The dc then writes/dictates
her answer to me below. For the active narrations, I have a jar.
In the jar are a number of slips of paper. Each slip has one of
the activities written on it. There is more than one of each
kind, but not the same number of each. Also, I've thrown in a
couple slips that say "skip narration today" just to keep it
interesting. Then, once or twice a week, instead of
dictating/writing a narration, we pick a slip from the jar and
do what it says. We typically do one narration a day, per dc.
I've found narrating for every reading with every dc to be
tedious for me and them, so one a day is adequate for me. (Only
you know what you and your dc will tolerate.) Anyway, I've found
using these starters and activities makes narration easy and fun
and certainly less tedious or boring. Oh, as to how much to
expect - when it comes to written narrations, I like to start
around 3rd or 4th grade with a paragraph or so. By the time they
reach middle school age, they should be able to produce a
page-front or so. When dictating, I ask for at least 4 or 5
sentences from my 6yo. In reality, though, it doesn't matter
much how much they narrate (written or orally) as long as they
can exhibit enough knowledge of the reading to let you know they
were listening and retaining. I DO NOT correct written
narrations for grammar. I WILL point out misspelled words, if
there are any, simply because my dc use their own spelling
errors as their spelling words. The narrations should not be
treated as essays or compositions, IMO. They are the dc's
"proof" of attention to and comprehension of their readings. We
date each one and add the title of the book (with chapter, if
applicable) and put them in their own section of our notebooks.
We narrate on every kind of reading we do, too. Just because
it's science or history doesn't mean a child can't produce a
narration on it. I never tell which readings we'll be narrating
on. That way, the dc pay close attention to ALL their work. Here
are the narration starters. Somewhere on the web, I found a list
of "exam questions" taken directly from the PNEU schools founded
and operated by Charlotte. I copied out as many of the "generic"
ones I could, and from some other readings on narration, put
together this list of starters:
1.) Tell what you remember about_____________
2.) Tell me the story in your own words.
3.) Wasn't it funny/sad/strange when_________? Tell me what else
you remember about that.
4.) Explain how ___________happens/happened. 5.) Describe
6.) Tell me who we met today. Describe him/her.
7.) Tell me all you can about (a particular setting.)
8.) Tell me all you can about (the reading's time period.)
9.) Tell me everything that happened after ________.
10.) Tell all you know about how ___________ happens.
11.) Tell about a problem in the story and how it was
12.) Tell everything you would see (in a particular setting.)
13.) Tell me all you know about (a particular character or
14.) Who said, "----------" Tell me the story about it.
15.) Why did he/she do _________?"
16.) List the story's events in the order that they happened.
17.) Describe the clues that lead up to ___________.
18.) From the passage/story we read, tell me how to ______.
19.) Tell me how he/she felt after _________ 20.) Describe the
21.) Describe everything that happened because of________
22.) Tell me all the ways two characters/people/settings from
the same story compare.
23.) Tell me all the ways two characters/people/settings from
two different stories compare.
24.) Compare this book/story to another of the same style.
25.) Compare this book/story to another by the same author.
26.) Explain how _________ came to be.
27.) Did he/she make the right decision? Tell me why or why not.
28.) Tell me all you know about (time period/character
traits/sequence of events.) [This involves a higher level of
thinking than the earlier questions similar in nature. The
information you are asking for here is to be implied or
inferred, not directly stated in the reading. In other words, I
might ask, "Tell me all you know about what is happening before
the story begins" or "Tell me all you know about Aunt Lucy" even
though in the story the only time we "meet" Aunt Lucy is through
her letters to the main character.)
29.) Who/what had the most influence on the outcome of the
story? Why? How?
30.) Would you want him/her as a friend? Why or why not?
Now, my youngest dd often includes characters from her
stories into her make-believe play, so she finds #30 easier than
I think it was intended to be.... However, remember that they
are supposed to be in order of easiest to do to more difficult.