Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Best Reading and Language Arts Curriculum

The Best Reading and Language Arts Curriculum

Hi Stephanie,
     Finding a great published Reading Curriculum is really up to your learning goals and your child's reading preferences. I have evaluated many Basal reading programs the last 12 years and have found most lacking in diversity. They lack stimulating children's literature, usually overly controlled vocabulary, and limited censored content that leave most Basal readers flat and boring for many students. Developing strong reasoning and literacy skills using flat literature with shallow plots, and characters will make teaching critical thinking skills more difficult. What is the solution!?
  • Create your own Basal Readers using fairy tales, fables, and literature from the past.
  • Develop a diverse children's literature library. 
  • Create your own Spellers and Glossaries. 
  • Use board and strategy games to develop critical thinking skills.
  • Read and perform plays.
  • Teach cursive as an art lesson with water color illustrations.
  • Use rich complex language with your child daily.
  • Family reading time, daily reading time is uninterrupted and cherished. 
  • Concerts, theater, museums and zoos are special places to discover language and culture.

"I am having trouble finding a good Language Arts curriculum that will challenge and interest him and we start homeschooling in 2 weeks."

Art by Sean Taylor
     Stephanie, I make a new speller every year that includes fluency drills, reading and spelling vocabulary, poetry, short stories, academic vocabulary, academic glossaries, and strange reference pages with fun facts, jokes and riddles all wrapped up in beautiful art and Victorian flourishes. This speller is used throughout the year and is based on Webster's Blue-Backed Speller and Eclectic McGuffey Spellers. The single part that is not drawn from public domain sources is the National Reading Vocabulary List. The NRVL is a progressive list of American English Reading Vocabulary categorized and ordered for each grade level.

More to Come!

I love your blog! I'm writing to ask for your opinion if it wouldn't be too much of an imposition. My son is very bright and has mild Aspergers. He is reading above grade level but struggles with pragmatics (if it isn't specifically stated in the text he has trouble drawing inferences). I am homeschooling him for 2nd grade because we were unable to find a program that seemed like a good fit. He is labeled "twice exceptional" and has an amazing, wonderful, fascinating brain. I kept hearing the words "he can't" when he clearly can do anything he sets his mind to. He was starting to feel like a problem child and hate learning, when he has always been curious, interested, and happy to read anything interesting that I provided. So, we decided to take advantage of the large homeschooling community in our area and will be giving it a try, but I'd like some guidance from a professional that has high standards and understands learning differences. I've seen your comments on Huffington Post and read your blog and you seem to be an incredible teacher with a great understanding of kids and reading. I would really appreciate any suggestions you would be willing to share.

I am having trouble finding a good Language Arts curriculum that will challenge and interest him and we start homeschooling in 2 weeks. For 1st grade his school used Scott Foresman Reading which seemed to be almost an entire grade level above what our Virginia public schools are using. I would just skip to a 3rd grade LA curriculum but I think he needs more practice due to his issues with pragmatics which negatively impacts his reading comprehension (he remembers what he has read, but might not understand it thoroughly due to difficulty drawing conclusions). He is very good at spelling, has the vocabulary of a much older child, and is very interested in science and technology. My plan for the summer is to help him develop an ear for the English Language through reading poetry together, listening to songs and analyzing the various methods used by song writers to make lyrics interesting (double meanings, alliteration, rhyming, patterns, etc.), reading well written literature that has stood the test of time, and reading news for kids to understand writing for different purposes. He already knows what homophones, nouns, proper nouns, and antonyms are and has fun discussing them as we read so I would like to continue with grammar but it will not be our main focus. We will be using Mad Libs to continue learning parts of speech in addition to any curriculum.

I am looking for ways of determining his reading level. His teacher was unable to provide much information, but when I asked if 3rd grade books would be too advanced, she said no. I would guess that he reads at a 4th grade level. I am looking for a good reading list (chapter books, websites, magazines, and poetry).

More Information:
Writing is a struggle for him. Keeping an idea in his head and remembering all of the rules and how to form lower case letters at the same time is very challenging, so I am looking for a Language Arts curriculum that inspires him to want to write.Handwriting is a struggle, but he has asked that we begin learning cursive, so I will give it a try without pushing too hard. I'm trying to decide if narration, dictation, and copy work would be good tools for us to use until he is more developmentally ready to write down his thoughts independently and he will be using software to learn to type to see if that helps him put his thoughts down on paper more easily.
He scores 99th percentile on standardized tests (ERB).

Brady will turn 7 on July first, so he was always the youngest in his class. That is one of the reasons I was willing to take the chance on a year long homeschooling experiment; if I had it to do all over again I would have waited a year to put him in school. We didn't know he was on the Autism Spectrum until he was 5 and he was so bright that I put him in preschool at 3. His teachers said holding him back a year would be a mistake because he was already so bored, and he does very well when worked with one on one, so hopefully I am not damaging him for life!

Is there a standardized test that is a better indicator of understanding and knowledge than the school system typically uses? In Virginia we are required to test each year as proof of progress when homeschooling, but it seems many standardized tests these days are more about the teacher than the student.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, any recommendations at all would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Stephanie

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