Friday, August 31, 2007

Curriculum Review: First Language Lessons

I was so happy, when going through my shelf of curriculum, to see that it's Duncan's turn to start First Language Lessons. I love this introduction to language arts by Jessie Wise of The Well-Trained Mind fame. The book covers two years--targeted to first and second grades--and is non-consumable, so is a great buy even at its brand new price ($18). Of course, you can purchase this used for much less.

The approach is a gentle one but very thorough. The first page starts with a definition: "a noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea." Over the next several weeks, this definition will be thoroughly explained, piece by piece--person, place, thing, idea. Throughout the two-year program, all the parts of speech will be covered, prepositions and helping verbs will be memorized, the basic rules of capitalization and punctuation will have been taught, and grammar will have taken root in the child's mind. Gently.

Poetry memorization is also a central focus of the program. On the second day, they learn Christina Rossetti's "The Caterpillar" and practice it for weeks. By the end of two years, they will have memorized 10 poems--or at least heard these 10 poems read over and over again! The poems do get harder as they go along, so I can't honestly say that Laurel memorized all of them. But she remembers the first few quite well, and I think it's always good to have a few poems tucked under one's belt. Also included are beginning storytelling and narration skills, although these are light and not at all overbearing. Writing exercises and enrichment ideas are included as optional activities, so you could definitely use this for two or more kids at different levels. And one of my favorite features: each lesson takes about 10 minutes.

First Language Lessons
appeals to me because it is such a gentle introduction to grammar. I love grammar. I love the written word and what you can do with language. I balk at programs that force dry chunks of nouns and verbs down a child's throat and chuck complex sentences at their little heads. No wonder so many grow up to proclaim, "Ahhh! I hate grammar!"

Jessie Wise now has First Language Lessons Level 3, a follow-up to her first for the next level. I wish that had been around for Laurel but will absolutely plan to use it for Duncan.

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