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Language Arts in My Household

language arts in my household featured graphic

At its most basic level, language arts is about communication: taking in information and sharing information with others. Sounds simple, right?

So why is language arts such a difficult subject to plan and teach?

One big reason that language arts can be difficult is that the single subject area of “language arts” actually encompasses more than ten related topics: phonics, reading, handwriting, listening skills, spelling, grammar, writing, poetry, literature, vocabulary, and speech! It doesn’t seem quite so simple anymore, does it?

Many homeschool parents long for an all-in-one language arts curriculum, but an inclusive approach to teaching language arts can be difficult. Most kids learn to read faster than they learn to write or spell, so although an all-in-one program might be just right for reading, it may be too advanced for writing. For another child, a program may be perfect for spelling but too slow for reading.

Putting It All Together

Would you like to hear how a seasoned homeschooler makes language arts work in her household? Merry Marinello homeschooled two children of her own, so her language arts expertise comes from years of experience in the trenches, figuring out exactly how to teach this multifaceted subject to her kids. As part of our customer service team, Merry has also responded to thousands of questions from parents about using All About Reading and All About Spelling with their children.

Here’s Merry…

When I realized that an all-in-one curriculum just wasn’t a viable option for my children and that I would have to go another direction, I knew I had to begin by identifying what my goals were. I started by asking myself a few important questions:

  • Why do I teach language arts?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • In what order should I teach the skills that make up “language arts”?
  • And finally, what priority should I give them?

After considering my answers to these questions, I worked out a progression for teaching language arts that looked like this:

Language arts suggested order of introduction inforgraphic

I knew that just figuring out a logical sequence for teaching language arts wasn’t enough. I still had to figure out how to fit all those content areas into our school day and apply some time limits for daily instruction. I like to do 30 to 60 minutes of daily language arts instruction for kindergarten and first grade, and 60 to 90 minutes each day for second grade and up.

Language Arts: Start with the Basics

Sticking to these time limits requires some prioritizing. Here’s how I ended up fitting it all inbut keep in mind that these recommendations are what worked for my children. You may need to increase or decrease your instruction time depending on your child’s attention span, abilities, and progress.

A basic beginning plan for kindergarten or first grade might start like this:

  1. Phonics and reading instruction:
    20 to 30 minutes per day
  2. Handwriting instruction:
    10 minutes per day

A Note about Handwriting

When just starting out, handwriting doesn’t have to involve putting pen to paper. Instead, you and your child can do things like writing with an index finger in sand or in pudding or on carpet squares or any other tactile surface. Writing is fairly complex and involves both gross and fine motor muscle tone as well as neurological involvement and working memory. I remember thinking that pre-writing types of activities weren’t all that important when, in fact, they are very important. I was too anxious to get to “the real thing” (pencil to paper). If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time doing fun pre-writing activities.

Add in the Rest

When a child becomes fluent in reading simple words, it’s time to add in:

  1. Spelling instruction:
    20 minutes per day

    And…when a child can read chapter books fluently, your phonics and reading instruction time can transition to:

    Silent reading:
    30 minutes per day

A Note about Read-alouds

There are lots of great reasons to read aloud to your children. I recommend reading aloud to even your older children for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes each day. Read-alouds teach many valuable language arts skills, such as vocabulary. I often stop to see if my kids know a word, or they will stop me and ask for a definition. Syntax and grammar and the flow of our language are also taught informally. Poetry can teach rhyming, alliteration, and the musicality of language. You can work on listening skills and comprehension by asking simple questions like “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why do you think the character did that? Would you have done that?” Most of all, reading aloud can help your child develop a lifelong love of learning. I still read to my high school and junior high students, and I will continue as long as I can get away with it!

When your child is ready for more, you can begin to add in writing and grammar.

  1. Writing and/or grammar instruction:
    30 minutes per day

I started off by working on these topics informally. I found it easier to add a formal writing program after my children could spell around a thousand words. Writing and grammar do not have to be taught simultaneously. There are many ways to customize instruction in these areas. You can choose to focus on one per year, or do them on alternating days. Try breaking instruction up into 6-, 9-, 12-, or 18-week segments, or use a program that incorporates both content areas.

With older children, speech can be woven into the writing/grammar time slot as well.

Remember, you don’t have to do every language arts topic every year. The most important thing is to think through your goals, consider the individual needs of each child, and build your language arts plan step by step.

Do you have a system for teaching language arts that works for your family? How is it different from this system? Let us know in the comments!

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Cherie

says:

These are good guidelines.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Cherie.

Jessica Ellis

says:

I love this. I was just trying to figure when to add spelling and grammar for my 8 year old. This is his first year homeschooling. We started in an all in one language arts curriculum but I found he had gaps and was struggling to read at an early 1st grade level. So I went back to basics and just finished doing a different phonic/intro reading program with him. I wish I had come across AAR before we did the other program but I think we can hop into level 2 based on the placement test.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Jessica,
Our reading placement test and spelling placement test are reliable! However, if you have concerns, let me know. I’m happy to help with placement, answer questions, or whatever you need!

Annette

says:

My son is in 4th grade and has been in a classical charter school the last two years. He has had pretty intensive grammar training and has done two years of IEW. He has a lot of knowledge but he has dyslexia and dysgraphia and is about 2/3 yrs behind in reading/writing (respectively) so he doesn’t have the ability to implement the knowledge that he was taught. I will be homeschooling him and am considering using All About Reading/Spelling and foregoing a traditional language arts/grammar curriculum in an effort to focus on establishing a reading/writing/spelling foundation and hopefully get him caught up. To be honest, because I am used to the traditional academic path, the thought of not teaching grammar/writing on the traditional timeline petrifies me–but I think I need to buck tradition to meet the needs of my child. If I don’t teach grammar for the next year (or two), how hard will it be for my child to “get caught up”?

Robin

says: Customer Service

Annette,
I completely understand your concerns, but I want to assure you from personal experience that focusing solely on reading and spelling until your unique student is ready for formal grammar and writing studies will be fine! In fact, it will be better than fine because when he is ready, he will be able to make great progress in those subjects instead of barely getting by.

My third child struggled so much to learn anything related to language (from talking through writing essays, all took him years longer than “normal”). He was about 6th grade before he was far enough along in reading and spelling to be ready for grammar and writing, but I struggled for a bit trying to find the right programs for him to learn from. He started 8th grade knowing the parts of speech (nouns, verbs, and such) but struggled to know how to write a complete sentence because he had no understanding of clauses at all. And at that time, he also was very behind in writing, struggling to write a single short, mediocre paragraph, even with help.

Then I found programs for grammar and writing that worked well for how he learns (it was Fix It Grammar and IEW writing), and he went from struggling to write a paragraph with lots of help to, less than a year later, writing an 8 paragraph essay on a historical speech with only a little help on how to organize the topics. And he loved writing that essay! He loves history and loves talking about it, so finally having the skills to put his thoughts on a historical topic in writing in a way that clearly expressed what he wanted to say was a wonderful experience for him!

Anyway, that kid went from being many years behind in grammar and writing in 8th grade to graduating from high school fully ready for college English 101!

So, my experience with my son, as well as working with many others teaching struggling learners, is that your child will have no trouble catching up on grammar and writing. Really. Meeting his needs in learning, and working consistently day in and day out, will pay off in the future!

Let me know if you have questions or help with anything. I’m happy to help with whatever you may need.

Jennifer

says:

This is the blog post I point everyone to who asks me about the flow of Language Arts. It has been such a beneficial resource in our homeschool.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you for referring others to this blog, Jennifer! And it’s great to hear that this has been a good resource for you!

Stephanie Rasmussen

says:

I would love the suggested grammar and writing programs. I love using AAR and AAS with my oldest. It works so well with her but the LA program I also choose just does not work. She ended in tears most days so we just stopped.

One suggestion I do have for families is if your child has a hard time with writing get an evaluation from an occupational therapist. There might be some fine motor skills that are lacking that makes it painful or just inefficient. There really is a proper way to hold a pencil and write each letter.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the recommendation, Stephanie! Yes, occupational therapists are an all too often overlooked resource for children that struggle with the physical act of writing.

For Grammar recommendations: there are a number of grammar programs available that have either multisensory components or an incremental approach. Many of our customers wait until their students are well along in reading and spelling before adding a grammar program. However, some that are interested in adding grammar earlier have enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. (I waited with my kids but did a casual introduction to parts of speech through things like the SchoolHouse Rock videos and Ruth Heller grammar picture books.) Here are other suggestions:

– Winston Grammar is a workbook program with color-coded grammar cards. It is generally aimed at students in 4th to 7th grades.
Easy Grammar features an incremental approach and includes topics such as usage and punctuation, and is designed for kids in 2nd grade and up.
– Essentials in Writing is described by author Matthew Stephens as a Math-U-See approach to writing. In the elementary levels, this program incorporates grammar with writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes, and then the student works on the concept that was taught. This is a multisensory and incremental program that is very easy to use. There are levels for 1st-12th grades.
– The Sentence Family is a simple and fun program aimed at 3rd through 6th graders. The program uses drawing along with a storyline to teach parts of speech and how they relate to each other.
– Fix It Grammar is incremental and uses very short lessons. Each level teaches grammar using sentences from a single story, so there is the additional fun of seeing the story slowly unfold. The teacher’s manual is very comprehensive and even includes advanced concepts so the teacher can answer questions a curious student may have. Books 1 and 2 are for upper elementary ages, books 3 and 4 for junior high, and books 5 and 6 for high school.
– Analytical Grammar teaches a mastery of grammar by working on it for short grammar-focused units once a year for 2 to 3 years. Junior Analytical Grammar is for 4th or 5th graders, with Analytical Grammar for 6th to 9th graders.
– Beowulf Grammar is a multisensory, hands-on program that can make grammar concepts stick. It is designed for grades 2-6 but could be used for an older student who doesn’t mind younger graphics.

For writing options, here are some with incremental, explicit, and/or multisensory approaches:

– Essentials in Writing (described above)
– Institute for Excellence in Writing
– WriteShop uses an incremental approach and includes multi-sensory activities. The methods are effective for both regular and special needs learners.
– Jensen’s Format Writing
– Writing Skills by Diana Hanbury King: Book A is for grades 2-4, Book 1 is for grades 5-6, Book 2 is for grades 7-8, and book 3 is for grades 9-12.
– Writing Strands
– Night Zookeeper for 6-12 year-olds. It has games that go through vocabulary and spelling, but the main part is creative writing. First, you create your own zoo animal (they are all made-up creatures, and they give you prompts to make it if needed), and the first piece you write is on that animal. They often give you goals like “try to use a descriptive word in your story,” etc. They have the kids write reports. The child reads something about a topic (like manatees) and then writes a report on it. A person will comment on each story the kids write and give them suggestions and ask them to correct mistakes.
– Brave Writer is especially good for reluctant writers. Their project-based writing plans, such as Partnership Writing, provide exciting projects that encourage students to set pencil to paper. Examples include learning about and writing in code and creating a personal photo-autobiography.

I hope this helps!

Rjha

says:

I have an 11.5 yr old boy who is slowly plowing through AAS 3. He is almost done. I want to add more writing. Neither of us like the looks of IEW videos. He does not like anything silly of juvenile. He liked the looks of Writing with Skill by WTM press. Has anyone had success using this with a slight to moderate dyslexic child. He reads on a 5th grade level I’d guess. He has made great gains in expository reading this year. I am planning to go at his pace no matter what we do.

Rjha

says:

I have an 11.5 yr old boy who is slowly plowing through AAS 3. He is almost done. I want to add more writing. Neither of us like the looks of IEW videos. He does not like anything silly of juvenile. He liked the looks of Writing with Skill by WTM press. Has anyone had success using this with a slight to moderate dyslexic child. He reads on a 5th grade level I’d guess. He has made great gains in expository reading this year. I am planning to go at his pace no matter what we do. He has 5 younger siblings just fyi

Robin

says: Customer Service

Riha,
I am not familiar with Writing with Skill, but we do have a few recommendations for writing other than IEW.

– WriteShop uses an incremental approach and includes multi-sensory activities. The methods are effective for both regular and special needs learners.
– Writing Strands‘ author was dyslexic and it also provides an incremental approach.
– Jensen’s Format Writing is incremental.
– Essentials in Writing is both multisensory and incremental. The author describes it as a Math-U-See approach to writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes and then the student works on the concept that was taught. It also has grammar included for 1st-6th grade levels, and optional grammar dvd included in Jr. High levels.

Roslyn Harris

says:

I have an 11.5 yr old boy who is slowly plowing through AAS 3. He is almost done. I want to add more writing. Neither of us like the looks of IEW videos. He does not like anything silly of juvenile. He liked the looks of Writing with Skill by WTM press. Has anyone had success using this with a slight to moderate dyslexic child. He reads on a 5th grade level I’d guess. He has made great gains in expository reading this year. I am planning to go at his pace no matter what we do. He has 5 younger siblings just fyi

Brittany

says:

After finishing which level of AAS would you recommend starting writing and grammar?

Robin

says: Customer Service

Good question, Brittany.

If your student struggles spelling, it may be best to wait to begin writing and grammar until they finish All About Spelling Level 3. AAS has a gradual progression for increasing the student’s stamina and fluency in writing, from words and short phrases in Level 1, to phrases and short sentences in Level 2, to 12 dictation sentences per step in Level 3. Partway through this level, the Writing Station is introduced. In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using some of their spelling words.

In this way, students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments. Dictation and the Writing Station both serve as an important bridge between spelling words in the context of lists (where the patterns are similar), and more “real world” writing. By the end of Level 3, students have mastered about 1000 words from the regular and reinforcement lists, and they have developed stamina and some beginning editing skills that will help them when they start a formal writing program.

If your student does not struggle with spelling, they may do well to start writing somewhat earlier. However, since students that don’t struggle tend to move through the material more quickly, waiting until they finish AAS 3 could be a good guide either way.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have additional questions or need anything else.

Lindsay

says:

Does AAS include grammar too? I am about to purchase the AAR because my son is still struggling at age 10 to read. I just know this method is going to help him! I think I may need to change everything weve been doing😳 Including Spelling and Grammar.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lindsay,
The All About Spelling program does not cover grammar except as it applies to spelling. For example, when the suffix -ed is taught, students do learn what past tense means and how some words change completely instead of simply taking on the suffix. However, the program does not discuss parts of speech, punctuation, and so on.

All About Spelling has a gradual progression for increasing the student’s stamina and fluency in writing that’s very helpful. It starts with just words and short phrases in Level 1, bumps up to phrases and short sentences in Level 2, and progresses to 12 dictation sentences per step in Level 3. Partway through this level, the Writing Station is introduced. In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using some of their spelling words. In this way, students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments.

Dictation and the Writing Station both serve as an important bridge between spelling words in the context of lists (where the patterns are similar), and more “real world” writing. By the end of Level 3, students have mastered about 1000 words from the regular and reinforcement lists, and they have developed stamina and some beginning editing skills that will help them when they start a formal writing program.

I can provide you with some grammar program recommendations, if you like. Many of our customers wait until their students are well along in reading and spelling before adding a grammar program. I waited with my kids, but did a casual introduction to nouns and verbs through things like the the SchoolHouse Rock videos and Ruth Heller grammar picture books.

Yes, I waited even into junior high. One of my children was about 12 before he was reading and spelling well enough to learn things like identifying prepositional phrases and main clauses. And even though he was older when he began grammar instruction, he still had plenty of time to be successful with it.

I hope this help. Let me know if you would like that list of grammar program recommendations after all, or if you have additional questions.

Claudia

says:

I would love that list recommendation please.

Robin

says: Customer Service

I emailed you, Claudia.

Lindsay

says:

Thank you so much for the information! My boy is 10. I am taking a break on grammar to focus on cementing reading! I seen some reccomendations given to another person who posted. Beowulf grammar looks like a good fit. A breath of fresh air to our current stuffy grammar lessons! Thanks again☺️

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Lindsay! Sounds like a great plan!

Janice H.

says:

I am just beginning to look into home schooling and I need a lot of guidance. Your information has been very helpful thus far. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so glad to hear that this information has been helpful as you begin your homeschooling experience, Janice! However, if you have additional questions or concerns, just ask. We are very happy to help!

Beth C.

says:

This is such a freeing way to look at teaching language arts. Juggling multiple ages and stages it can feel overwhelming. Such a good reminder that it doesn’t have all be done all the time. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re so welcome, Beth! And not only does focusing on the incremental progression of Language Arts help to keep things from feeling overwhelming, but it also allows for the most efficiency in teaching too! You teach skills when children are ready to tackle them!

elsa

says:

I would love to use it with my students but I live outside the US .

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elsa,
There are options for ordering outside the US! There are retailers that carry our materials in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and South Africa. Also, there are two US retailers that ship worldwide that carry our products as well. Lastly, there is the option of using a freight forwarder to purchase directly from us and have products shipped worldwide.

Let me know if you would like links to any of these or need more information.

Kelly Munro

says:

My son has almost finished level 4, so I’m currently researching language arts curriculums.
What are your thoughts on The Good and the Beautiful?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kelly,
I’m sorry, I don’t know enough about The Good and the Beautiful to have an opinion on its use after completing All About Reading.

We recommend students read daily from a wide variety of reading materials and genres after completing All About Reading Level 4. If The Good and the Beautiful will provide such reading experiences, it would be a good choice. However, The Good and the Beautiful is one of those curricula that teaches all aspects of Language Arts together. If your student is not on the same level for reading, spelling, writing, grammar, and so on, such all-in-one curricula can be a poor fit.

Brittany Mccowan

says:

What are your thoughts on Michael Clay Thomson after AAR Level 4?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It really depends on the child, Brittany.

Michael Clay Thompson curriculum is heavily text-based instruction. It uses beautiful artwork and such, but minimal instruction is multisensory. There are some colorful visuals, but the only auditory teaching is if the parent goes beyond the course to add discussion and maybe read the text aloud. I found no tactile or kinetic instruction at all and no easy way to add it. MCT moves quickly and seems to expect students to get things easily.

For some children, this will be a good fit, but I would be concerned for any student that has struggled in learning or seems to especially need multisensory instruction.

And, as I mentioned above, the most important thing after completing All About Reading is to have your child read daily from a variety of genres. You may need to add reading material to Michael Clay Thompson curriculum to have enough reading for each day.

Nicki

says:

My oldest child has had a lot of trouble learning to read with ADHD & dyslexia. She is now in AAR level 2 though and is finally getting it! We added in AAS level 1 last month, and she is already halfway through it. She also practices her handwriting most days. When do we know it is time to start grammar? And also, is there a grammar program that you recommend that doesnt have to be done everyday (or if it does, that is short)?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great questions, Nicki.

Many of our customers wait until their students are well along in reading and spelling before adding a grammar program. However, some that are interested in adding grammar earlier have enjoyed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise. (I waited with my kids but did a casual introduction to nouns and verbs through things like the SchoolHouse Rock videos and grammar picture books by Ruth Heller.)

There are several grammar programs available that have either multisensory components or an incremental approach. Some of the programs focus exclusively on grammar, while some include writing as well. Here are some suggestions:

– Winston Grammar is a workbook program with color-coded grammar cards. It is generally aimed at students in 4th to 7th grades.

– Easy Grammar features an incremental approach and includes topics such as usage and punctuation, for 2nd grade and up.

– Essentials in Writing is described by author Matthew Stephens as a Math-U-See approach to writing. In the elementary levels, this program incorporates grammar with writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes, and then the student works on the concept that was taught. This is a multisensory and incremental program that is very easy to use. There are levels for 1st-12th grades.

– The Sentence Family is a simple and fun program aimed at 3rd through 6th graders. The program uses drawing along with a storyline to teach parts of speech and how they relate to each other.

– Fix It Grammar is incremental and uses very short lessons. Each level teaches grammar using sentences from a single story, so there is the additional fun of seeing the story slowly unfold. The teacher’s manual is very comprehensive and even includes advanced concepts so the teacher can answer questions a curious student may have. Books 1 and 2 are for upper elementary ages, books 3 and 4 for junior high, and books 5 and 6 for high school.

– Analytical Grammar teaches mastery of grammar by working on it for short grammar-focused units once a year for 2 to 3 years. Junior Analytical Grammar is for 4th or 5th graders, with Analytical Grammar for 6th to 9th graders.

– Beowulf Grammar is a multisensory, hands-on program that can make grammar concepts stick. It is designed for grades 2-6 but could be used for older students who don’t mind younger graphics.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have additional questions.

Carolyn

says:

Hello. I am new to homeschooling my grade 4 twins, since October 2021,and I am finding there are so many ways to teach and a lot of curriculum to choose from. Recently, a homeschool teacher told be about Daily Grams and incorporating Language Arts into the other core subjects, rather than a stand alone subject. Panic set in! I think it is the conditioning of public school where subjects are separate. Then, I discovered this website and trying to make sense of the guidance here. I think I am more confused about how to approach language arts and curriculum.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry this blog post increased your confusion, Carolyn! Yes, deciding on curriculum and teaching philosophy can be difficult. There are a few different views and almost innumerable curriculum options!

I recommend starting with the book 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy. The author spends more than half of the book helping the reader discover what he or she needs as a teacher and what their children need as students. Once you have a better idea of what is best for you and your twins as unique individuals, you can more easily go about the process of choosing curriculum and approaches. Even if you don’t go with any of Ms. Duffy’s 102 top recommendations, the first half of her book is extremely helpful.

Note, the “102 Top Picks…” is the most recent edition, but the previous editions (“100 Top Picks…” and “101 Top Picks…”) still contain the helpful information I mentioned. If you can find only find an older edition at your local library, go for it.

If you have specific questions, I’m happy to help. In short, the idea of intertwining subjects has its pros and cons, but so does keeping each subject separate. Intertwining subjects can be really fun and help learning to go deeper, but it can also be a problem if students are not on the same level in all subjects. It is fairly common that a child can read well but struggles to spell the same words, for example. Keeping subjects separate can correct that, but it can lead to a more “get it done” mentality. There are other pros and cons for each as well.

And, I hope this doesn’t confuse you more, it is not an all-or-nothing prospect either. Another approach is to intertwine some subjects and separate others. For example, in my homeschool, we do literature that often coordinates with the history and geography we are studying, like reading a novel about the Revolutionary War while studying the Revolutionary War. But we keep other subjects that my children have more difficulties with, like spelling, separate.

Amber

says:

This is so helpful as someone just starting our homeschooling journey! Even though I have a Master’s degree in reading, I need the reminder to go slow and steady with my own children!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful, Amber!

JB

says:

What are your thoughts on the MCT Language Arts Curriculum for incorporating the writing/grammar?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

JB,
I have emailed you.

Michelle Couch

says:

Would you mind emailing me a well. We are using aar and aas and I want to add grammar and writing.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Michelle,
I have emailed you.

Katie

says:

Thank you; this is a helpful framework suggestion for balancing all the topics!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful, Katie!

Julie A Roberts

says:

Thank you for this particular article. My son, 9, is about 1/2 through AAR 3 and just starting AAS 2 (for the second time). I’ve been wondering about adding in writing, but hesitant to do it still. I think I’ll wait a little longer. His reading has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few months and I’d rather he read well than write well, at this point.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Julie. I’m so pleased to hear his reading has improved so much over the last few months!

Keep at All About Reading and All About Spelling. By the end of Level 3, students have mastered about 1000 words from the regular and reinforcement lists, and they have developed stamina and some beginning editing skills that will help them when they start a formal writing program.

Jenny

says:

That is really helpful to know. Using Level 3 of AAS as a marker is what I needed. We are towards the end of Level 2 and my daughter is reluctant to write because she wants her spelling to be perfect.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jenny.

Partway through Level 3, the Writing Station activity is introduced. In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using assigned words.

In this way, students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments. Dictation and the Writing Station both serve as an important bridge between spelling words in the context of lists (where the patterns are similar), and more “real world” writing.

It’s another reason why many students are more ready for a writing program after All About Spelling Level 3.

Liea

says:

Hi,
I have two children, both of whom are home schooled.
My daughter, who is turning 7 in about a month, loved AAR Pre Reading in preschool. We completed AAR 1 over her kindergarten year, and she is now proudly beginning level 2, and AAS 1, for 1st grade. She did the AAR Pre-Reading course when she was 4 years old. She loved it and did beautifully. She knew all of her letters and letter sounds by the end of the program. However, there was a large comprehension gap for her between Pre-Reading and Level 1. We ended up using alternate programs with her for a year in what was her Pre-K year, aged 5, before we could begin AAR1 in earnest last year. I mention this because perhaps a bridge program between Pre-Reading and Level 1 would be helpful for other families with very eager and capable little ones on the younger end of the learning spectrum. We didn’t discover All About Reading for my older child until he was already reading a bit. He tested in somewhere between level 1 and 2 on the placement tests, so I started him on level 1, it met him right where he needed to be, and he took off running. But for a very young but capable child, the step up between Pre-Reading and Level 1 was too steep, and she needed a lot more to bridge the gap.

My older child is now 9, in 4th grade. We finished AAR level 4 over the summer, and I’m floundering a bit as to which direction we should go in next. He loved AAR, but has dysgraphia so he is not as proficient a writer as he is a reader. Because of this, all-in-one curriculum for language arts seems to bog us down. Currently, we are using CoreKnowledge language arts skills readers and workbooks, to keep him proficient and practice some reading comprehension,combined with Pearson’s phonics, AAS, Handwriting without tears, and Elsie S. Wilmerding’s Just Write books. (Not all of these every day, of course.) It’s working, but it is cumbersome, and I have the nagging feeling that he needs more, or perhaps a more concise way of learning it all. CoreKnowledge is great, and free, which is always nice, but the pacing is wrong for him. There is a huge amount of busy work in each skills book, and the progression is very gradual. It’s designed for a traditional school setting, so we are kind of re-inventing the wheel with it. Yet, he needs structured reading practice, and reading comprehension. Is there another reading comprehension program that you could recommend as a good stepping-off point after AAR?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Liea,
Thank you for sharing your concerns and suggestion about the transition from the Pre-reading level to All About Reading level 1. I have passed that along to our curriculum development team! We appreciate feedback like this.

Congratulations on your son finishing All About Reading level 4! It’s quite the accomplishment!

Check out our article, What Happens after All About Reading for lots of ideas on what to do next.

We recommend setting a daily reading time for your student to read for 30 minutes. Choose books that interest your son, both fiction and non-fiction. You can also choose books that correlate to other subjects you are studying, such as historical fiction or Usborne books that cover science topics. The link above has several possible sources. A couple more:
– Literature-based curriculum such as Sonlight
The 1000 Good Books List
IEW Book Recommendations by Andrew Pudewa

Have your student keep reading aloud a little each day, and you can use all of the strategies that he has learned to help him decode unfamiliar words. For students who need extra reinforcement, continue the Word Card approach and make flashcards for review using this blank Word Card Template.

Keep reading aloud to him and enjoying great books together!

You may find our blog post on How to Teach Reading Comprehension helpful as well.

I hope this helps!

Diana

says:

Thanks for breaking it down so well. I have a 3rd grader that will be using AAR Level 2 and AAS Level One. And a Kindergartener that hasn’t mastered his sounds. I purchased Handwriting without tears for my 3rd grader and kinder because I thought they needed writing to complete there Language Arts. But now I’m second guessing the writing curriculum after reading this article???

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Diana,
Handwriting Without Tears is a handwriting program. It is good to use one with your students, especially if they are not yet completely comfortable with forming letters.

A writing program will be a program that teaches a student to create their own paragraphs and longer essays, stories, and such. It is often best to hold off on doing a writing program until a student is proficient in spelling and writing sentences, something covered gradually in All About Spelling.

Does this clear things up? Let me know if you have further question.

Christina

says:

Thank you. This has helped me with planning my LA curriculum for my 2 little ones this year!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Christina!

Erin

says:

This is really helpful

Ada

says:

These are some great guidelines to know how to teach LA! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you found this helpful!

Tonya Sinner

says:

We will be upping our language arts this year, as my son scored low on his test in these areas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry to hear your son scored low in these areas, Tonya. Do you have specific concerns or questions?

Kristin

says:

Such a wonderful curriculum. My son and daughter love it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kristin!

Stephanie

says:

These tips are great. I have purchased level 2, 4, and Pre Reading. I think I should have purchased Level 1 for my kindergarten student. She is starting to spell words from letter sounds C A T – cat, stop, go, hat, can, mat, sat, etc. I would love a chance to win it!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Stephanie,
If you purchased directly from us, remember that we have our one-year “Go Ahead and Use It” guarantee. You could return the Pre-reading level even if parts of it are used. Let me know if you need more information.

Hanna

says:

I have loved all your reading and spelling courses for my kids! I am looking for a grammar program for my 7 year old (Level 4 reading; level 3 Spelling). I am having so much trouble finding a really good grammar program. I feel like I was spoiled by All About Reading & Spelling and no other curriculum seems like a good fit from what I can find for sentence structure, grammar, etc. Please let me know of one you would recommend.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Hanna,
There are a number of grammar programs available that have either multisensory components or an incremental approach. Some of the programs focus exclusively on grammar, while some include writing as well.

Here are some grammar suggestions:

– Winston Grammar is a workbook program with color-coded cards and is generally aimed at students in 4th to 7th grades.

– Easy Grammar features an incremental approach and includes topics such as usage and punctuation, for 2nd grade and up.

– Essentials in Writing is described by author Matthew Stephens as a Math-U-See approach to writing. In the elementary levels, this program incorporates grammar with writing. The lessons are presented in short video segments of 3 to 5 minutes and then the student works on the concept that was taught. This is a multisensory and incremental program that is very easy to use. There are levels for 1st-12th grades.

– The Sentence Family is a simple and fun program aimed at 3rd through 6th graders (although I think it could be used with slightly younger students too). The program uses drawing along with a storyline to teach parts of speech and how they relate to each other.

– Fix It Grammar is incremental and uses very short lessons. Each level teaches grammar using sentences from a single story, so there is the additional fun of seeing the story slowly unfold. The teacher’s manual is very comprehensive and even includes advanced concepts so the teacher can answer questions a curious student may have. The youngest the program is recommended for is 3rd grade, although it is appropriate for older students as well.

– Analytical Grammar teaches a mastery of grammar by working on it for short grammar-focused units once a year for 2 to 3 years. Junior Analytical Grammar is for 4th or 5th graders, with Analytical Grammar for 6th to 9th graders.

– Beowulf Grammar is a multisensory, hands-on program that can make grammar concepts stick. It is designed for grades 2-6 but could be used for an older student who doesn’t mind younger graphics.

And here are some composition/writing suggestions (for teaching sentence structure and such):

– Essentials in Writing (described above)

– IEW-Institute for Excellence in Writing. This has options for video instruction for the student or for the parent. Their PAL writing program is for beginning writers and also incorporates All About Spelling.

– WriteShop uses an incremental approach and includes multisensory activities. The methods are effective for both regular and special needs learners.

– Writing Skills by Diana Hanbury King: Book A is for grades 2-4, Book 1 for grades 5-6, Book 2 for grades 7-8, and book 3 for grades 9-12.

– Night Zookeeper, for 6-12 year-olds. It has games that go through vocabulary and spelling, but the main part is creative writing. First you create your own zoo animal (they are all made-up creatures and they give you prompts to make it if needed) and the first piece you write is on that animal. They often give you goals like “try to use a descriptive word in your story” etc. They have the kids write reports. The child reads something about a topic (like manatees) then writes a report on it. A person will comment on each story the kids write and give them suggestions and ask them to correct mistakes.

– Brave Writer has something for all ages. There are various curricula, but their project-based writing programs are especially great for motivating children to be excited about writing.

I hope this helps!

Laura

says:

Thanks so much for this information!