Language Arts Lately

Fourth grade has turned out to be such a funny time for language arts.  Such an in between time.  Some days, I’ll toss out an assignment and get something lovely back, such as a piece from BalletBoy last week written from the perspective of a girl in a photo from the Dust Bowl that he closed, “I cried as we walk away from our land.  My mother said we would find a new place, but I didn’t want that.”  Or this opening from a little story he did for an All About Spelling Writing Station assignment, “I dashed into the woods to get away from the wretched thing chasing me.”

Other times, we try things like the Brave Writer Keen Observations exercise and all we get is that the pineapple is yellow, sour and in a bowl.  And anything else is pulling teeth.  Or this set of sentences from Mushroom’s Writing Station, “There are edges.  There are bridges.  I am walking.”

We continue to work through grammar and spelling.  While it’s slow going for Mushroom, I’ve seen a huge improvement in his terrible spelling with All About Spelling.  Getting him to change words he has been misspelling for years, like “thay” and “reddy” has been a continuing problem, but most of the things he writes for himself are now readable and

mistakes now mostly make sense.  We also have tried out MCT Island this year, having gotten it used for a song.  We enjoyed Grammar Island, which was mostly review for us of parts of speech, which we’ve covered many other times.  But Sentence Island has turned into a slog midway through.  The writing assignments, which we’re not even doing all of, are not fun for the kids at all and produce mostly stilted, awkward writing.  We may give up on it.

Mushroom corrects my dictation.
Mushroom corrects my dictation.

Brave Writer continues to be the heart of what we do for language arts.  While we don’t get to it as often as I might like, poetry teas and movie nights continue at the Rowhouse.  We freewrite in various ways most weeks.  We use narrations for history and science.  We also do dictation from whatever read aloud we’re working through.  Every few weeks, though, I’ve been giving them a “break” from our read aloud dictation and letting them instead pick a passage from their chosen required reading book.  They copy the passage then teach it to me as if I’m the student and they’re the teacher, making sure to ask good questions about the meaning of the passage and pointing out all the spelling, grammar and punctuation I, the student, will need to remember.  They then dictate it to me and correct my dictation (I always get a few things wrong for them to find).

The kids' lapbooks about The Odyssey and Hercules.
The kids’ lapbooks about The Odyssey and Hercules.

Brave Writer’s Partnership Writing has continued to be fun.  To go along with our preparation fro the National Mythology Exam, we did the Greek myth lapbook project.  I’m still not swayed that lapbooks are particularly great (loyal blog readers will probably remember that lapbooks were on my list of homeschool things I really don’t get) but the kids did a decent job with them.  Mushroom made a maze for Odysseus to go home through in his and BalletBoy made a fake “Twelve Labors” board game on his for Hercules.  We’re going to tackle the imaginary continent or island chain in February and March.

As always, it’s difficult not to be constantly second guessing about something like writing, but I see how they are getting more and more fluent.  As I glanced back through the last several dictations we did, I saw full comp pages of writing with “Great Dictation!” and “Nearly perfect!” scrawled by me across the top.  It feels very much like we’re moving forward and I can see how a couple of years from now, we will be ready to start tackling essays and and more purposefully organized writing.

One thought on “Language Arts Lately

  1. How you feel about Language Arts is how I feel about Math right now. It’s sometimes such a frustrating dance. And then just as I really start to second guess it picks up again..ahhhhh…the dance continues!

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