Language Arts resources

You might wonder what is that kind of title all about? Well, while this is definitely a math blog, and I do not claim to be an expert on language arts, I just keep having people ask me about language arts resources, if I have any, or if I can recommend any. So, I want to answer this question here once and for all, and then I can just reference this blogpost whenever someone else asks the same.

I have been doing an "eclectic" mix of various language arts resources with my kids.

1. Learning to read.

Photo courtesy by Yves

I definitely advocate teaching children to read as early as they are able. This is not so much for the purpose of them being able to do school work, but to increase their "horizons" of everything via books. Of course, the age at which a child might learn to read varies. I personally learned to read on my own at age 4. I asked my mom about the different letters and then started reading from a newspaper. But keep in mind, Finnish language is written nearly exactly as it is pronounced, so learning to read Finnish is very easy.

My oldest learned to read at age 2. The second and third children learned to read at age 3. I didn't force them; I just gently prodded if they'd be ready to learn the letters, and then proceed to reading.

I used "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and I liked this book really well. Towards the end, I didn't like how some of the stories turned out, but at that point I was able to start using some really easy books from the library.

Another great resource we used a lot was the website It is just fantastic for early readers. It has little animated movies for the letters, then little stories and interactive activities and problems, etc. Kids could spend hours on it at a time, if allowed.

2. Spelling.

I started out by letting my older daughter to just do some copywork from children's books. Then we went on to do the Explode the Code workbooks by a recommendation of a friend. They teach you phonics and spelling, and seemed to work just fine for her.

She's a natural speller and seems to remember words very well. I have also done dictation with her a few times here and there (choosing sentences from storybooks), but it has been quite easy for her so I haven't kept up with it continually.

Recently I purchased by DD1's own request a book titled Daily Paragraph Editing for grade 5 and she has thoroughly enjoyed it. It involves finding and correcting spelling and punctuation errors in short stories.

With the younger daughter, I have used some of the beginning Explode the Code books, but they were going too fast for her. So I changed her into Evan Moor's spelling book for 1st grade. We have both liked that a lot, and I have ordered the 2nd grade one for her as well. She definitely needs much more help to remember how to spell words than her sister.

Recently she has also fallen in love with Spellingcity website. She wants to especially practice various animal words.

3. Vocabulary

Reading lots of books gives children a lot of vocabulary, so that is one means I've relied on (naturally). But besides that, I wanted to try out some vocabulary resources. I have used downloadable versions of 240 Vocabulary Words 4th Grade Kids Need to Know and 240 Vocabulary Words 5th Grade Kids Need to Know from Currclick. Nowadays we are using Wordly Wise books also. Both of these I've found to be quality resources.

4. Grammar

I have mainly used regular, used textbooks that I've picked from The Home School Book Depot. Grammar is, again, something that comes quite easily to my DD1.

I remember playing this silly game to teach her about past, present, and future tense: I would have a drink of water or something in front of me, and I'd say, "FUTURE TENSE: I will drink this water." Then I'd start drinking, and say, "PRESENT TENSE: I'm drinking or I drink now." Once I was finished, I'd say, "PAST TENSE: I drank the water." I remember she had so much fun with that silly thing, and it thoroughly taught her the idea of what past, present, and future tenses are all about.

I have also used this cheap workbook: Brighter Child® English and Grammar, Grade 3. It was basic, as expected, but alright.

Some computer games she has played, such as CLUEFINDERS 3RD GRADE ADVENTURES or Smart Steps software have also practiced her grammar concepts and skills.

5. Writing

After learning to write the print letters, I used copywork with my DD1 (from various books). I don't even remember exactly how, but she has not had any problems not wanting to write. In fact, she still enjoys writing little made-up animal stories. The other kind of "story" writing I've used in those early years was to write about what she did yesterday or about some interesting event in her own life (such as a trip somewhere).

I have also always been very happy to see her use writing in her play. She might write a shopping list, or a list of names for her stuffed animals, or a Veterinarian sign for the door, or instructions for a little treasure hunt, etc. etc. Now her little sister is picking up that habit... and I think that's very good. I don't usually correct anything in these writings that are part of the play... because I feel it can encourage them to be confident about their writing skills and see writing as something useful and valuable.

The younger one is following in her sister's footsteps, and has written a collection of short animal stories. She's glued printed pictures of the animals to those pages (the printed pictures definitely inspired her to write them!). The stories are short, but fine for her age, definitely. They are full of spelling errors, of course, and the letters don't always stay on the lines. But I still feel those stories are little treasures - they're like a stepping stone into creative writing.

However, I definitely feel I don't have the capabilities of teaching writing in the manner that real English teachers do, as the grade levels advance. Therefore, plan enrolling my children in some online school in the future.

Meanwhile, something else has popped up just recently. In the past, I have made math worksheets for Spidersmart tutoring centers. They specialize in reading/writing instruction and have an online program for that. So... I will be trying their program out for DD1. It involves reading real books, and then answering comprehension & vocabulary questions about the book, and writing an essay or assignment about it. A REAL teacher will check the answers and give feedback! That's the part I like most, because I feel somewhat inadequate to do that. The student then has to correct the answers. I'm excited about the program, and I hope this will be beneficial.

6. General

 A site I found recently... English Worksheets Land has tons of free ELA worksheets for grades K-5, organized by topic and grade, and aligned to the CCS.

So... that's it for now. Quite a mixture of resources, and I'm sure there will be more to add to the list later.


mathmom said…
Here's a suggestion for early readers who want to write but whose motor skills can't keep up -- buy some old Scrabble sets at garage sales and give them the tiles to manipulate into words. The nice thing about Scrabble is that the tiles come in approximately the distribution you want for making real words/sentences.

I'll second the recommendation for the 100 lessons book for teaching young enthusiastic kids how to read. Two of mine taught themselves, but the one who asked to be taught, learned quickly with that book.
Online Degrees said…
thanks for this great information with us, it is very useful for us, and you working great on your blog, just keep it up,
I love using picture books to introduce rich language, foreign cultures and history to children. I have a bunch of favorite ones which i blog on at See posting Favorite Picture Books. I hope this helps you!

Pragmatic Mom
Hari | (Maths) said…
very happy to meet u in blogspot.
We have a Mathematics blog in our regional Language Malayalam. It is maintaining by the Maths teachers of Kerala, India. It reaches the Blog hits 1.5 lakhs (before 1 year).we are discussing puzzles and problems in English.
Pls come... and try to ask puzzles and problems in English. It will be an empowerment for our teachers.

Anonymous said…
Just a suggestion to try Institute for Excellence in Writing for your writing curriculum. It is easy to use, can be started at an early age, is adaptable to any subject area and is comprehensive (vocabulary, grammar, mechanics all in one). Check it out. I love it and have been using it with all of my kids. The youngest is in first grade.
Wendy Lawrenson said…
One of the best sites for letter recognition to early reading is I've recommended it to a lot of people and everyone is very impressed with it.

It includes great interaction with a lot of variety. Phonics to simple grammar rules wrapped up in fun games.
Custom Essay said…
It is a great post! It is very useful to the students! thanks for the sharing.
Anonymous said…
Excellence In Writing is outstanding! I am a Speech Language Pathologist who works with children who exhibit weak written expression. This program is sequential in nature.It provides many examples as well as provides a notebook resource over the long term. It is very resonable in price.
very great reading learning tips.
You might want to check out our Language Arts worksheets. There are tons of free K-12 resources.

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