Learning Language Arts Through Literature for Grades 3 to 8 (3rd Ed.)

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Teaching language arts often seems messy and disorganized. The appeal of an integrated program is almost irresistible. Instead of a book for reading, one for grammar, one for spelling, one for vocabulary, one for handwriting, one for composition, and one for thinking skills, why not wrap all of these studies around quality literature? This is exactly the approach suggested by the veteran educator Ruth Beechick. Starting with her sample lessons, the authors of the Learning Language Arts Through Literature series, Diane Welch and Susan Simpson, developed more lessons of their own and eventually collaborated with Dr. Beechick in the preparation of this series. Now after some twenty-five years of publication and a second significant revision, the 3rd edition series continues to be an easy-to-use favorite among homeschoolers. Countless students have proven that written language is best learned by reading fine literature and by working with good writing models.

In addition to the new 3rd edition covers and clearer day-by-day instruction, there are updates throughout the series to reflect changes in how research is conducted. Also, there is clearer direction for making personalized spelling lists. Some lessons have been "switched-out" to give students exposure to more classic literature. Since the original series was written over several years by two different authors, this 3rd edition has been tweaked to make it more consistent. A few out-of-print books have been replaced as well. Some specific changes include: Yellow - ten lessons replaced. Orange - thesaurus and editing activities have been added to most lessons and the book has been reorganized. Purple - reorganized with added vocabulary and spelling activities. Tan - reorganized with three lessons replaced. Green - The Mysterious Benedict Society has replaced Adam and His Kin book study; several lessons replaced and reading comprehension and writing activities have been added to many lessons. Gray - Daddy Long Legs has replaced Across Five Aprils as a book study. In-depth analogy studies have been added.

At the heart of this approach are lessons based on excerpts from great literary works. Each week a passage is introduced to the student. At the younger levels, the student copies the passage after hearing it read. At higher levels, the student writes the passage as it is dictated sentence by sentence. The rest of the week is spent on instruction based on the passage. As an example, Lesson 10 from the Tan (6th grade) book starts with a paragraph from The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. On the first day, the student is expected to write the passage from dictation after taking note of the usage of quotation marks. Words missed in writing the dictation are incorporated into a spelling lesson which also includes coverage of words spelling the long /i/ sound with igh as in light. Next is a study on homonyms centered around the usage of "hole" in the passage and how the meaning would be changed if "whole" were used. Other homonyms are also studied and then the student is asked to write a sentence using a homonym pair. The second days lesson starts with an examination of point of view from which a story is told. The student examines this passage as well as other stories to look for various points of view and then is asked to rewrite the passage from a different point of view. Lesson work on the third day is on an example of independent clauses linked by semicolons included in the passage; it then progresses to a general discussion of independent clauses versus phrases. Again the student is asked to rewrite the passage making changes in the sentence structure. Also included in this days lesson is a study on the emotions in a story and how good writers use descriptions to draw the reader into the action and to create a mood. The lesson concludes with a short writing assignment (paragraph) and a review of spelling words. Day four is a study of plot utilizing a helpful plot line graphic organizer and including another short writing assignment. The weeks lesson is concluded on day five by choosing one of several activities including writing a short story containing the five plot elements. Each weeks lesson is followed by a page of Review Activities. The teacher can choose any or all of the review activities.

There are full-length book studies (usually four) included with each course. For example, The Bronze Bow is studied in the Tan Book. Starting with an introduction and summary (found only in the Teacher Book), the study continues with a vocabulary worksheet and discussion questions. A list of eight activities concludes the study with the student being instructed to choose one or two. Some of these studies incorporate activities from other disciplines such as the mapping exercise from the Carry On, Mr. Bowditch study found earlier in the Tan Book. Occasionally, there are special instruction segments like the How to Research section in the Tan Book.

There are 36 week-long lessons in each course each of which is an in-depth book study or a passage-based lessons. The passage-based lessons are drawn from a wide variety of literature. To give you some idea of the breadth of these literature selections, here is the list from the Tan Book: Bambi, The Eagle, Little House in the Big Woods, The Story of a Bad Boy, Prince Caspian, The Bronze Bow, King of the Wind, The Wheel on the School, Jest Fore Christmas, Swiss Family Robinson, Swallows and Amazons, Big Red, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Wind in the Willows, Caddie Woodlawn, The Gettysburg Address, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Railway Children, Psalm 136:1-5, The Horse and His Boy, The House at Pooh Corner, Anne of Green Gables, The Crow and the Pitcher, Little Women, Invincible Louisa, and Matthew 5:13-16. Assessments are included periodically.

These courses are very user-friendly. Obviously, a portion of every lesson includes teacher-student interaction but teacher preparation is minimal and students are often given assignments to work on independently. The Teacher Book provides all necessary background and instructional information; laid out step-by-step for the teacher. These contain all the content from the Student Books in 2/3 page width columns placed side-by-side in the center of the book (two-page spread). These inside columns sometimes contain information not found in the Student Book such as the introduction and background information for the book studies. The outside 1/3 page contain teachers notes as well as all the answers.

The Student Book is consumable and contains some instruction and background information directed to the student as well as generous space to write assignments. These books also contain Enrichment Activities that are found only in the student book although the answers are in the back of the non-consumable Teachers Book.

Although there is a great deal of overlap between the teacher and student book, there are enough differences that both are necessary. You will need to have access to several reference books - dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedias - but you easily use the library or internet for those. In addition to the book study selections (often available from the library but which we sell for your convenience), you will need only general school supplies - pencils, paper, colored pencils, drawing paper, notebook, file folders, and construction paper.

The books are designated by colors but correlate with skills taught at specific grade levels. Since some parents are unsure of where to begin their child in the series, we have placement tests for each course from Common Sense Press available on our website. A biblical and Christian worldview is evident in all courses. ~ Janice

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