J, my first grader, is my first homeschooler and my education opposite. He’s visual; I’m auditory. He likes to move around, I have to sit still to work. Math and art are his interests, music and language are mine. It presents some challenges.
Since language is so easy for me, it is often difficult for me to explain the basic building-blocks of sentences to him. I’m learning ways to break things down, but I have a ways to go.
Recently, my fabulous sister brought us a gift she’d spotted at the local Big Lots. (See her blog, Your Hand in Mine, for some awesome preschool-at-home ideas here).
Her gift sat untouched for a while, as we worked on other skills, but it rescued us last week. J’s Writing book (from Spectrum) has started to set more challenging writing assignments. He’s being asked to write stories, incorporate details, and “make readers see what you’re talking about” or “make your story interesting.”
Instead of diving into the adjective/adverb world, I decided to give the sentence boards a try. Here’s how it goes:
1. I sort out all the words onto different colored construction paper. Punctuation goes on one, capitalized words on another, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. They all get their own place. (I did this because I want J to concentrate on building sentences, not on digging through the piles of words, but as his skills and understanding grow, sorting will be another way to reinforce these skills).
2. I have J build a sentence. I give no direction other than, “Build a sentence to start with.” It’s up to him to get the mechanics right. He has to begin with a capital letter, end with a period, and express a complete thought.
3. Next, I ask him to, “Make the sentence more interesting.” I know those directions are vague, but I want to make sure to use the same language that his school books use, so he’s clear on the expectations.
On our first sentence, he was a little lost, so we went through a few words in each pile together, and each time I would ask him, “Would this make it more interesting?” I also asked if it would help his readers see or feel what was going on. From there, he was able to pick out the adjective/adverb pile and chose from it regularly without help.
This sentence progressed from “I had a chick that went to school” to “I had a funny, fuzzy chick that went to school.”
3. At this point, I switch over to his school book–we worked on his current assignment. Of course, the sentence board box doesn’t come with every word, so whenever he needs one, I just wrote it on a scrap piece of paper.
The world of teaching tools seems endless and never ceases to amaze me. This set was only $5, and now J actually asks to use it almost every day just to practice and show off the sentences he can make! Next to surprise learning, fun learning is the best.