First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind – A two-year beginning grammar and writing course.
by Jessie Wise
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HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Parents can assure their child’s success in language arts with this simple-to-use, scripted guide. First Language Lessons uses picture study, and other classical techniques to develop the child’s language ability in those first two all-important years of study.
First Language Lessons is a complete beginning grammar and writing text that covers a wide range of topics including parts of speech, forming complete sentences, beginning writing, storytelling and narration skills. Parent/child scripts provide a flexible framework for each lesson, both saving time and lending confidence to the parent. The scripted exercises also train a child’s ear so that she uses correct grammar.
Original, up-to-date, clear, illustrations make picture study both engaging and effective.
This Original hardback version is ideal for heavy use. It’s beautifully case-bound in classic textbook style, so there is no floppy dust-jacket to deal with. Since First Language Lessons is not a consumable book, it can be used again. The hardback version is the perfect choice for families with multiple children or families who want a book that will withstand the rigors of homeschooling!
Jessie Wise will be publishing a book to follow First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
It will be a third and fourth-grade grammar curriculum, so, unlike First Language Lessons, you will need to use a separate writing program. here are some Classic Kids CD’s which can be very helpful for there learning
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
By Jessie Wise
I believe we underestimate what children are capable of learning early. Our ideas are influenced by the school model, which aims most of its instruction at what it considers the largest population—the “average child.” But when we teach to the average, we train our children to be…average! Instead, we can grow children who exceed the average by exposing them to above-average content – as long as that content is taught patiently, frequently, and consistently, and is reviewed often.
General Thoughts on Teaching Language
Learning rules without practical application is a sterile activity. Absorbing grammar incidentally without the guidance of rules is inefficient. By combining simple rules with continued “real life” use of those rules in language, the teacher lays the foundation for a child’s application of appropriate rules to his own work in the future.
Children are natural imitators. This book provides you with examples of correctly spoken and written English in order to train the child’s ear and hand. Then his original ideas can have form and beauty when they are expressed.
Every time a child speaks or writes correctly, that pattern is imprinted on his mind; the same is true for patterns that are incorrectly practiced. It is better to do less work and do it correctly than to practice errors. Then the child doesn’t have to spend time unlearning and relearning.
So don’t hurry through these lessons just to finish. Take the time to have the child answer in complete sentences. Take the time to frequently repeat rules until the child knows them. Take the time to have the child write correctly. Take the time to allow the child to make corrections immediately. If you require him to correct his mistakes, you will not damage his self-esteem. Compliment the correction and you will build his confidence.
Do not wait until a child is reading to expose him to good literature. Likewise, do not wait until a child is writing to expose him to the proper use of our language. This is why I encourage the use of oral exercises while the child is young. Speech patterns are developed early. The longer a child uses incorrect language, the harder it will be to teach him correct speech and writing.
This early exposure is the purpose of introducing young children to what some may consider advanced material. But this early introduction is not intended to result in mastery; mastery comes later.
I suggest you file the child’s work in a notebook. This will serve as a way to organize all of his language work — narrations that you write for him, his copy work and dictations, and copies of the letters he writes to real people.
The method of this book
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind combines the best of traditional content, updated with examples and illustrations meaningful to present-day children. This book assumes you are already using a sequential phonics/spelling program, and formal penmanship instruction . The lessons, which are scripted to give the instructor additional guidance, focus on training the child in the proper use of standard English. These scripted lessons are not intended to be read by the child – instead, they aim to give you some idea of how to teach these skills. Appropriate answers that the child should give to your questions are suggested, but the child should certainly not be required to give those answers word-for-word! Do remember, though, to require all answers in complete sentences. If the child answers with a single word or phrase, reword the answer as a complete sentence, repeat it to the child, and ask him to repeat it back to you. This will begin to train his ear to recognize complete sentences.
Goals for grades 1-2
l. To train the child’s ear by allowing him to listen to correctly-spoken language.
2. To train the child’s speech by practicing correctly spoken grammar with him.
3. To train the child’s attention by reading aloud to him and having him narrate back to you the content or storyline, using proper grammar.
4. To teach beginning skills of correctly writing the English language:
a) by copying short sentences, using correct capitalization and punctuation
b) by writing short sentences from dictation, using correct capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
5. To give the child opportunity to practice these skills in writing.
Remember: exposure, not mastery, is the goal at this level!
The tools used in this book: the “four strand” approach
This book teaches rules, usage, and beginning writing skills by using four different tools.
1. Memory work
The child is assigned simple memory work – short poems and brief rules to learn by heart. The poems instill the beauty and rhythm of correct language in the child’s mind. The rules may not be completely understood when they are first committed to memory, but they will be a resource for the child as he continues to exercise his growing language skills.
2. Copying and dictation
The student is asked to copy sentences in first grade, and moves on to taking sentences from dictation in second grade. This early training in writing uses correct models to shape the child’s writing skills, and allows children to practice proper writing technique without forcing them to come up with original ideas. Although first and second graders may choose to write original stories and compositions, they should never be required to do so. They are still learning the “code” of written language, and should be allowed to focus on the technicalities of this “code” without simultaneously producing original content!
This approach makes it possible for children to absorb more grammar content earlier than is expected in programs that require young children to produce original writing. Ideas come slowly for many young children, and getting those ideas on paper is difficult before adequate skills are acquired.
Copying allows the student to store in his mind (and muscle memory) the look and feel of properly written language. Dictation, done after the student has had plenty of practice in copying, teaches the student to picture a sentence in his mind before putting it down onto paper. Both steps are necessary before the student is required to do original writing.
While the student is learning correct mechanics through copying and dictation, he is also practicing the producing of original content orally. This will prepare him for “real writing.” By third or fourth grade, the student will have learned through copying and dictation how to put written language down on paper. Through narration, he will have learned how to formulate his thoughts into complete sentences. At this point, he will be ready to do original written compositions.
Two types of narration are used; both are intended to train the child in attention, observation, and expression, so that as he matures he will be able to share his own thoughts with eloquence.
a. “Picture narration”
Some of the lessons ask the student to look at and describe a picture. This allows him to practice observation skills as well as proper language use — always encourage the child to describe the picture in complete sentences!
b. “Story narration”
In other lessons, you will read a short story to the child and then ask him to tell it back to you in his own words. This type of narration helps the child to listen, to comprehend spoken language, and to grasp the main point of work.
The rules of grammar bring order to the chaos of words in the child’s mind. Think of the study of formal grammar as the building of a room. The essentials – nouns and verbs – are the floor, walls, and ceiling. The room is decorated with adjectives and adverbs. The relationships between the different pieces of furniture in the room are demonstrated through prepositions and conjunctions. And sometimes the people in the room show intense emotion – with interjections!
The student is taught the correct definitions of grammatical terms from the very beginning. Much of this grammar is done orally so that more advanced grammar can be covered while the child is improving his writing skills through the practice of copying, dictation, and narration.
Encourage the child to answer in complete sentences. Suggested wording for the instructor is in italics; suggested wording for the child is in traditional print.
The lessons are planned to give an adequate foundation for every child. I assume that many children will not be ready to do a great deal of pencil-work in first and second grade. For children who are physically capable of doing more writing, I have provided “enrichment activities.” But it is not necessary – or expected — that most children will do these enrichment exercises!
Even if your child can already write, plan on doing the first sixty exercises orally.
To read the complete article and view sample lessons and helps go to
What do you use when you have completed First Language Lesson for the Well-Trained Mind?
Well the recommendation from The Well-Trained Mind is… the Building Christian Grammar series from Rod & Staff Publishers.
“… The clearest and most complete textbook series is published by Rod & Staff… and the series is unabashedly Christian (Rod & Staff is a Mennonite publisher).
These texts provide an excellent, rigorous, thorough grounding in grammar and composition. Remember, though this program was originally designed for a classroom, and there’s enough repetition in the exercises to keep a room full of students busy. Don’t feel you need to complete every exercise if the child understands the concepts…
If your undecided, know that we prefer the Rod and Staff books; they demand more of the student.
– The Well-Trained Mind