Monday, March 25, 2013

Less 'Formal' Material Does Not Have to Mean Lower Quality/Rigor

I have been rather occupied lately with planning Jay's 4th grade year. With the necessary cut to the school budget, we've had to cut out many of the materials we had planned for the year. However, I refuse to allow financial restraints to lower the quality or rigor of his education. There have been a few areas that have needed more planning and/or creativity to keep at a standard I accept.

Language Arts is one of these areas. With nothing formal for most of Language Arts, I have had to make sure we have plenty to keep him learning.
For Grammar:
I had Jay do the Pre/Post test that came in Easy Grammar 4. I didn't tell him how he did on it, as I only used it to determine which areas should have more focus during 4th grade. I have found 8 sites that have interactive exercises and/or games, covering pretty much every aspect of Grammar we could want to cover during the year. We will be doing Mad Libs, to review parts of speech. I have a copy of Grammar Land that I downloaded for free. I have printed all the pages and am planning on having Jay use it, possibly adding extra activities to it. I have also searched our library's collection and found a few books that I think might be useful.
For Spelling:
We will be using All About Spelling level 5. In addition to that, we'll also be playing Scrabble and Boggle.
For Vocab:
I have never really been concerned about the kids' vocabularies. Both were speaking in full sentences (not 2-word sentences, full sentences) by age 2. By age 3, they were regularly using words many adults didn't understand. They surprise people all the time with their manner of speech. So, I have never been concerned enough to really force formal Vocab instruction. I do want their vocabularies to continue to increase, though, so we include vocab games. They play online vocab games. We'll also be playing Word Sweep.
For Literature:
I have a list of 20 books for required reading for the year. He will get to choose the order in which he reads them. He will keep a notebook for Lit. While reading each book, he will write any questions he has, his thoughts, and any words he needs to look up in the notebook.
Literary Elements:
I will be using picture books for this. There are books & sites that discuss using picture books to teach Literary Elements to students as old as middle school. From looking into those sites & books, I have a list of books to use & have double checked that our library has them. We will do one picture book per week, discussing the Literary Elements (& maybe doing some kind of activity) throughout the week.

Logic is another area in which I don't want to slack. Jay loves Logic and will not be happy about the fact that I cut it down to only 2 days a week for 4th grade. So, I really don't want to slack on the quality of what he'll be doing. I have 3 different workbooks for him to work his way through. Logic Safari book 3 is below him, but he really enjoys the series & this is the last book. It has grid puzzles. Perplexors Level A has puzzles similar to grid puzzles, but instead of grids, it has columns. Advancing Through Analogies, is (obviously) a book of analogies. I also found 5 sites that have online Logic games for him to play. He will continue to play Chess with his dad (I'm actually hoping to increase the regularity of their games), and we will add in playing Go Mental.

History & Science are the other two subjects for which I have had to do extra planning. I have huge lists of books, dvds/Netflix, and websites for these. There will be less hands-on activities than we normally do, but I have still come up with a few activities for each topic. With over 200 resources for each subject, I truly hope we have enough to thoroughly cover them.

With any luck, we will not need to worry about cutting the budget for Jay's 5th/Dea's 10th grade year. Also, I'm so glad we already had what we needed for Dea's 9th grade year. It wasn't really such a  bad thing that she didn't do a great job on planning her own schedule & managing her own time. If she had finished 8th on time & started 9th when she was supposed to, she would have needed materials at this time, too. With what is planned for her 10th grade year, there is no way we could cut the budget the way we did this year. She will start 10th before we buy her 10th grade materials, but will start with the courses that will cost us nothing. She may even be able to finish some of those courses, leaving extra time for the others, once we get the materials.