School Books and How to Use Them: Train up a Child Publishing Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog carnival edition is prompted by Volume 3, chapter 16 of the Charlotte Mason series posted on Ambleside Online, entitled How to Use School-Books. If you missed chapter 15, School-books and How they Make for Education,  you might want to take a peek at that chapter before reading this one.

Living Books and How to Use Them

According to chapter 15 and 16, the books we  choose for school should be books that “sustain the thought-life of a child”, have an “upheaving effect on the mind,” and are “teeming with fresh ideas from the minds of thinkers.” They may be literature books, history books or books about anything, really… just as long as they are living books (i.e., books with “living ideas”) that inspire our children’s minds.

And how best do we know that children have gleaned ideas from the books they are reading?  Ms. Mason’s favorite method for helping children assimilate what they have heard is narration.

The simplest way of dealing with a paragraph or a chapter is to require the child to narrate its contents after a single attentive reading…     –Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, Chapter 16

Here is a post about basic narration from the Train up a Child Publishing/Epi Kardia blog. Along with narration, Ms. Mason suggests there are other uses for school books other than reading and narration:

But this is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.                          —Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, Chapter 16

For other methods to use as alternatives or along with narration, see 15 Creative Language Arts Lessons Using Living Books, also on this blog.

Art, Music and Poetry Appreciation

Jim Erskine of Homeschool Freebie of the Day  offers us a vintage pdf reprint of a classic book about the value of developing music appreciate with young children.  Although there may be a sign up form or two here, it is not necessary to sign up to receive the ebook, Music Talks with Children. Look for the link about half way down the page. Thank you for the freebie, Jim!

Including music as well as art and poetry, Patti from the scrumptious  All Things Bright and Beautiful blog provides information for several lesson plans on her June 12th post concerning the artist, Robert Bateman, composer Franz Joseph Hayden, and the American poet Phillis Wheatley.

Carol from the journey-and-destination blog posted some helpful science videos & a plan for reading through A Child’s Geography, by Ann Voskamp. 

Literature Study

In a second post, Carol offers up her nine week schedule for studying Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (or What You Will). This is especially suited for those of us who have high school students.

 

This carnival is short, but sweet!  June is a month to kick back and REST for most of us, but hopefully you will find something here to inspire you. Thank you to the authors who participated!

 

Blessings~

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

15 Language Arts LessonsIf you homeschool the Charlotte Mason way, you have often heard that narration is “the” activity to do after reading living books. This is certainly the easiest for you and one of the most profitable activities for your student, but did you know that in Volume 3 of the Charlotte Mason series, Charlotte offered us several other things we can do with books other than narration?

But this [narration] is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.                      –Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, Chapter 16

 

 15 Non-narration Ideas for Living BooksYou Can Use Today!

If your kids balk at narration, or even if they don’t, here are fifteen creative ideas to change things up a bit and learn or review language arts concepts at the same time.

  1.  Have your student take reading notes over a passage (length of the passage is determined by the age of your student and the complication of the passage), writing down the important statements in the passage.  (Example: each step in the lifecycle of a butterfly or frog)
  2. Choose a well-developed paragraph with a clear topic sentence. Type the passage in a large point size, one sentence at a time with a few lines in between. Print and cut out each sentence.  Mix up the order of the sentences and have your student choose the topic sentence of the paragraph and put the sentences in order. Compare with original and discuss. Use the paragraph for copy work.
  3.  Choose a sentence with many adjectives and prepare two versions for copy work:  the first as it is in print and the second leaving out the adjectives. Ask your student to describe the differences in the two sentences. Talk about describing words, or adjectives, and discuss different examples.  Have her use the sentence for copy work with the adjectives. Another day have her circle the adjectives in the initial sentence, and then copy the sentence inserting her own (different) adjectives.
  4. Choose simple sentences of text  and write/type each sentence on its own line with spaces in between.  Leave out either the subject or the predicate of several sentences.  Examine the original complete sentences in print with your student, and after a short verbal lesson (an example of this lesson is here)  on  subjects/predicates, have your child tell which part is missing and create an appropriate subject or predicate.
  5. For your kindergarten student: Prepare a sentence of text for copy work.  Point out capitalization and end punctuation. Have your student copy the sentence. Another day have student create her own sentence using the original sentence(s) as a guide.
  6. Choose and prepare sentence(s) from your science or history books  for copy work to reinforce a history/science concept. Have your student use the sentence for copy work.  Later, use the same text  for dictation. A few days after, check to see if your student remembers the concept without looking at his copy work/dictation.
  7. Choose a punctuation skill that you would like to reinforce, such as commas in a series, quotation marks, apostrophe usage, past or future tense, etc. Find a short passage in one of your literature, history or science books that exemplifies that skill.  Use the passage for copy work one day and dictation later.
  8. Choose a paragraph that includes a part of speech that you are teaching, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, prepositional phrases, etc.  Using a colored pencil, have your child circle all the <nouns, for example.>.  For older children or for review, have your student use different colors to mark different parts of speech and circle some, put a box around others, etc. Make sure to give clear instructions and have your student create a “key” at the bottom of the page.
  9. For extra practice, use the copy work above but have your student use different nouns, etc. Discuss how this changes the sentence(s). For older students, discuss the ‘mood’ of a piece and have him create a different mood than the original by his choice of adjectives.
  10. Have your student find ten interesting adjectives in the newspaper or a magazine and cut them out. Have her write additional sentences using those adjectives.
  11. Type a paragraph of text, joining some of the sentences to make run-on sentences. After a short verbal lesson on run-on sentences, have your student identify them and write correct sentences. Use the corrected piece for copy work.
  12. Using a literature book, choose a passage with examples of several precise verbs. Use this passage for copy work. Another day, use a previously written passage of your student’s. Have him circle the verbs used and discuss ideas for improvement with more precise verbs. Have him rewrite the passage.
  13. Using a well-written book, have your middle or high school level student take a chapter or more and create an outline of the chapter.
  14. Copy a paragraph/passage of text. Change it: misspell words, make the punctuation incorrect or leave it out, make capitalization errors, etc.  Have your student correct.  Then have your student do the same thing above for you to correct.
  15. Copy or create a passage of text with “tired” words such as good, nice, bad, really, said, big, small. Have your student rewrite the passage, using “wow” words. (Example: tiny vs. small) Use a thesaurus to find more words as necessary.

 

Here’s to variety!  Can you think of any more?

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.

 

 

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

How HS and Elem Students can Study History Together

It makes sense to have all of your children study the same period of history at the same time. But what if you have a high school student and two elementary students?

Sounds challenging.

This is the question recently addressed by our Info Desk:

Hi-

        I have a few questions regarding your curriculum that I’m considering for my kids next year.

        My oldest daughter will be entering high school, 9th grade, next year.  I also will have a 5th grader (my son is pretty smart but also severely dyslexic which hinders his independent reading and writing), and a 1st grade daughter.

        I am trying to figure out how I can keep them all within the same time period for history.  I see your curriculum could accommodate some of that possibly, but what I’m considering is the American History I for my oldest.  Would there be a way to incorporate that for my younger 2, or would I need to consider the unit programs for all 3?  Quite honestly, that seems a bit overwhelming.  I guess I’m just looking for some recommendations.  The kids are all spread apart just enough age-wise that I have a hard time planning things together.  I know my oldest needs more high school level work and I don’t want to frustrate my younger 2 either.  It’s a bit hard to coordinate :)

        Also, from what I understand- the Secondary Unit Program is book lists and ideas to incorporate into the school year (I hope I’m not over-simplifying it), yet the American History I is more of a complete- not necessarily day by day- but more broken down and more in-depth study of a certain time period?  Is that correct?

Thanks for your time and input- it is greatly appreciated!!

Grace and peace,
Cheri

Hi Cheri!

Thanks for your inquiry!

You do have a spread of ages — I can see that could be challenging, but our curriculum can easily accommodate.  Our American History I covers four units:

  • Colonial Life
  • Revolution
  • Westward Expansion, and
  • Civil War

Our Unit Programs include the same four units. You may easily have everyone study the the same historical periods/topics at the same time by using American History I for your 9th grader and our Unit Programs for your 5th and 1st graders.

I recommend you order the Primary Unit Program  for your 1st grader,  the Intermediate Units  for your 5th grader, and American History I (scroll down a bit) for your 9th grader.

Then, follow the schedule of American History I for your family and spend nine weeks on each of those four units using your unit programs.

Additionally, I would recommend one more thing for your rising 9th grader.  Has she taken a high school level composition course yet? If not, I would recommend she take our Essay Styles  course along with her American History I course.  That would allow her to become familiar with the high school level essay styles she would be asked to use in the American History course.

In awarding high school credit for our Essay Styles course you have two choices: you could award her  credit for an English elective, or use Essays for a 9th grade English credit, if you study some literature along with it.  (Ask if you need more information about that.)

Your thoughts about the  Secondary Unit Program are correct. It contains quite a bit of information about teaching from sixth through twelfth grades, along with many book selections arranged by time period and topic, but it is an unstructured program. In other words; it is like a lavishly appointed salad bar with lots of choices, but you put together your meal among all of the options available.

American History I is more like a sumptuous dinner delivered right to your table. It is structured,  specifying what books to read, yet giving you some assignment choices for each book, along with evaluation tips of what to look for as you grade your student’s assignments.

If you have further questions, Cheri, please feel free to write again! We would love to help.

Hi Dana-

Thanks for your thorough response to my questions.  You make it seem NOT overwhelming :) I had forgotten to ask about the Essay Styles course and you answered it – thanks!  I would be interested in making it into an 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

Our next post will answer Cheri’s question about adding literature study to Essay Styles to make it a well-rounded 9th grade English course. In that post I will list several excellent high school level book options for American History as well as give you several assignment ideas that would fit almost any high school level book.

Stay tuned!

Have a great week!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing