Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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Slipping language arts into the other subjects

In my last post, Grading subjects that haven't been taught, I touched on integrating language arts into other subjects.  The comment that followed made it clear that I must be more specific.

Here is how I would, and in some cases, have integrated language arts into science and social studies, and art, etc, eliminating the need to do a lot of painful language arts exercises.

Lower Elementary:

Trips to the science museum, zoos, and science experiment workshops are always preceding by reading about the subject matter and the scientists or historical figures involved.  Their interests were most piqued in anticipation of the outing, and so they payed attention, and they were always ready to discuss the subject matter during the outing.  There was one circumstance when we went to an art museum, for
example, and my kids gave a proper art critique for my video camera.  No matter where we were going, we took some time to prepare and be knowledgeable about the subject.  This covers reading and comprehension.

This allowed me to keep language arts instruction to grammar and spelling worksheets, knowing they were doing reading and comprehension regularly, as we tried to have an outing once a week.  Also, this is in addition to the reading they did for enjoyment.

Upper Elementary:

In addition to preparing for educational outings by reading, the children were also asked to do a written review,  detailing what they learned.  I gave them back their papers with grammar corrections, and we discussed how to make it better next time.  The next essay was always better.

Middle School:

We became more purposeful about Science and History to begin with.  It was all very informal until then.  My kids actually started taking classes outside the home during these years, and so science and language arts were more formally covered.  If I had to do it again, I would have covered the subject chronologically, using a curriculum such as the Story of the World series.

High School:

We switched to very formal high school curriculum.  They of course must study Biology, Chemistry, physical science, and etc.   Still, I didn't let writing fall by the way-side.  In every test, I made sure a short essay question was included, and if it wasn't, I threw one in for "extra credit".  This helped me make sure their writing was sound.  I always pointed out grammar mistakes, and kept a copy of all essays in a separate binder and used it for grammar too (double duty).

While I was still very informal about language arts, I did have a theme for each year, accompanied by an literature anthology, to help them get in the reading of the genre that was decided for the year.  These themes were slyly in sync with their History courses.  If they studied American English, they learned American Literature.  When they studied World Literature, which we did in two parts, Ancient, and modern, their literature matched the literature of each time period.  As seniors, they go to read popular and modern literature as part of their curriculum.  For my son, that meant non-fiction and for my daughter that means the most popular books about vampires and zombies. (Not that she wasn't already reading them.) Each year ended with a term paper discussing several of the books they had read that year.

Misc. stuff:

The rest of Language Arts happened as it needed to.  They literally learned the bulk of their spelling and vocabulary from reading and spell-check, and no, I did not test them.  The results showed up in their SAT and ACT exams though.  When they needed to write a letter, we pulled out a template, and wrote a letter.  We filed complaints,  sent praise, requested things, and did applications, and so they learned all types of writing and what goes into it.

So I hope this time I explained myself more clearly.  I'd hate for anyone to think that they need to have a child mark up their science textbooks pointing out verbs and pronouns, or that the children have to write perfectly grammatically correct essays about every chapter in their science book.  That would be tedious and torturous.  I never asked for more than one essay a week, if that much, and it was always enough to show that my children's writing was constantly maturing and evolving.

Other subjects
Language Arts



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