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I love the Lord as much as a broken person can; love and loved by my husband; blessed by 5 amazing little people who have helped me to learn much about me; grateful to serve even more as God gives them to me; blessed every day to be a home school teacher; college student; I hope to change the world by loving as many people as possible, because there is nothing greater than loving another.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to use PR skills in writing across the board Activity 4 Using Narration as a springboard for better writing

Narration is heavily used in classical and Charlotte Mason education. The tool is a wonderful place to encourage your students to put their thoughts into words for communication. Well, initially, this may not come easily for everyone, so I have found that when I show my kiddos what they've said, it has helped them to improve their narrations and ability to create complete sentences off the cuff. Here's an example that we worked through on the WTM boards.

The Pilgrims came to America in the Mayflower. With the help of a English speaking indian named Sqanto they found food. Then they had a big feast called Thanksgiving.
Why did the Pilgrims come to America? (pulling out the main idea).

For jobs, money and freedom.
That's right. That's a good place to start. Why don't you put that into a sentence. Be sure to include who we're talking about and what they did.

The Pilgrims came to America for jobs, money, and freedom.

The Pilgrims came to America in the Mayflower.
What is the Mayflower?

A ship.
Let's fit that into our sentence.

The Pilgrims came to America in a ship called the Mayflower.
Where did they come from?

Let's add that in, too. You might also use the word, travel, since you already used "came" in the first sentence.

The Pilgrims traveled from Europe to America in a ship called the Mayflower.
With the help of a English speaking indian named Sqanto they found food.

Let's fix a couple of spelling errors. Remember that you're talking about a specific group of people, Indians, so how do we spell when using a specific group?

We capitalize.
That's right.

Also, Q is always written....

QU (a Rule Tune in our house).
That's right. Let's spell Squanto again.

Good work.

What sorts of food did they find? Let's pick three to add to our sentence.

Corn, deer, and squash.

How did they get corn and squash?

The grew it.

Right. How about deer?

They hunted deer.

That's right! Let's add that to our sentence.

With the help of an English speaking Indian named Squanto....(I pause so they can finish), they grew corn and squash and learned where to hunt for deer.

Then they had a big feast called Thanksgiving.

Why did they have this big feast?

I don't know.

Where they happy about something?

Yes. They didn't die and made new friends.

Doesn't that sound like a celebration because they survived?


Let's use the words, celebrate and survival, in our sentence. Listen to this one:

Then they had a big feast, called Thanksgiving, to celebrate their survival and friendship.

Repeat that back to me.

Then they had a big feast, called Thanksgiving, to celebrate their survival and friendship.

I'd type it (instead of writing), then I print, allow for space to illustrate or color a picture we can insert, then I have them read it back to me. This remodeling is practice that encourages good sentence writing. You'll find when they first start writing on their own, you'll need to remind them a few times of the same sort of things, but very soon, they'll get it and begin writing great sentences! This is easily done in any subject area.

That's the general idea of how narration works in our house. We have transitioned to writing summaries with our studies, but if we're really busy one day, I'll type it out and follow this model. I do this as a catechism or drill to get them used to descriptive and intentional writing from the beginning. It's an area I lacked with the first round of kiddos, so now that I know better, I get started on these things right away!

All of the skills displayed as teacher, are taught in PR through the DVDs, so I get a TON of teacher training. I have also found, that once I learn how to do this in the upper levels, it is easily carried over to the younger students. A mention of this here, a mention of that's sticking and my little guys are writing really well!

How to use PR skills in writing across the board Activity 3 - grammar and fine literature

PR does a great job of teaching grammar. So good, it actually sticks! With their knowledge of grammar, it becomes easy to pull the general modifiers out of their minds and put them into their writing. The Building Codes of PR take care of this with Framing Keys (hints), etc. pig becomes fat, pink, or portly without much effort.
PR3 takes this to the next level and using the lit. study, models most excellent descriptive writing. Here's a post that gives a nice PR example, Understanding Descriptive Writing and Applying it.

Taking this and apply the same method to design sentences about anything at all (plants, animals, places, people).
Since we're studying canine canines today, let's focus on our dog, Toby. Can you tell me words that describe, Toby?
black, fat, big, heavy, smelly, drooly (write them on your board)
Those are pretty good. Can you give me a fancier word for "fat?" You may use your thesaurus (we use the one rec. in PR).
humongous, obese, plump, overweight (write these on the board)
Good choices. Which word describes Toby most accurately? Is Toby obese? Remember, obese means really overweight. Is Toby obese or does humongous work better? Remember, humongous means really, really huge! 
Humongous. (he's over 100 pounds of muscle)
Good, now pick one more word from your list and give me a sentence, please, Axel.
Toby is a drooly and humongous dog. (write on the board)
Good work. Tony, what questions does an adjective answer?
How many, what kind of, which one?
So, what kind of dog is, Toby?
bloodhound and black lab
Can you add that to our sentence?
Toby is a drooly and humongous bloodhound and black lab.
Good job. I'm gonna add a word here, mixed breed. That will make a more specific sentence. It's important to choose words that say exactly what you mean in writing.
Toby is a drooly and humongous bloodhound and black labrador mixed breed. I did this because now our sentence says exactly what I want it to.

You can apply this process to describe most anything! So one day for science, we can take a phot of Toby and describe it, then label a diagram of a dog's body. We'll then create a paragraph (one sentence at a time) that describes the commonalities of Toby and other dogs, each time, choosing specific words and going through the routine above. Once I have the sentences on paper or the board, I can again use it as copywork, dictation, etc. to accomplish the across the board function. To me, this is very much the process of narration, just in a slower building of sentences.

How to use PR skills in writing across the board Activity 2 - Remodeling

This is a multi-part posting. Here is Activity 1

Activity 2 - Remodeling using a dictionary or thesaurus
Take any paragraph you choose from your history or science reading. The one I'll use is an exerpt from The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne Before I give it to the dc, I'll highlight the words I want them to change.
Presently it dawned upon our bewildered brains that in all this medley of objects before us, there was no coffin or trace of mummy. The explanation gradually dawned upon us. We were but on the threshold of our discover. What we saw was merely an antechamber. Behind the door there were to be other chambers, possibly a succession of them, and in one of them, beyond any shadow of a doubt, in all the magnificnet panoply of death, we should find the Pharoah lying.

Let's start by reading aloud this paragraph. Tony, please begin reading. (he reads the whole thing). Axel, can you tell me the first highlighted word, please?
Boys, I would like Tony to take the first word, Axel the second, and we'll keep taking turns until we have written this paragraph again, using our own words. Please pick up your thesaurus and find a synonym for your first words. Tony you have presently and Axel you have bewildered.
Tony: I found mine. present is an adjective and we can use current or existing.
Good work. Now, the word we're changing is "presently." What part of speech is that? Here's a hint, it ends in -ly.
It's a adverb.
Right. Now, which word did you want to use, current or existing?
Can you make current into it's adverb form?
Do I just add -ly?
Yes, sir.
Good. Please write "currently" above "presently" on your paper. Axel, your turn. What words can we use in place of "bewildered?"
baffle, confuse, mystify, perplex, or puzzle
Which one do you choose. Make sure you understand the meaning of whatever one you use.
Mystify...mystified (at this point, they're both already writing "mystified" over "bewildered" on their paper. If not, tell them to do so).
Let's read over our sentence so far and see if it makes sense:
Currently                                  mystified
Presently it dawned upon our bewildered brains that in all this medley of objects before us, there was no coffin or trace of mummy.
Does that make sense?
Good job. Find your next word.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Follow these steps again and again until you have a paragraph with a few changed words.
This activity again leads itself towards:
1. copywork (if you're already doing dictation a lot in another area today, simply use this as copywork -- avoid exasperation!)
2. dictation - complete the re-write, then dictate the paragraph at whatever pace works for your child
3. dictionary/thesaurus look up, which is an important part of the writing process
4. spelling
5. vocabulary/word study. I would take the time to point out "ante" in antechamber; the -ly and -ed where appropriate and remind them how suffixes change the part of speech.

I would expect a student in PR3 to be able to handle this well. Here is a link to another post about Remodeling Papa's Prayer and the steps followed as laid out in PR.

How to use PR skills in writing across the board Activity 1 - keyword outlining, sentences and paragraphs

I advocate this area of schooling so often that I have gotten many questions on how to teach this. My first thought is really, Mrs. Beers will show you in the DVDs how to do this for literature, so you should follow the same model for history or science. I'll give you a couple of conversations in this post that will exemplify the process. Here is a post on Designing sententeces from notetaking (early PR3)and turning notes into sentences, then into a paragraph. We did this in the PR lit. study, but the process would be the same for history or science. Keep in mind, the questions I ask and the skills contained therein have already been taught in PR.

We get started by looking at one sentence at a time, much like SWB keyword outlines. I have taught them a great place to start is by using the simple subject and simple predicate. After looking for the simple skeleton, I also teach them to look inside the complete predicate if it gives better information. Using the President's book we use in history, here's how I would teach it:

About which president did we just read?
William H. Taft (write I. William H. Taft for your outline on the board)

What is something you remember about President Taft?
He was over 300 pounds.

Good. What are the key words from your fact?
over 300 pounds
That's right.
(On the board, Your outline now looks like:
I. William H. Taft
A. over 300 pounds)

Axel, what fact do you remember?
I don't remember one.

Okay, let's read our paragraph again. "Weighing over 300 pounds, WHT had the distinction of being the largest president. A special bathrub had to be installed for him at the White House." Did you hear a new fact?
Yes, they had to build a special bathtub for him.

Good. Can you give me keywords from that sentence?
build special bathtub.

Good work. (Write this on the board as B.:
   A. over 300 pounds
   B. build special bathtub

We'll read through one sentence at a time together, picking out the key words. I'll write the key word phrases on the board as we go. By the end of the session, I'll have a complete outline on the board
   A. over 300 pounds
   B. build special bathtub
   C.  progressive policis
   D. established federal postal savings system
   E. adopted 16th Amendment (collection of personal income taxes)

Possible assignments:
1. Copy the outline onto your own paper. Be sure to follow the correct format (I'd probably draw a colored line through the W in William and the A. B. C. et al to show the format and lining up in an outline

2. In your own words (close those books!), take our keyword outline and create your own complete sentences. An exercise in sentence writing.

3. Take the sentences and put them together to form a paragraph. If you dc cannot do this on their own, then have them narrate the sentences to you, then you dictate the sentence back to them so they can write it OR you can write their sentences and they can copy them. The narration to dictation is the more advanced skill and a great way to get some narration in for the day. For those able to handle larger sized dictation,
you might even write their sentences down, then choose to do the dictation as a whole paragraph. This is all quite dependent on your student's abilities.

4. You can work through one step a day or do it all at once. You know your schedule better than I! It is important not to exasperate the student. We want the writing to be an enjoyable process.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


It hurts. Sometimes it runs deeper than others, but either way it hurts. Please pray for my friend,  Kim LaRocca, and her family. Yesterday, her son, Matthew, passed after sometime battling brain cancer. I have witnessed Kim's journey and through it all, she remained steadfast in her testimony, "Oh, How He loves us!" "He" being God. I am thankful that Kim has raised her children in the fear and admonition of God and with understanding of Jesus Christ as their savior. Even her last update sang of God's glory. Kim, you humble me continually, and I offer this post to further lift your families peace before our father. I am thankful for our first meeting so long ago and look forward to resting in heaven with your entire family. Much love.


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