Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More on writing

One of my favorite ways to teach writing/grammar is by letting my kids have their own blogs. We are fairly new at it and I pretty much allow them to write about whatever they want. I don’t edit or make suggestions on content because I feel like the more they own the writing, the more they will get out of it. I want this to be something they desire to do for fun. I don’t always correct spelling in the beginning, but as they mature in their writing, we discuss correct spelling more.

Yesterday with blogging we were able to discuss and practice writing directions, contractions, when to spell out number words, compound words, and capitalizing brand names. And it was all done in a natural way just from what they had chosen to write about. No worksheets that will be forgotten tomorrow, but real learning that meant something to them because it improved their creation.

The novelty of blogging encourages their writing. It’s fun to add pictures and to see the work appear on their own page instantly, knowing friends and family will be reading it soon. The feedback they receive makes it worth the effort! They love to get comments. And the thought of publishing for other people provides just enough awareness to make them a little more conscious of how they are writing. It’s a great tool! It’s fun and free and is only available to those who are invited to view the blog. I think it's also going to be a great keepsake for them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On that scary grammar subject...

I've had several questions recently about what we use to teach grammar. We don't use a formal grammar program at this point and I don't predict we ever will. We learn grammar and sentence structure through reading and writing. The more they read, the more natural it is for them to form sentences and use words correctly. This spills over into their writing as well.

Instead of having a two day lesson on, say, quotation marks, we instead point them out each time we notice them as we read. From early on we discuss when to use them and what they mean in passing conversation. This method seems to stick with them a lot better than if we sat down and had a one-time formal lesson on it.

I've found that if I will just let them write, they will present themselves with every grammar lesson in existence. Riley has been writing a story called "Meet Riley, American Girl." I let her type her little heart out with no suggestions or guidance from me. After she got all of her thoughts on the screen, I broke her story into small segments for us to edit together. We will be doing a couple of paragraphs a day, which I copy and paste into another document so it doesn't look so long and intimidating.

During this process we are naturally able to learn and review many aspects of language. She has a lot of dialogue in her story, so today we were able to review where to use quotation marks, and we learned how to use capitalization and punctuation with the quotation marks.

She had a couple of different tenses, so we discussed keeping our stories in one tense only. Same thing with writing in first person only if that is what you chose in the beginning.

Also today we learned about using commas when listing.

And we learned about when to spell out a number and when to use the numeral (I had to call David to be 100% sure on this one. You don't have to be a language arts master to be able to teach great writing, you just have to be able to find the answer).

All of these lessons presented themselves in just a couple of paragraphs of her own creative writing. And the kicker was when she later went on to work on another story, she was correctly using the new information she gained today. Score!

I do the same thing with my older kids, except more in depth. This technique may not be neatly packaged in a checklist form, but it stays with them. It works!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Samantha-American Girl History

For the past several weeks Riley and I have been learning about the early 1900s through the American Girl Samantha books. We are having so much fun with this. We have been reading about all of the progress in the "age of confidence," and how it was good for the wealthy people and bad for the poor (did you know kids as young as three years old worked 12 hour days in factories???). We are learning about Theodore Roosevelt, and about suffragists. About immigrants and Ellis Island. I love these books!

In addition to our reading, we've been doing some cooking and art from the early 1900s.

We made corn oysters.

And Apple Brown Betty.

We cut out Samantha paper dolls and acted out some scenes from the books with them.

In Happy Birthday Samantha we read about Samantha making her favorite ice cream, peppermint. So we crushed some peppermints and made ice cream in ziploc bags.

Hmmm...suddenly everyone is interested in American Girl History.

Silhouettes were a popular art during that time. We traced Riley's shadow and made one for her wall. I'm going to get one of those scrapbook frames to put it in.

We are learning so much through this and making some really fun memories, too!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Practicing spelling words

'Cause sometimes paper is just boring.