Waldorf and Nature Inspired Home Education Resources
Select Page

Language Arts

Aug 15, 2023 | curriculum, literacy, planning, Tales and Trails

Overwhelmed with language arts?

Spelling, grammar, creative writing, reading, vocabulary, handwriting, phonics, literary devices… There’s so much to cover in just this one subject that it can quickly become confusing and piecemeal for you and your learner. Read on for a detailed overview of how to put together a language arts curriculum, or skip to the part where it’s already done for you.

Related: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 23-24

Related: Weekly Rhythm 

Learning to Teach Language Arts

I’m super grateful that I discovered Rooted in Language at the beginning of our homeschool journey, and my daughter has used all of their Pinwheels curriculum. Not only has it given her an amazing foundation for reading and writing, it’s also taught me so much about teaching literacy / language arts to children. I’ve also been heavily inspired by Julie Sweeney/Bogart, author of The Brave Learner, and Bravewriter curriculum

Depending on where you look, language arts is broken down into various categories. Based on all I’ve learnt from other sources and from directly teaching my daughter, here is my categorisation:

Creativity and communicating ideas

  • Telling original stories
  • Recounting events
  • Explaining information
  • Persuading

Reading

  • Decoding words (phonics)
  • Understanding word morphology
  • Understanding grammar to read fluently
  • Comprehension of texts

 

Writing

  • Handwriting (and typing)
  • Spelling (phonics and other spelling rules)
  • Applying word morphology
  • Using knowledge of grammar and mechanics effectively
  • Developing a wide vocabulary
  • Using a range of literary devices

You will probably be noticing the overlap between all these areas. For example, I’ve put vocabulary in the writing category, but it is also an essential skill for the communicating ideas category. What I hope to distinguish however, is that being able to write down your ideas is only one aspect of language arts. The opportunity to develop your own ideas and original thought is so important, and can be communicated in many other ways than writing such as through speaking, acting or drawing.

So how do I make sure that everything gets covered?

Because of all the connections and dependencies between the different areas of language arts, I’m a firm believer in taking an integrated approach to the teaching and learning of the multitude of skills. So how do you do this? Here is our multipronged approach:

1. Use an inspiring text that is engaging to your learner.

It might be a novel or picture book, a poem or a song.  Using somebody else’s writing can help demonstrate:

  • Vocabulary
  • Phonics, word morphology and spelling rules
  • Grammar
  • Original ways of communicating ideas
  • Use of literary devices

That already ticks off many of the aspects we looked at for the different areas of language arts. I create short daily lessons focusing on one or two aspects from the above, often using manipulatives or simply with a chalkboard/ dry erase board.

In addition, daily reading practice is so important. And it’s a lot easier if you have access to readers that are relevant and engaging to your learner.

And remember, exposure to great writing is not limited to physical books. Audiobooks, music, movies and poetry teatime are all key parts of our homeschooling life too.

2. Recounting and narration

Two other pedagogies that I have been influenced by since starting homeschooling are: Waldorf and Charlotte Mason. At first glance they seem quite different, but one of the major overlaps I see is the use of stories or living books as part of the curriculum. Both philosophies place a big emphasis on recalling or narrating the stories or texts.

Waldorf typically has a three day rhythm:

Day 1 – hear the story

Day 2 – recall the story and work with the material

Day 3 – recording the learning

I love all the creative opportunities that Waldorf encourages, so I incorporate as many different ways to recall and record our focus texts as possible, rather than simply telling it back…

    Ideas for recalling a story
    • Creating a story map
    • Story stones
    • Rolling a dice or picking objects out of a bag to determine whether you recall something about a setting, character or event
    • Doodle/scribble and then swap paper. The other person has to add details to turn the doodles into something from the story
    • Taking it in turns to tell or act out one event from the story. The next person continues from where the previous person left off.
    Ideas for recording a story
    • Making a diorama
    • Creating a moving picture
    • Sculpting a character from clay
    • Painting a scene
    • A puppet or shadow puppet show

    This would be accompanied by me recording the narration alongside the final piece. As my daughter is developing her writing skills, this will become shared/partnership writing.

    We would only do this for one focus story at a time. For other books we are reading, such as a novel at bedtime, we simply discuss together what happened during the part we read previously. It is always a joint discussion rather than a quiz in our family.

    3. Opportunities for writing
    • Access to writing materials including blank paper, notebooks, journals, letter writing

    • Encouragement to label drawings, create cards, write down a recipe/ shopping list ingredients / gift list.

    • Copywork and dictation. There seems to be a big divide on this in the homeschooling world, with some deeming it an antiquated and unproven activity. I’m still in the ‘copywork is helpful’ camp, as I feel it gives good practice for applying learning following structured lessons.

    • Writing prompts, such as: an extension or connection to a story we are reading; or an interesting photo

    • Games including boggle, scrabble, banagrams, silly sentences, magnetic poetry
    4. Opportunities for communicating ideas

    As mentioned before, being able to write down your ideas is only one way of communicating them. And for younger learners, writing skills lag way behind all the gems they want to share. We always try to cultivate space for

    • An adult writing down stories and other thoughts

    • Lots of play and dress up time to create or re-enact stories/events

    • Lots of discussion time including: talking about stories we’re reading, conversation starters, talking on the phone, unstructured time with siblings and friends

    • Games including Eeboo Fairytale Game, Apples to Apples, Story Dice/Cards, co-operative games on any theme

      Wow, that seems like a lot!

      If your head is spinning and you’re struggling to see how to incorporate all of this for your young learner, you can use our Tales and Trails curriculum.  Using beautiful folktales, pretty much all of the above is included and planned out for you. You’ll get:

       

      • Creative narration activities (one for reviewing, and one for recording the story)

      • Daily phonics/spelling, reading, writing and grammar lessons

      • Readers at different levels

      • Copywork pages at different levels

      • Vocabulary cards

      • Writing prompt to be completed in partnership with the educator

      • Discussion questions

      • Suggested poems for poetry teatime

      • Booklist for extending learning

      And of course, all other subjects are covered too!

      Tales and Trails

      Find out more about our creative, all-in-one curriculum. Are you ready for a global adventure with your learner?

      Kindle your child’s spark for learning today

      Kindle your child’s spark for learning today