Archive for the ‘Lesson Plan’ Category

How to Write Better in Five Minutes

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

How to Write Better in Five Minutes

#1 She was tired when she finished her paper at midnight.

#2 Sleepily, Mary slowly climbed under the cool sheets and let out a huge, satisfied sigh. Although she didn’t finish writing her conclusion until the clock chimed for the twelfth time, it was worth it. She couldn’t wait to hear what her political science professor thought of her innovative solution for immigration reform. 

What Makes Excellent Writing? 

First class writing can be hard to produce, but simple to spot. It immediately draws you into a scene.  What did you experience, if anything, while reading #1 above? What was different about #2? Did you ‘see’ a tired Mary get into bed? Did you ‘feel’ cool sheets…’hear’ the clock chiming?

Show, Don’t Tell

#1 tells you what happened, but #2 shows you what happened, as if you were there watching. #2 gives you ‘clues’ that Mary was tired, and that she finished her paper at midnight, without coming right out and telling you. A competent author will describe a scene, providing plenty of specific, sensory details that allow the reader to look over her shoulder at it. If it is well-written, the reader “sees” and “feels” what the writer wants her to “see” and “feel.”

Let’s take another example:

1. He was angry when he left.

 2. Miles stalked out of the house, muttering to himself.  The kids playing in the yard stopped mid-sentence, startled at the slamming of the car door and sound of squealing tires as he rounded the corner. 

Now it’s Your Turn

This is an ideal exercise for your late middle or high school student.  Or for you!

Directions:
Rewrite one or more of the following sentences so they cause the reader to ‘experience’ a situation or person. First, read the sentence, then envision a scene based on it. Second, use specific sensory details involving the main character (What does s/he  see, hear, smell, feel, taste?) to tell the reader what you want him to know. You will probably use more than one sentence. Remember: “show,” don’t “tell.” Be creative!

Teaching tip: ANY changes in this direction will immediately improve your student’s writing. Don’t expect perfection on this first attempt – just keep working on it and over time it will come more naturally.

  • The girl was happy that day. 
  • The boy is sick. 
  • The book was scary. 
  • He was not happy to see that the tree in his front yard had been cut down while he was on vacation. 
  • Chris had a lot of school work to do.

Post Yours in the Comments

We would LOVE to see one or more of your student(s) (or your) answers posted in the comments. I will respond to any posted–and feel free to respond to anyone else’s post as well! Student’s love to see their work published!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

 

P.S. This lesson plan was adapted from our Middle School Daily Lesson Plans.

 

 

The Perfect Solution for Ninth Grade English!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Essay Styles light bulb Idea go FDP-10020198

 

Public and many private school classrooms often have weak writing curricula.  After all, if you were teaching five sections of English with thirty five students in each one, would you have time to read and correct all of those essays?

So, for English they focus on other areas of language arts, while composition is shoved to the bottom drawer. 

With time for individualized instruction, homeschool parents have the perfect opportunity to teach writing, although many of us feel totally unqualified to do so.

Admittedly, composition is a little harder to teach than grammar or punctuation. After all, having a grammar reference written at your child’s level gives you guidance in those two areas… but that won’t help you much with composition.

What helps the most is having your student read, read, read top level literature. Additionally, habitual oral and written narration over that reading, especially if done from the early years, lays the groundwork for later composition. But that isn’t always enough… at least, it wasn’t with our children.

What do I do for Ninth Grade English?

During the high school years we wanted to ensure our students were comfortable and articulate expressing their thoughts in writing, so we developed our high school composition course, Essay Styles for High School.

We often recommend that advanced eighth graders and ninth graders prepare for high school writing by taking our Essay Styles course.  This excellent composition course offers instruction and even genuine high school-student examples of the five essays that are required with high school level writing: narrative, expository, descriptive, persuasive, and comparison/contrast.  

But what if there is no room in your student’s high school schedule for a composition class AND a typical ninth grade English course?  Simply add literature study to Essay Styles to provide your student with the perfect solution to ninth grade English. Then you have  all of your bases covered, as grammar, spelling and punctuation are more effectively taught through composition than with separate worksheet-based curriculum.

In our last post Cheri had inquired of our Info Desk how to add literature study to our Essay Styles course to make it a  ninth grade English course:

….I would be interested in making [Essay Styles] into a 9th grade English credit class.  How would I go about that with the literature?  Pick a few titles to have her read and write about?  I’m such a newbie when it comes to planning high school!  Thanks for your help!

 Thanks again,

Cheri

 

How to Add Literature Study to Essay Styles

Hi Cheri,

Oh, you are very welcome!  It is agonizing to try and decide what to do for high school, particularly!  :-)  I’m glad to help!  You are exactly right about how to make Essay Styles a basic 9th grade English course.  Just read  books per semester (roughly 2400 pages, depending upon the difficulty of the reading) and do a variety of assignments with them. One great book to help your high school student to get more out of her high school reading would be How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler.   I will tell you right now that for high schoolers, it is a dry book.  :-)  What we did with that book is just read 5 or so pages at a time and discussed it. (I read it with my first child and just discussed it with the other. It helped me get more out of my reading, too!) All the assignment you need for that book can be oral and/or written narration and discussion.

Another  useful non-fiction book for a new high school student is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens  - an apt assignment for this would be written narrations over each chapter.  Here are some other book and assignment ideas:

Les Miserables – This book is about 1300 pages and in ‘older’ vernacular so it could be “the” book for one semester!  There are LOTS of assignments you could get out of this one*:

  • have your ninth grader write a ‘reading response journal’ charting which pages were read at each reading session, a short summary of that day or week’s reading, and her response to the reading
  • a report or essay on the French Revolution as described in the book
  • a “personal letter,”  one character might write to another character
  • vocabulary study — have your student circle in pencil unfamiliar words and go back later to define after trying to figure it out in the context of sentence
  • research and write 2-4 paragraphs about the author
  • choose a monologue or scene from the book and dramatize (perform) it
  • write short character sketches about each of the main characters (what do they “look like,” background information about them, how do they change throughout the course of the book, referencing page numbers and events that are the catalysts that change)
  • after reading the book and watching the movie, write a comparison/contrast essay discussing their similarities and differences.

*You would never choose to do ALL of those assignments ~one longer one and one shorter one would do.

Actually, most of those assignments could be used for other books, too, with the exception of the one about the French Revolution, of course.

Other great reading:

Note that the Kindle version of a few of these are free on Amazon. (You can also download a free Kindle app for your p.c.)

 Dana-

Your answer is very helpful.  I have printed it out and will definitely be referring to it.  I really enjoyed the 7 habits book for myself and did not realize they had one for teens- great idea!  And thanks for helping to make high school a little bit less scary :)  

Hopefully this post has made high school a little less scary for you, as well.

If it has been helpful or you have additional questions we could address, please let me know in the comments below!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

Photo image courtesy Idea go via freedigitalphotos.net

Mini Valentine’s Day Unit Study!

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Valentine's Day Unit Study for homeschooled students

Here are 15 Valentine’s Day ideas, broken down by subject, to add some pizzazz to your homeschooling!

Valentine’s ideas for History and Geography

1.  Did you know the original St. Valentine was said to be a Christian martyr? Noting that there are a few different versions of the St. Valentine’s legend, have your middle/high schooler research and create a short oral report about St. Valentine’s life and death and present it to your family.

2. Have your dramatically-inclined student use the above research and create a short play based on St. Valentine’s life and perform it for another homeschooling family.
3. Task your students with researching Valentine’s Day during the Middle Ages and find out what Valentine’s Day had to do with birds.  :-)
4.  One of the most common symbols of Valentine’s Day is a Cupid. After defining  the word “symbol” for your youngest students, have your older ones research Cupid, draw a picture of one (in color, of course) and include a description of the origins of Cupid on the page.
5. Valentine’s Day is not just an American holiday! Have your student(s) locate other countries where Valentine’s Day is celebrated and do one or more of the following: Make a notebooking page for every country you find that celebrates Valentine’s Day.  List the Valentine’s Day traditions of that country and draw a map of each country.
6. Choose one or more interesting traditions and incorporate it into your family’s celebration.

7. Create a world map labeling the countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Ideas for Language Arts

8. Create a word search including the following terms: Valentine’s Day, roses, pink, red, lace, cupid, card, St. Valentine, heart, doves, chocolate, etc.

9. What does the Bible say about love?  Instruct your students to find verses that describe the love that God has for His people, for the church and the love believers should have for one another.  Choose some of the verses as copy work and/or memorization.
10. Have your students define the word “love” in a paragraph.  Have them read about love in the Bible and the

n revise their paragraph as needed, including Bible verses as references.  Use this assignment as a lesson between love as a “feeling” and love as a “choice” and/or an “action.”

Valentine’s Ideas in Science

11. Use this week  as an opportunity for a quick scientific study of the heart. Write a short report about the function of the human heart.  Include a diagram of the heart, labeling the various parts. Using different colors, show the blood flow into and out of the heart.

12.  Make a poster  comparing and contrasting the human heart and the heart of an amphibian or reptile. If comparing and contrasting is a new concept you may want to use a Venn Diagram for help.

Valentine’s Ideas for Fun and Family Ministry

13. Gather your construction paper, wrapping paper scraps, ric rac, spare buttons, markers, glue and other craft supplies in the appropriate colors. Take an afternoon off school and construct hand-made Valentine’s cards for friends, family, elderly or shut in neighbors, children at a local hospital, etc.  Add a Bible verse about love to your cards and talk about what the verse means.

14.  Bake heart-shaped sugar cookies, frost with pink icing and glaze with pink sugar.  Include a homemade card and cookies and take to the neighbors, a nursing home or use to create a care package to a college student or two.
15. Start a new tradition!  Join with another family or two and assign many of the above ideas to different children.  Plan and execute a Valentine’s Party or dessert.  Have everyone share their reports and projects, exchange Valentines and then enjoy homemade Valentine’s treats!
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And let’s not leave out any of the youngest members of your family — here is an adorable interactive book that will make your babies giggle with glee.  (Really!)
What ideas can you add or what mentioned here sparked your interest?  What do you do at your house to celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Dana

 

Heart image courtesy of Zoo-fari via Wikimedia Commons

Using this Simple Graphic Tool Will Make You a Better Teacher

Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Tools-by-Grant-Cochrane-via-freedigitalphotos.net

Tools-by-Grant-Cochrane-via-freedigitalphotos.net

No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use, this simple graphic tool will help you be a more effective teacher and your student a better learner.

The Rubric

This is my favorite graphic tool because it is SO helpful, on so many fronts, for both me and my students! Maybe this is something you have never done, but I have been guilty of quickly throwing an assignment at a student, without really thinking it through, let alone sufficiently explaining it. And then I would wonder why it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when it was done!  Especially if you are a newbie at homeschooling, I bet you have struggled with this, too.

A simple rubric often eliminates this problem by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.

Sample Rubric

 

Sample Rubric from K-5 Manual

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rubric is a simple one suitable for a story written by a late elementary student.

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I did not grade my children at that age, but I did use a rubric to insure that we both understood what was expected in an assignment.

How to Make Your Own

  1. View and download this sample of  of a (blank) basic rubric.
  2. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  3. List the most important ones in the first column on the left.
  4. Create a table in Microsoft Word or software similar, or use the blank grid provided on the Train up a Child Publishing Tools CD if you happen own one of our Unit Programs. Type or write in the criteria under the numbers with the highest number being the best score. Notice the wording on the sample criteria to help you develop your own.
  5. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  6. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment. Encourage her to check the rubric while she is working on the assignment to make sure it is completely finished before  it is turned in.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others. With our example, a possible grading scale would be:

9—12 points                Passing

below 9 points          Reteach

Another possible scoring system could be:

10-12                  A

8-9                      B

below 8           Reteach

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading; I didn’t begin until half way through middle school. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

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Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival – Topic: Composition

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Teaching Composition the “Charlotte Mason way” is not formally teaching it at all; but relying instead upon her methods, including the teaching writingreading of great literature,  oral and then written narrations and dictation. The reference from Volume 6 pertaining to this topic is here.

A special thank you to all those who sent in blog posts, as this is probably one of the busiest times of the year for homeschool moms!

Composition

Our first post is from Tammy, from her blog AUT-2B-Home in Carolina, and is entitled Composition with an Eye Toward Development. Tammy provides not only samples of her daughter’s written narrations along with Tammy’s wise analysis, but has several quite informative links for anyone wishing to read more about the benefits of narration and other Charlotte Mason methods of teaching.

Although many of us use a modified Charlotte Method approach toward teaching composition, Lindafay provides a bonanza in her two posts on this topic, encouraging homeschool parents to stay the course and rely only upon Charlotte Mason’s methodology in order to have students who become excellent writers.  You Don’t Need a Composition Program and How I Raised a Writer Without a Composition Program  share how to employ Charlotte Mason’s methodology from Kindergarten through high school,  from her blog, Higher Up and Further In.

Part of the equation for learning how to write is reading living books. Carol shares a book review in her post, Shakespeare’s Theatre, complete with illustrations and quotes from this jewel, at her blog journey-and-destination.

Another highly recommended living book no homeschool should be without is described in my post, King Alfred’s English: a History of the Language we Speak: a Must Read!. This fascinating book is perfect for a family read-aloud, history book, copy work  and more, from the Epi Kardia/Train up a Child Publishing Blog.

Like reading great literature, a hallmark of learning to write is regular oral and written narration. I’m still chuckling from Brandy’s post providing the benefits of and helpful teaching tips  On Group Narration, at her blog, Afterthoughts.

 

Nature Study

Describing the sometimes difficult balance between “letting alone” and “controlling authority,”  Shirley-Ann inspires us with her post, A Wise Letting Alone, pertaining to her family’s nature study, from her blog  Under an English Sky.

Phyllis grants us a peek into her planning their homeschool’s nature study this year in her post School Planning: Nature Study on her blog, Hunsucker’s Home, as well as sharing a past post (with cute photos!) called Nature Study: Mammals.

 

Art and Music Study

Megan shares part of her recent “composer study binge”  at her blog, The Winding Ascent.  Music at the Feast and the Beauty of Attaining, Part II includes several marvelous recordings as well as Megan’s thoughts about Charlotte Mason’s vision for music study. Thank you for allowing us to be beneficiaries of your binge, Megan. :-)

Patti’s charming post  Art, Music and Poetry offers delightful examples of paintings, poetry and links to classical music pieces on her blog All Things Bright and Beautiful.

 

General Charlotte Mason

Here at the beginning of school for many, Nancy from Sage Parnassus offers wise counsel to focus on the relationships we desire our children to develop with what they are learning, rather than allowing the “nifty extras” to actually be a distraction to that relationship, in her post Love Affairs in Education or The Thing is The Thing.

New Post!!! added 8/22/13  6:30 pm EST

Celeste is already half-way through her first term! And school is well-underway, even though she has a houseful of little ones. Celeste has a well-organized plan for second grade, which she shares with us in her post Second Grade in Our Home: An Overview , from her Joyous Lessons blog. (I never met a chart I didn’t love!) Thank you, Celeste!

 

Thank you again for taking the time to participate!  Apologies in advance if there is a post I missed; please contact me at dana@trainupachildpub.com and I either will add it or send it on for the next carnival, at your request.

According to the  Carnival Schedule, the next carnival will be the “Back to School” edition focusing on CM Planning and Organization! Please submit posts to the following e-mail address: charlottemasonblogs (at) gmail.com. (deadline: Mon. 9/2 at 5pm CST). Thank you!

 

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

 

Dana Wilson
Train up a Child Publishing™
formerly Epi Kardia Home Education
trainupachildpub.com
dana@trainupachildpub.com
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