Tag Archives: language arts

More Poetry Books for Tea Time

We have been very irregular with poetry teas, but they are still happening here, at least every couple of weeks.  One of the nice things about them is that the kids are often the impetus behind them.  They pick out many of the library books we use.  They often urge me that it’s time for another one.  And at our most recent poetry tea, Mushroom made the cookies and BalletBoy set the table.

poetry tea

Of course, we keep returning to the poetry books I’ve mentioned previously here and here.  But we also discover new ones like the ones I’m listing below.

The Monsterologist Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles

The Monsterologist by Bobbi Katz
This may be a case where the design, by Adam McCauley, surpasses the poetry.  However, the poems are fun for kids and the design is really stunning.  Each poem is about a different monster, from the Loch Ness Monster to the mysterious one that eats your socks in the washer.

Spot the Plot by J. Patrick Lewis
This cute group of riddle poems about classic children’s books was so fun to read that we read them all at the first poetry tea where we had them.  There’s something so perfect about riddle poems that get kids to really listen up.

Poetry by Heart edited by Liz Attenborough
This was one of the best collected books of classic poetry for kids that I’ve seen.  I loved that it ranged from classics to fun, silly poems.  The intention behind it is also excellent as it’s one that is meant to be a base for memorization.  It’s out of print, but you may know there’s a new memorization collection that just came out from Caroline Kennedy.  I haven’t seen that one yet though!

Casey at the Bat by William Thayer
I picked this one out for the start of baseball season (Go Nats!).  There are so many versions, but I chose the old-fashioned illustration style of Christopher Bing’s version, which is filled with newspaper clips and allusions to nineteenth century baseball.

Come to the Great World edited by Wendy Cooling
This collection was another gem.  The poems are from all over the world and chosen to appeal to children as well as to highlight themes of play and peace.  I usually swap out all the library poetry books every time, but I held on to this one through three poetry teas.

Come to the Great World: Poems from Around the Globe

Third Grade Grammar

Quite awhile back, I posted a list of some of the resources we used for first grade grammar.  Now that we’re up to grade three, I felt the need to be a little more focused, though I’m still in the gentle grammar camp.  Here’s what we’ve been doing.

Copywork and Dictation Lessons
Following in the style of Bravewriter’s The Arrow, this has been our primary means of teaching grammar and punctuation.  I’ve been choosing passages from the books we read with an eye toward introducing comma and capitalization rules and the like.  Before doing the passage, we discuss it and talk about the structure of the sentence a little.  I feel like this has been a good basic way to introduce most concepts.

Grammarland by M.L. Nesbit
Oh my goodness!  I can’t believe what an excellent book this is!  I wish so much that we had read it last year.  I resisted it for a little while because I thought the whole concept and presentation seemed a bit old-fashioned.  I love many older books, but others make me wary.  However, this story of Judge Grammar and all the Parts-of-Speech is one worth embracing, especially since you can find it free here.  A kind homeschooler has also turned the homework Judge Grammar assigned the Schoolroomshire children at the end of most chapters into a set of worksheets that you can find here (though you can also use a notebook if you like).  The kids are enjoying this read aloud greatly and find it very funny.

Mad Libs
You can never have enough Mad Libs, especially when you find a giant Mad Libs omnibus at the thrift store never touched for only 69 cents.

Grammar Cop
I decided to get a couple of dollar deals things from Scholastic awhile back and this one has worked well for helping the kids practice and reinforce some of the concepts I’ve taught.  The worksheets are mostly cheesy or punny fairy tales, but cheesy isn’t necessarily bad when you’re eight.  Scholastic has several others in this vein, such as the No More Boring Practice, Please! series.  I had considered briefly getting Critical Thinking Company’s Editor in Chief workbook, but decided against it because I wanted something a bit more fun and less serious.  We do one of these here and there when it seems like the right time.

Caught Ya! Grammar with a Giggle
I used the middle school version of this program when I taught school and really liked it.  I didn’t bother buying the elementary version (the third grade story didn’t sound great), but just adapted the idea of having a daily (silly) sentence to correct as part of a story since it takes just a couple of minutes but can really have big dividends.  Ours hasn’t quite been daily, but I’m trying to work it into our routine.  When we’ve done this, the kids have really shown how much they’re able to bring their learning into focus and remember things I was worried they hadn’t really learned.

Language Arts

Bravewriter inspired me to make more of a language arts routine, and we’ve been slowly implementing different elements of that.  It’s mostly things we were doing already, but having more of a routine for some elements has really helped me feel like we’re moving forward and “doing something” for writing, in particular.  I’m sure it doesn’t hurt either that both Mushroom and BalletBoy have reached a sort of tipping point with writing fluency and, in BalletBoy’s case, spelling so they can easily write a full page in their composition books.

Language arts is such a gooey, mushy concept with so many different pieces that it’s enough to drive someone crazy.  There’s handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, poetry, literature, reading mechanics, reading comprehension, creative writing, and the list could go on.  There aren’t a lot of programs that cover all the elements together, making it feel like you have to have a dozen different things for it.  I like that Bravewriter has helped me calm that instinct down a great deal.  As of now, we have Spelling Plus, which I have mostly on hold, though we’ll pick it back up again before too long.  Both kids are finishing up formal phonics learning with Explode the Code (though BalletBoy should finish the last book before the autumn).  I might do MCT’s Grammar Island for a short term grammar study in the fall.  But other than that, we’re just following a routine.

Here’s what language arts looks like around here lately:

Monday: copywork or dictation
Tuesday: writing projects
Wednesday: poetry lemonade social
Thursday: written narration, usually for history or science
Friday: freewriting

Everyday: evening read aloud chapter books, independent free reading
As it occurs: Mad Libs, movies, new vocabulary from books, audiobooks in the car, casual discussions about literary elements and plots

As we’ve eased into this schedule, I’m feeling good about it.  We’ve been alternating copywork and dictation mostly and I’ve been taking the passages mostly from our current read alouds.  It’s the thing that is most likely to meet with resistance, though both kids are improving at it.  We’ve been uneven with projects.  Bravewriter suggests one per month and we haven’t quite done that, but both kids are engaged in writing fan fiction (for The Mighty B strangely enough in Mushroom’s case) and have started small blogs about their passions.  Because of our schedule, Wednesday works better for poetry for us, and we’re not really tea drinkers so we have lemonade in wine glasses, which is about as fancy as I can muster.

A picture the Husband snapped of our poetry lemonade social. With brownies. We don’t have nice china, but I do bring out the nice napkins.

One thing I’m trying to work on for myself is bringing conversations about literature and story into a more casual, book club style.  We’ve run through a slew of novels with strong first person voice lately (The Great BrainOur Only May Amelia, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg…) so I’ve been pointing out a lot about voice lately, trying to get the kids to discuss.  And I’ve been trying to let myself pause more and allow Mushroom to share his joy when he recognizes foreshadowing (he’s quite good at realizing that ominous things are about to happen in a novel) and then to name it as such.  I feel like this is the way the kids will really learn how to appreciate literature, by talking about it and learning how to do that in a casual way.

When I wrote a few months ago about Bravewriter, I said I was definitely still in the honeymoon phase with it.  I can’t say if I still am or not, but if so, at least it’s a long honeymoon.  I’m at last feeling like language arts is something that is fun and easy in our homeschool and not something I need to worry about so much.