Monday, January 13, 2014

Adventures in teaching Language Arts...

How we teach Language Arts..... in Kindergarten!

 Well, since preK and Kindergarten are all I have expereience in (so far) this is where I will be explaining from! We use a mostly "traditional" style of schooling (since I am a former public school teacher) and use workboxes so that Chickadee can see what she has to accomplish as well as what she has completed for the day! We love working together and including Dad in on some of our projects too! 

 I will start with a brief explanation as to what Chickadee already knew before staring Kindergarten this year:

  To begin, we were very fortunate to have our daughter in a "home day care" when she was young while I was working full time and my husband was finishing school and working part time jobs. The day care she was in from 9 months old to 3.5 years was such a wonderful place and so educationally focused! The owner/leader did "preschool" time with all the kids (only 4) every morning teaching letters, sounds, numbers, etc. while having fun with weekly themes!
  Add this to my Early Childhood Education background and we had a very literate household, reading LOTS of books (my husband swears I have a book addiction... its okay, I really do!) ;) and my daughter was lucky to have such a strong language arts background before any "official" schooling began!
  When I was first able to stay home with Chickadee, we dabbled in the homeschooling waters and I found Confessions of a Homeschoolers "Letter of the Week K4" curriculum to start using. This was what we did for her "preK" year and I supplemented with "printable packs" that I found around the internet to supplement and make learning fun!

 Now, this year, we jumped in with both feet as we tackled Kindergarten! Here is how we are currently teaching/learning Language Arts:

Sight Words:
   To begin, during her "calendar time" we are using Reading the Easy Way. During the first semester we used the "preschool" edition to help Chickadee really memorize and learn those basic sight words. Chickadee loves the games that Reading the Easy Way incorporates as well as the word searches, mini readers, and other fun activities that teach the basic sight words. I love that it does teach in such a hands on and fun way giving us fun activities first thing in our school day! Once we finished the 12 week program, I had her complete these sight word sentences to reinforce the words we had already learned. (COAH also has these sight word sentences available for older grades as well!) Chickadee also loves doing one of these each day and most enjoys the silly sentences that go with each word! This semester we are staring with Reading the Easy Way Kindergarten and are looking forward to the new games, new activities, and mini-readers! 

 Playing "Roll and Read" from Reading the Easy Way

 Reading from one of the "mini-readers" from Reading the Easy Way

Learning to Read:
  We are using All About Reading Level 1 as our main language arts program now. I fell in love with this curriculum online and read so many great reviews of their products and couldn't wait to try it with Chickadee! I love the hands-on approach to learning and the student activity pages that make it fun to learn! We did, however, run into a bit of difficulty at first. At the beginning of the school year, Chickadee and I tried to jump in and start learning with AAR level 1. However, after 2 or 3 lessons, I decided to put it up and try again later. Chickadee was really struggling with the blending of the sounds. She knew the sounds, could sound out the words, could hear the word if I sounded them out elongated together, but could not sound it out and "hear" the word on her own. After a few days of frustration and tears, I knew it was not worth it! (I also knew we had a year to review and send it back if we couldn't make it work for us! Check out their return policy, it is AWESOME!) I found Starfall's Learn to Read and used their curriculum for a while. Chickadee loved this curriculum, I enjoyed that it was free! (You can even find free printables to go along with the stories on their website) and it seemed to be working! After going through the first 5 lessons (a total of about 10 weeks- repetition is key!) I pulled out our AAR level 1 again, and this time, it has been going GREAT! There has been no tears, no frustration, just enjoyment and excitement as Chickadee learns to read! We are currently working on beginning blends after finishing digraphs and final blends! She still asks to do Starfall and I let her use this site once awhile during "free time" but it mostly reinforces what we are learning through All About Reading! I think Chickadee's favorite thing with this program are the readers! She has fully completed the first (of three) of the hardback readers and even took it to my parents house for Christmas to read the stories for them! She LOVES that she can read (somewhat) on her own and I often find her reading anything she can get her hands on!

Writing/Grammar & Handwriting:
   I love our writing time! We are using Writeshop Primary Book A. This program includes several "weekly calendar" options on how you want to fit it into your schedule. We have chosen the 3 days a week option and it seems to work out great. Each lesson begins with a guided writing time and then continues on small steps to complete a unit. Currently, we are working on unit 6 and learning all about punctuation and capitol letters at the beginning of a sentence. Each unit also has a specific "theme or topic" to use for the "writing project." Through the writing project, Chickadee is learning to brainstorm, pick a topic, "rough draft," edit, and make a final piece of work. Each of the final projects is something different and keeps it fun and interesting. We have made an "All About Me" book, "Cookies" about friends, animal themed wind sock, written a train story and made into a train accordion fold book, and other fun projects! This curriculum teaches creative writing along with the entire writing process and helps to build grammar skills as well! 
   We also have a writing journal that we do at least once a week. Usually I give Chickadee several "sentence starters" (usually seasonal) to pick from and then let her choose one and finish with whatever she wants. She also draws a picture to go along with what she has written. I use this journal to also have her write down things we have done. For example, after a trip to our local museum, she wrote "My favorite thing at the museum this time was..." She enjoys writing in this journal and I think it will be fun to look back and read at the end of the year and many years down the road!
   For basic handwriting practice, we use A Reason for Handwriting Kindergarten book. I really like that starting with the next book (level A) the handwriting practice is all focused on scripture. However, the Kindergarten book is a very basic, letter by letter approach. Chickadee has done very well with this and only has a few review pages left to complete before finishing this book completely! Each page has the student practice writing one letter on the front (such as d) then on the back there is a picture of an object (usually an animal) that begins with that letter. Chickadee has enjoyed learning about the different animals and coloring in the pictures after practicing the letters!
  I also use everyday writing experiences when I can. This fall we had a trip to the fire station to learn about fire safety and see what a firefighter does. The next day, I had her write a letter to the firemen thanking them for letting us visit and other things. Her letter was 3 pages long by the time she had written all she wanted to! 

Writing a letter to our local fireman

   I don't think any Language Arts curriculum is complete without good quality Literature books and/or Read-Aloud time (no matter the age of the student!) As I said previously, I have a book addiction! Finding a book to read in this house is NEVER a problem! This year, we have taken time to read some books together each day. Sometimes, we also have "quiet reading time" where Chickadee and I will each read our own books of choice for 20 minutes. Our read-aloud time usually consists of kids' story books that somehow pertain to something we are learning about. (ex: fire safety, thanksgiving, seasonal books, etc). However, we also read "just for fun" books too!  
   One of my favorite things Chickadee and I have done this year, however, was a study on Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. I made a whole post about it here. We loved reading the book together and putting together our lapbook and all the projects we got to do as well. This unit study also introduced Chickadee to key language arts words like Plot, Characters, Setting, Problem, and Solution. Our next study is going to be over various fairy tales like "The Three Bears," "The Three Little Pigs," and "Little Red Riding-hood." I am excited to start this unit study with Chickadee! 

 I think that about covers all we are currently doing to teach Language Arts in Kindergarten for Chickadee this year! As I said before, this is my first real year of homeschooling so I don't claim to have all the answers, just what is working for us! I hope that maybe you found something useful! Questions and/or Comments are always welcome!

Thanks for reading,

This post was written to go along with ihomeschool network's How I teach series! Click to find more wonderful posts about teaching Language Arts!