Tips for Teaching Middle School English

ThumbnailI have to admit English is not my best subject. I know it, but I often find it difficult to get the info across to others. My Middle Schoolers really struggle with many English grammar concepts and they need my help… which often leaves all of us a bit frustrated. Here’s where I call on my online resources… we all know if we can’t teach it there is always someone out there who can!

1) Learning vocabulary, syntax, and grammar can be alot easier with an online Middle School English resource. We love using Time4Learning, but have also used Learning Games for Kids to practice our parts of speech. My favorite part of speech? …definitely contractions!

2) We also often use spelling and vocabulary lists to help us practice the various parts of speech and what they mean.

3) Writing is a must – and yet… dreaded by my Middle Schoolers. They are working on a research paper currently, but when that is over I usually try to give them fun and interesting writing topics. One of our favorites for this is the “Rip the Page” series for young writers. There are some super fun ideas that really get my kiddos laughing and enjoying the writing process.

4) Use the good old “Schoolhouse Rock” videos to make learning those parts of speech a blast! (Now, that’s classic!)

5) Finally, the most practical way to learn English grammar, writing, and even reading comprehension is to do it! Practice, practice, practice!

Making the most of writing…

Yes, of all the subjects in our homeschool… writing tops as the most dreaded! I think my children see the blank page and feel like they just can’t measure up. They have this conception that there is a right and wrong way and that they just can’t get it all together.

We started really focusing on essay writing this spring. My 17 year old all the way down to our second grader were learning how to write an essay. We went over the format and structure, and made an outline of what should be included in each essay. Which amazingly is no different as you get older.  I sincerely believe that if I can get my younger children writing essays with ease while they are in elementary school, then when they get to high school… it should come naturally!

To share how we make essay writing easy at our house let me break down our simple format.

1) Most essays are 5 paragraphs long.

2) Before you start writing you should think of 2 or 3 reasons that support or negate the thesis statement. Once you think of these three reasons, think of either an experience, current event, or a book that supports or mentions these reasons.

3) The first paragraph should be your introduction and should have an introductory sentence (ususally a grabber!), statement of the thesis, and then state your two or three reasons.

4) The second paragraph will be about your reason #1. You will have a topic sentence that states your reason and how it supports the theme of the essay. Then you will have 3 or more sentences that elaborate on that reason. If you thought of a personal experience, current event, or piece of literature that would be an example include it here.

5) The third paragraph will be about your reason #2. You will have a topic sentence that states your reason and how it supports the theme of the essay. Then you will have 3 or more sentences that elaborate on that reason. If you thought of a personal experience, current event, or piece of literature that would be an example include it here.

6) The fourth paragraph will be about your reason #3 (obviously if you only could think of two reasons – then you would move on to the next point). You will have a topic sentence that states your reason and how it supports the theme of the essay. Then you will have 3 or more sentences that elaborate on that reason. If you thought of a personal experience, current event, or piece of literature that would be an example include it here.

7) The fifth paragraph will be your conclusion. In this paragraph you will restate the thesis. You will then also refer back to each of your reasons and restate them as supporting your thesis. Finally, you will want a sentence or two that will be your clincher sentence. This will tie it all together and sum up the point that your were trying to get across to your audience.

High School Homeschooling

Ok – there’s something that I have been hiding – well not hiding…   exactly….  just not waving around like a flag.  Yes, here it is –  I have a child in high school… OK now I said it – there it is in print – I think that I have been living in denial about it most of this school term ( you know that whole “my little girl is growing up” AND “I am getting old” issue), but today I spent MOST of the day working on a research paper with her and the denial is definitely gone.  –  – OK – -maybe not completely gone, because I still want to tell you that she really did “skip” a grade in elementary school. So she isn’t quite as old as a normal high school student. Right…  excuses… that’s denial speaking!

Anyway, I really wanted her to get a good handle on writing, and was determined that she be prepared for college and able to write and research. My resolve was a bit shaken today… after several hours of trying to get through bibliography cards, brainstorming, and developing an outline.  It seems that just because I know it – doesn’t mean she does -(wow what a revelation!) No, not really – she had a great attitude about it, but I think her propensity toward perfectionism ( of course it’s not my fault) had a lot to do with the time it took us today – well, that and the 100 interuptions from coughing sick little sisters and a brother!

Anyway, I needed some alone time after we finished so I got online and checked out some writing resources.  Turns out there are LOADS of good resources for homeschoolers wanting to write better! Woohoo for me! I think I am going to do some more research on these and see if some of them would work for our homeschool next year.  In the spirit of internet love – I thought that I would share the really nice ones that I found today… you may want to check into them as well – especially if you have a     .    .   .uhhum.   .   .    high schooler  .   .   .

High School Writing Course

One Year Adventure Novel – teaches story writing

Notebooking Pages – helps to motivate writing

Homeschool Writing Resources

A Homeschool Writing Blog

Homeschool Writing and Research

Check back later this week for another installment of our testing mini-series.