These days, schooling looks entirely different. Many parents have become makeshift teachers, which can be quite overwhelming, depending on the situation. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert to fortify skills in English language arts at home.
English language arts can be broken into five main skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and understanding/using language. The following schedule focuses on one main skill per day, which can be done granularly or spiraled throughout the week. Each activity will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, but you can adapt each day to your children’s level of engagement.
Have your children read for 20 minutes. If you want, choose a theme for the entire week, such as adventure or news. Reading is a natural literacy builder and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the day. The piece can be any age-appropriate text, fiction or nonfiction. There are many types of text, such as the following:
- short stories
- articles, such as magazine and news
- narrative nonfiction, such as biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs
As they read, have your children note any challenging vocabulary, as well as words and phrases they do not know. Save these terms for later in the week. When your children finish reading, ask them what they read about and have them provide specific details, such as characters, central idea/theme, and story line.
Journaling for five to ten minutes will help your children express their emotions and get their feelings out of their minds. They are likely trying to navigate a lot of feelings right now, but they may be having a hard time processing them. Freewriting is a natural stress reliever and builds healthy self-expression.
You can also give them a writing prompt to complete or have your children explore writing for various purposes, such as these:
- narrative stories, real and imagined
- informative pieces, such as articles or how-to texts
- persuasive pieces, convincing someone to do or believe something
Download these Lincoln Learning Solutions writing prompts appropriate for middle school writers.
Writing is also a natural literacy builder because kids can experiment with language, thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences, and observations on a creative and nonrestrictive level. Save their writing for the next day’s activity.
The easiest and most natural way to build speaking and interpersonal communication skills is to have meaningful conversations. Talk with your children about how you are feeling and ask them about their feelings. Be honest but also mindful of their age; you do not want to panic them or stress them out with adult concerns.
You can also have your children share their responses to the writing prompt from the previous day. If you want to get really hands-on, role play the piece. Or, you can act out Monday’s reading. Scrounge up costumes and props and have fun.
Speaking is one skill many children struggle with, especially in front of other people. If your children feel comfortable speaking, then they will be able to better express themselves accurately and efficiently.
Children are great selective listeners. They won’t hear you ask them to clean their rooms, but they can hear a candy wrapper open from the other side of the house.
Discovery Education has a YouTube channel that provides videos on all types of topics. They even have virtual field trips children can watch. This keeps them connected to the outside world while learning new material without rigorous assignments.
You can also have them listen to music for a while—another natural and healthy stress reliever. People often connect emotionally to lyrics. Have your children look up a copy of the lyrics to one of the songs they enjoy and hold onto them for Friday.
Friday: Using/Understanding Language
Language and grammar may be the most challenging skill to build unless you have background knowledge. However, there are a few simple ways to reinforce language without a degree in grammar.
Right now, Evan-Moor is currently providing a free PDF for daily fundamental skills for grades 1-6. You can use these skills on their respective days as outlined above or use them every day. The activities keep academics fresh.
You can also have your children take their challenging vocabulary words noted from Monday’s reading, look up their definitions in a dictionary, and use each word in a sentence. This helps them both understand and use unfamiliar terms accurately.
Lastly, you can have your children use the lyrics from Thursday’s song and interpret them. Songwriters must choose each lyric purposefully to convey something vivid and particular. As such, people who listen to those lyrics can then personally relate to the story, situation, and emotions.
Strengthening essential English language arts skills doesn’t need to be complex. The five main skills are naturally part of everyday life. All you need is a little creativity, some patience, and lots of love.
Nicole Thompson is a contributing writer and editor to the Lincoln Learning blog. She brings more than a decade of experience in education, curriculum, and communications to her blogs. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master of Science in Instructional Leadership, with certifications in secondary English and Communications. Nicole is married with four children and has a spunky golden retriever named Cinder and a rescue dog named Annie Banannie.
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