The Elementary Years (K-4)
During the elementary years, it's important to develop your student's ear for good grammar. Because we often start out writing how we speak, by instilling good grammar in a student from a young age, you can help students with a head start. There are four key components of developing good language arts skills during this age:
- Speak to your child using complete sentences and proper grammar from an early age.
- Read good literature to your student (E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, E.E. Milne, and adaptations of the classics).
- Have the student copy sentences and paragraphs from good literature when he or she is learning how to write.
- Make sure your curriculum includes sentence diagramming so the student will learn how the different parts of the sentence work together. I cannot stress enough how helpful that has been to me.
There are really good curriculum options available for this age group. Peace Hill Press has a series - First Language Lessons - that focuses on the components I just mentioned. For the first and second levels of the program, students complete most exercises orally. For the third and fourth levels, there is more of a focus on written language. This is the program I used, and I found it to be really great. It took 20-30 minutes to complete a lesson, and by the end of the fourth book, I felt he had a very good command of the English language.
Another great grammar program is put out by Milestone Publisher's Rod and Staff series. Before I go further, I should mention that I would prefer this program to First Language Lessons, but it's put out by a Mennonite publisher. That means that it is very heavy-handed on Christian doctrine. If that does not bother you, then by all means take advantage of this wonderful, rigorous program. Your student will know English grammar inside and out, and the program is very cost-effective. My son and I found the program to be a bit over the top in terms of religious references, and so I used a different resource.
There's a third option for this age group that's more secular than Rod and Staff, but I did not use the program because of the cost of the materials. Voyages in English, like Rod and Staff, is a very rigorous foundation in English grammar. The problem with it is that the program costs a pretty penny.
I'm going to be different from others. I don't think you should use websites or games to teach grammar at this stage. In fact, I'd argue you should keep students off the computer for learning activities as much as possible at this age - they need a firm foundation in grammar before they see text-talk "u goin' to da mall?"