First Language Lessons Review: Language Arts Curriculum for Grades 1-4

What is First Language Lessons?

First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise is a curriculum series focusing upon grammar. The curriculum is based upon the principals of The Well Trained Mind. The series consists of five books. The first book covers grades 1 and 2. The second two books are the Textbook for grade 3 and the Workbook for grade 3. The final two books in the series cover grade 4 – again, a textbook and a workbook. The principle idea behind the curriculum is following the classical method of homeschooling. The idea is that students should be well-versed in the mechanics of language. The greatest benefit of First Language Lessons is that by the end of book 4, your child will have a fairly solid foundation in grammar.

First Language Lessons 1 & 2

The first book of the series contains two levels. Each level has 100 lessons. Lessons are repetitive, focusing upon memory work. For example, one of the lessons has the child repeat the definition of the noun three times. Other lessons involve narration work – where you read a short passage to the student and ask her to repeat back to you what she read, and poem memorization, a really fun activity for kids this age. Each lesson builds upon the last. By the time the child finishes the book, she has memorized around a dozen poems, and most of the definitions of the parts of speech.

This book was intended for 1-on-1 interaction but could be adapted. It requires, at first, mostly oral work, but then later at the end of the first year, and definitely by the second year some written work. If you want students to be well-grounded in grammar, this book is a great way to begin making your pathway there. Another great part of First Language Lessons 1 and 2 is the price – two years of grammar for just under $17. All you need at this level is the textbook and some paper for the student(s) to write on.

First Language Lessons 3

First Language Lessons 3 by Jessie Wise and Sarah Buffington requires you to have both one textbook and a workbook for each student. Like First Language Lessons 1 and 2, the book is scripted for the instructor. The textbook is under $20 on Amazon and the workbook is just under $13. Again, considering what some grammar programs and textbooks cost, this is a great deal.

First Language Lessons 3, like its predecessor contains poetry memorization and narration exercises. It also introduces students to the important task of sentence diagramming. The student begins with basic sentences such as "Joe sits," that include a subject and a verb. As the year progresses on, the student is introduced to direct quotations, direct objects, predicate nominatives, and other more complex English language rules. Also includes in this book are lessons on dictionary skills, oral language usage, and letter writing. The repetition and review lessons help to solidify grammar rules for the student.

First Language Lessons 4

First Language Lessons 4 also by Jessie Wise and Sarah Buffington will run you around $35 for the textbook and $15 for the workbook. Again, this program is scripted, requiring the student to learn grammar, memorize poems, narrate back stories, and respond to copywork and dictation exercises.

This final installment in the series takes students through more advanced diagramming exercises, asking them to diagram multiple complexities in both the subject and the predicate of a sentence. Subjects covered here include direct and indirect objects, compound subjects, compound predicates, compound sentences, semicolons, comparatives and superlatives, direct address, and prepositional phrases. At the end of the book, there are optional lessons on Contractions, Writing letters, and dictionary skills.

In all, this series of books forms an excellent platform on which students can build a thorough understanding of the English language. The series comes highly recommended for homeschoolers, after schoolers, tutors, and even classroom use.