Thursday, October 2, 2008

Curriculum Review: Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts

After getting the results of Mika's standardized test results last spring, I finally clued in to why she hated school and cried about it nearly every day. It was very boring to her because I was forcing her to learn things she already knew well. So I set out on a quest to find new curriculum, especially in language arts, her strong subject.

Now that we've been doing school for two months, I've had a chance to evaluate the curriculum I chose. I can say that I am confident that I chose well. Mika no longer hates school, never cries about it anymore, and is even enthusiastic about school at times. It's been a wonderful change!

For language arts, I chose Michael Clay Thompson's curriculum which is designed for gifted students. They have curriculum for grades three through twelve. They offer five areas: grammar, writing, poetry, vocabulary, and practice. I want to write about grammar, writing, and practice in this post because we've completed a majority of it and it's been my favorite part. I'll cover the other two in another post.

Because we were new to the curriculum, I chose to start at the beginning and cover two years worth this year. We've completed Grammar Island, are part way through Sentence Island, and have begun Practice Island. They really should be completed in the order I've written them but we've been doing ok with starting Practice Island ahead of schedule.

Grammar Island was an enjoyable text. It is written in a conversational style with clean, uncluttered pages. Each page has the bare minimum number of words written in a large font. Some words are written in color to emphasize them (ie. all pronouns in blue). Sometimes there is a simple diagram on the page. It really is very uncluttered, minimalist really. The book covers the eight parts of speech (ie. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, interjections, prepositions, and pronouns), parts of sentences (ie. subjects, predicates, direct objects, indirect objects, and subject complements), phrases (prepositional phrases only this level), and clauses (difference between simple and compound sentences). Each section explains the topic briefly with examples and has a cute little story that illustrates the idea. There is absolutely no repetition.

Sentence Island picks up where Grammar Island leaves off. Written in story form, it tells the tale of a fish named Mud that wants to learn about sentences. He starts off learning about the subject and predicate, followed by the parts of speech, parts of sentences, and subject verb agreement. It's a fun little story.

After reading Grammar Island and Sentence Island, you begin Practice Island. Practice Island is a workbook for putting what has been learned into practice. Each page contains a sentence and four blank lines below it. The student completes a four level analysis on each of the 104 sentences provided. On the top line, they identify which part of speech each word is. On the second line, they go back through the sentence and identify the parts of sentences. The third line is for identifying phrases, if any. Finally, the four line is used for identifying clauses and what kind of sentence it is. I like this kind of analysis, especially since I don't think my daughter would tolerate diagramming well.

One of the nice things I like about this program is that at the elementary level, you do not need to be buy both the student and teacher books. The teacher's manual contains the entire student text full size. On most of the pages, there are little bubbles containing extra information or tips, but it doesn't detract from the page. The bulk of the teacher's guide is in the back.

My only complaint about the curriculum is that each book is a soft-bound book printed in landscape form. While it works well with the format of the pages, I've found that the books aren't as durable as I would like. The pages and cover get bent up far too easily.

I'll be buying the Town series (the next level) soon. Once we've gone through it, I'll add my review for that as well. My understanding is that it is quite a step up from the Island series.

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Queen Mom said...

I am looking for a Kindergarten curriculum for my little one. Any recommendations?

we are finishing up the preschool program, I saw you mention on your blog,

I recently found your blog and enjoy it!


Eclectic Homeschooling said...

Thanks for the review. I am probably getting this for my son next school year. How much time does it take in your school day? Do you read the classics along with it? Thanks!

SaDonna said...

Can you tell me if CVA approved this on their curriculum? Out of your current curriculum listed for both kids, would you mind telling me the things CVA did NOT approve, just so I could have an idea of what they are saying yes and no to. I have quite a few ideas, and don't really know what they will approve. It seems like a lot fo their things come from and that has a lot of christian based learning curriculum, so it's a bit confusing! ;-)