Living Language Arts
Here are thirteen tips to try at home to cultivate a living language arts environment. You don’t have to do all of them today, but pick one and go for it! Rotate the others in.
13. Read Aloud.
Don’t worry that you are behind or haven’t in a long time. Start again today. You can pick out a well-loved classic, a book of poetry, or a magazine with a great article (sometimes reading an article from Zoobooks or Children’s National Geographic or even American Girl can be a wonderful change of pace, and the benefit is that you can complete an article in one sitting).
Make eye contact and have a conversation with at least one child today. The conversation must not contain admonitions, corrections, or explanations of how to perform a task. Focus on the child’s interests and ask questions.
11. Tell a joke.
Playing with words and meanings is one of the most enjoyable ways to cultivate an expanding vocabulary.
10. Write notes.
Use email to send a note to dad. Cut out photos, glue them to card stock and write notes to grandparents. Leave love notes on the mirror using lipstick for mom or dad or an older sister. Create a treasure hunt writing notes as clues. Notes are short and don’t require a lot of preparatory writing so they make a great way to keep writing alive when the fires are dim.
Be creative. Ask a ten-year-old to write you a list of groceries as you dictate what’s missing from your cupboard or refrigerator.
9. Play a game.
Clue, Cranium, Settlers of Catan, Cadoo, Imagine If… Any game encourages discussion, following directions, explanations of strategy. Remember – the more your kids talk and explain themselves, the better their writing will be.
8. Take a walk.
If you can get one child alone for a walk, even better. Somehow, walking forward with eyes on the horizon, talking often comes more easily. You can turn the walk into a writing opportunity by taking a color walk. Instead of talking, focus on one color for the whole walk and silently observe it. When you return home, freewrite for ten minutes about the color (or its absence!) on the walk. Let your mind go.
7. Visit an art museum.
Writers need things to write about. To stimulate the creative part of the brain, supply visual material. Art museums offer kids a chance to look at visual expression. They can then, in turn, put what they observe into words.
6. Light a candle; read a chapter.
In busy households, it’s easy for noise to dominate the atmosphere making silent reading a challenge. Pick a day one week to light a candle for thirty minutes. Let the kids know that during that 30 minute period, no one may talk. They must read quietly, or play quietly, or sit and think quietly. Allow silence to give your kids a chance to read or think without interruption. The candle marks when silence begins and when it ends.
5. Copy a favorite passage.
Keep a notebook and fill it with favorite quotes from books, poetry, the Bible, the Qu’ran… even favorite jokes! Jot down whatever book you find inspirational.
Brave Writer families love to have Tuesday teatimes where they combine good treats with hot tea and poetry. See the poetry teatime website for lots of ideas.
3. Find a new word.
Make it everyone’s aim to find a new word to share at the end of the day (at dinner or bedtime). Everyone reads signs, books, websites, etc. with a view to noticing an unfamiliar word. Even finding a word on TV or in a movie counts. Look up its meaning and attempt to use it during the day. Share your words with each other at the end of the day.
2. Reward the finding of typos.
Pay a quarter for every typo in print found by one of your kids.
1. Love words.
Exclaim over a wonderful sentence, word pair or choice term. Get silly with words, creating new ones out of combining old ones. Find new ways to compliment each other. Write them with markers, cut them out of magazines, pin them on bulletin boards, tape them to items around the house.
Make word appreciation a regular part of your life. Give credit to the authors, particularly if the great set of words is uttered by one of your kids. Don’t let them get away. Trap them and write them down.
Huh. I’m amazed at how easy it is for us home-schooling mums to get down on ourselves. We think we’re not doing “it” (whatever “it” is) and that someone else, or everyone else, is doing it better than we ever could.
I read this list of thirteen things that will help cultivate a language arts atmosphere in our home, fully expecting to be confronted with MORE things I wasn’t doing “right”.
You know what? With the exception of lighting candles before reading a chapter, and paying for the finding of typos, we pretty much do all those things in some shape or form. We do read chapters, impromptu, and I heartily praise the locating of typos … and you know what else? Most of the families we know do these things too.
I think I’m gonna phone a friend (or two) and tell them, most emphatically, that they’re doing “it” and doing it “right”.
I hoped many of you would feel that way! It’s not as difficult as some make it appear to create conditions for growth in writing and language arts. The value of conversations and language play cannot be over estimated.