Friday, May 23, 2014

Review- First Language Lessons

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Teaching grammar was always so frustrating for me when I taught in the classroom. So needless to say, I was not looking forward to teaching the subject to my 6 year old daughter.

In the classroom, We had a huge text book that had 170 lessons in it, covered every single part of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, creative writing, and expected students to become proficient in the subject by the end of the school year.

How do you get kids to understand the difference between a subject and a direct object, memorize the list of prepositions and then identify them in a sentence, diagram sentences when all of the parts of speech get jumbled up, and figure out if wind is being used as a noun or verb?

It was frustrating.

Last year as I looked into teaching my daughter classically (check here for a list of all of our 1st grade curriculum), I came across First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (Vol. Levels 1 & 2) (First Language Lessons) and got an overwhelming feeling of "We can totally do this!"

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind does not intend to make a child an expert in every aspect of grammar in one year. Instead, the goal is to have the child become so familiar with two or three parts of speech in the course of one year while slightly glancing at other aspects of grammar, such as noun-verb agreement, in a "no pressure" kind of way.

I love the book I purchased last year because I am able to use this same book for second grade as well (Levels 1 & 2). Each year has 100 lessons and those lessons focus on a few aspects of grammar only.

In first grade we learned about nouns, pronouns, and actions verbs, although the full definitions of each of these three parts were taught and memorized the entire year. I honestly thought if I heard the definition of a noun one more time, I would stick cotton in my ears. Towards the end of the year, we also learned about the four different types of sentences. We also learned the art of answering questions in a complete sentence and how to summarize a story that we had heard. Throughout the year, we also learned how to memorize and recite poetry with proper poise and diction.

Looking ahead to the 2nd grade section, the other parts of speech are taught, Nouns, pronouns and verbs are reviewed, and other aspects of grammar (punctuation, capitalization, etc.) are also taught and reviewed throughout the entire year.


The lessons are simple and are done orally with the child. There is a lot of "repeat after me" and repetition throughout the year. Any concept taught can be turned into a a written assignment, and the ideas for the assignment are written in the book but are made relevant to the child. When we learned about nouns being a "thing", the instructions for "enrichment acticities" were to have Addie look around the room we were in and list the "things" that she saw (I had to give her the spelling). Other times, there was copywork which was either based on a poem we were memorizing or something relevant to the lesson for the day. Some days had no copywork.

The only supplies needed for our Language Lessons were pencil, paper, and crayons. Because a classical education uses actual textbooks or just books in general, I will be able to use this same textbook when Ian enters 1st grade.

My favorite part of this curriculum was that my daughter actually learned grammar!

The fact that she truly understood what she had learned in grammar this year came at the dinner table one night. Pronouns had been our focus for about a week at that point, and I was glad for our break from nouns. As we were talking Brian used the word "he" in a sentence.

Addie immediately shouted out, "You said 'he!' He is a pronoun!"

I don't know what my favorite aspect of the moment was- seeing the concept click in her mind outside of "school" or the expression on Brian's face that his then five year old could identify pronouns.

Whether you are choosing a classical method of education of a traditional method, I would highly recommend First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. What a great way to give your child a strong foundation in grammar. 

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