Friday, June 22, 2012

Homeschool Review: Primary Language Lessons

Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl, updated and reprinted by Hillside Education

This book is recommended by Mater Amabilis in Level 1A for second and third grade. We completed lessons 1 through 82 in second grade and will finish the remaining lessons in third grade. The exercises become more complicated as the book progresses.  In second grade, I spread the lessons out. Usually we had grammar three times a week, but every third week or so we'd have only two lessons. I think we had fewer during Advent as well.

The Hillside edition of this book is a spiral-bound paperback, about 8" by 10". I love the spiral binding because it made it so easy to lay the book open on the table and read together from it or copy from it. In addition, many of the paintings in this edition are in color. The lessons vary between narration, poetry, picture study, conversations, fill-in-the-blanks and discussions about word choices and very basic grammar. An answer key is available on the Hillside website, though I don't think I ever used it.

The grammar lessons in this book are wonderfully simple and conversational. Usually, an exercise that focused on grammar would show a few example sentences and then provide some leading questions to allow the student to discover the element of grammar for him- or herself. Often, it would be followed by a few sentences for additional practice. As the year progresses, there are lessons on the comma, capital letters, initials, and sentences (to name a few).

I also appreciated the word choice lessons. Without expanding on tenses and conjugations, the lessons allow the student to get a sense of whether "is" or "are" should be used, whether "a" or "an," "eat" or "ate" or "eaten." Of course the language to describe the differences should be taught eventually, but it seems to me it will be much easier if the student can already tell what the choice should be. There are also word choice lessons for homophones like "their" and "there."

Many of the lessons are conversations between the student and the teacher, discussing a poem, a painting, a parable or merely something of interest like the student's favorite season. The topic of the conversation is not nearly as important as the process the student employs to organize and deliver their thoughts. In our lessons, I always asked First Son to tell his stories or compositions rather than write them so we could focus on the thought process rather than the physical process of getting his thoughts on paper. (Sometimes I would type them for him.)

Many of the poems are meant to be memorized. Some of them I typed out for our memory binder, but most of them we just read together. In third grade, I'm going to ask First Son to read them aloud. He will be able to practice enunciation and inflection.

We modified this program quite a bit as we went along. It seems to advance quite rapidly in dictation and composition. First Son struggled with these skills in particular and I found Writing with Ease to give us a better structure for learning them. (See my review of Year One of Writing with Ease here.) I also decreased the amount of writing in the program (actual physical handwriting) for First Son in second grade because I didn't want to overwhelm him. It was very simple to change the exercises to oral ones rather than written. As the year progressed, we would complete them orally and then I'd have him write a certain number of them out. I think the physical act of writing is helpful in instilling a feel for the correct use of words in complete sentences and I didn't want him to miss out on that completely.


I really like this book and it's gentle introduction to grammar. We end up touching on grammar in a number of ways in second grade (and next year in third grade) but if I could only keep one, it would be this one.



I did not receive anything in exchange for this review. I purchased the book myself. I do not receive anything if you follow a link to Hillside and make a purchase. You can also find a different edition of Primary Language Lessons on Amazon for a bit less, but I would highly recommend the Hillside one if you have a bit of leeway in your budget.

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