Made lots and lots of progress here last year. I am reasonably confident in the progress we’re making to feel positive about where we’re going with this.
We are starting Galore Park’s So You Really Want to Learn English series as our main English thread.
I used the junior series with J very suggessfully but felt Sam needed something different at the time but is now ready for this.
I think it needs a bit of supplementing though for comprehension and writing. So we will continue with Writing With Ease (on the last level now) for narration/comprehension and dictation practice. I suspect he’s beyond it now abilitywise but it’s a style that has worked for us well over the years so we decided to keep going. I bought them all second hand about 9 years ago so may as well 🙂
For Writing we’ll continue with the Collin’s Aiming For Level books. We are about halfway through Level 4 with 5 and 6 waiting in the wings. The unfussy style works for Sam.
Still our hardest area but starting to come together. Spelling, grammar and handwriting are reasonable. Creative writing is still not happening. I had planned to give it up as a bad job and focus on building up basic report style stuff starting to get ideas out of his head and recorded. We do so much verbally. We’re a long way off exams but feel we need to move more towards recording information, baby steps. Sam specifically stated creative side was something he wants to develop though – just need to make it fun.
Plans are to keep working on comprehension through narration. Mostly through Writing With Ease 3 but perhaps using a bit of narration on our read alouds.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar – will read through Usborne’s Improve your English and do some of the activities (verbally mostly).
To help with structuring writing we’re going to work through Collin’s Aiming For Level 3 Writing and hopefully start Level 4. These are old versions so don’t follow current NC but I prefer that. What I like about them (and think Sam will too) is that they are written for older children who need support and as such aren’t fluffy and cartoony like a lot of junior age resources.
Story telling, the aim is to just have fun. I bought this Show Me a Story book years ago and love it. It is one of those that you browse time and time again thinking oh I’d love to do that but it never seems the right moment. I think it is probably a now or never agewise. We’ll use the hands on activities in the book to make and use story prompts and will do it verbally. I might transcribe the odd one for him to embellish and improve but we will see.
Not sure if we’ll do regular handwriting practice yet it will be see how things go timewise and if we feel it is a benefit. If so we’ll stick to Getty Dubay as they have served well (and I have the next book ready).
This is the hardest area to get right for me. It is probably Sam’s weakest area but the most crucial in being able to get over all the tickbox requirements of later academic years and it is the one area I feel that I need to have him ‘school ready’ just in case he ever chooses to go. Writing is pretty much essential for all aspects of school.
I have to walk a balance between providing enough practice in basic skills to help him improve (he does better with practice) and not getting carried away and going too far and putting him off.
What appears to be working is a set of short tasks focussing on particular areas. The improvement in his handwriting in the last 12 months is amazing.
We’ll continue working through Writing With Ease. We’re on Level 2 and should complete it before the end of the year. It’s an approach that works well for us, we like the use of extracts from real books and the 4 day week aspect of the structure fits well with our routine.
While Sam was liking the Collins Focus (possibly because I kept 3/4 of it verbal) I’ve got doubts about the depth of learning he was getting from it. Problem of a lot of UK resources I feel. They go too fast.
Decided instead this year that having got used to WWE by now I can live with the scripted aspect (by not using the script) of it’s sister publication First Language Lessons. I’ve picked up level 2, which on reflection is considerably below what Sam should be able to manage but I’d rather go slow and build confidence.
The aim is to use this 3 days a week.
This is where we failed last year. My plan to include it every day as part of regular programme was too ambitious. We didn’t have the time and the resources didn’t excite us.
At various points last year we put aside regular language work for a few weeks and did some creative work, in particular writing scary stories in run up to Halloween.
I would like to keep more routine this year so one day a week instead of grammar we’ll look at creative writing. I intend to focus on Fantasy stories all year using Scholastic’s guide and story starters site.
With the improvement in Sam’s handwriting and the fact that both WWE and FLL include copywork this is no longer such an important part of our English routine. So the idea is 10 mins a day (4 days a week) of ‘skills practice’. We’ll start with 2 days of handwriting, 1 of spelling and 1 of vocab. Do as much of the book as you can in 10 mins.
Handwriting we will continue with Getty Dubay since it’s served us so well. I have really struggled to find a spelling programme we like, I’d wanted something fun and ideally on line but nothing seemed right. We like the Collin’s books. I don’t feel we need intensive teaching in this area (hence dropping Spelling Made Easy), the copywork element of WWE seems to help. So the fun practice should suit. Vocabulary book looks okay despite having Carol Vorderman on the cover!
Depending on how we go I may drop handwriting to one day a week and replace it with Bond’s No Nonsense English, which I found on our cupboard and like the look of but can’t see a way to fit it in.
Sam enjoys reading, reads lots and with increasing variety. All I plan to do is keep feeding the habit and encouraging diverse tastes. He’s looking forward to a new Rick Riordan series coming out and I’ve mentally logged the Chronicles of Prydain as ones that may appeal.
Hoping to get into the habit of reading aloud more. Possibly make use of bus journeys as we start venturing out to groups more. Planning to read some fantasy books to go along the creative writing element. Thinking Alice in Wonderland, Arthurian Legends, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, The Neverending Story … too many really. Might reread Narnia, we love Narnia.
The whole session should take between 40 mins and an hour depending on whether we’re doing creative writing or grammar (I hope). I may set an hour aside and let him fill the time with Reading Eggspress, I’ll see if it’s a one day wonder before subscribing though.
What this plan lacks is any comprehension besides the narration part of WWE (unless we include the Bond book). This is fine to me. I hated comprehension in school, picking apart a text destroyed it for me. I’d far rather that Sam loved reading than could tell me why so and so might have said such. That element can wait for a few years and we’ll see if he needs it. In the mean time narration gives him practice at pulling out the key points in a piece of text.
We continue pretty much as we were. I break down Language Arts into 5 short activities a session which should take 5-15 minutes each and we aim for 4 sessions a week.
This is remains our biggest focus. The plan earlier in the year was to eliminate as much writing from elsewhere in our school work as possible and focus very much on quality over quantity. There was a very noticeable improvement through out the year, which has slipped a bit over the summer. The emphasis now is on correcting that slide and starting to try and encourage him to transfer what he can do when practising handwriting across to general writing by gradually increasing the amount we do elsewhere.
We are using Getty Dubay and have gone back to basics as there are still some letters that he has to be reminded consistently how to form. He is working through book B but should hopefully progress through book C and on to cursive before the end of the year.
On the suggestion of another home eder, one session a week (perhaps more see how enthusiastically it is greeted) we’ll have a go with calligraphy instead.
Bridging handwriting, grammar and comprehension we are using Writing With Ease (WWE). Starting with level one as writing is not something that comes easy.
It follows a four day cycle. Days 1 and 3 are copywork. Days 2 and 4 are a narration exercise, where I read a passage aloud and he answers questions verbally. It is all based on classic children’s literature.
Midway through the year we should progress on to book 2 (picked up second hand along with books 3 and 4 – in for the long term 😉 )
We using Spelling Made Easy (with a lot of tweaks). We’ll finish level 1 mid year and move on to level 2.
I have set up a four day cycle.
Day 1 – wordsearch
Day 2 -Look/copy/write practice
Day 3 – Worksheet made from combination of textbook and theirs (didn’t like them)
Day 4 – Test – complete with penguin
Starting book 2.
We have been using TCR Building Writing Skills to help develop ability to structure ideas. There is quite a jump however between Words to Sentences which is nearly completed and Sentences to Paragraphs. Also if we do a lesson a day, four days a week we will progress through it far too fast.
So plan to slow down to one or two sessions a week allowing time for more ad hoc writing activities. These will be flexible and planned as we go, taking account of things such as thank you letters, flat traveller journals, need to practice particular skills etc. I have found Sam a penpal to help encourage him in his writing.
If things go well you never know I may get to use some of the numerous story telling resources I have collected over the years.
We seem to have worked our way through the worse of the trash literature phase to my relief. Percy Jackson and Harry Potter may not be quality literature but they are good stories and not computer generated tripe of the Beast Quest/Astrosaurs school. The aim is to keep tempting him into trying new series. Time Riders look like they may be a goer after he finishes Harry Potter.
We will have a read aloud for most of our History/Geography projects – we have Sun Horse, Moon Horse by Rosemary Sutcliffe, Poetry of WWI, Around the World in 80 days and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson lined up.
To encourage a trip back to some of the classics for our bedtime reading we will pick some of the books featured in what is possibly my favourite browsing book of all time – Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer. Following with testing the recipes of course. Expecting the recipes to strongly influence choice of reading matter.
Poetry/Speaking and Listening
Read the idea on a forum one time and loved it. Hoping to introduce ‘Poetry Supper’ evening roughly weekly when all the family picks and performs a poem after tea. Will have to see how this one goes.