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Susan Simpson
CBD: After having taught in traditional classrooms, what made you decide to homeschool your own children? What led you to develop Learning Language Arts Through Literature (LLATL)?

SS: While teaching in the classroom, I observed the manner in which children were labeled by teachers, other students, and themselves. I did not want my children to grow up in that environment. With a bachelors degree in elementary education, I had very definite ideas about the way children learn and process information. I knew they could not receive this education anywhere but at home.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature began after Diane Welch and I attended a seminar by Dr. Ruth Beechick. Using samples from her book, we implemented her integrated approach to language arts. After the samples were used, Diane began using literature her children were reading to create her own lessons. The method was so effective for our children, we thought other people might like to have additional lessons. We contacted Dr. Beechick, who edited the first book, and we printed the first LLATL in 1989. Since then we have added curriculum for grade levels through high school and Student Activity Books for grades 1 through 8.


 
CBD: Some teachers advocate a basal approach to teaching language arts. LLATL uses an integrated approach. How do the two methods differ, and what are the advantages of using an integrated approach?

SS: Language arts is a broad category that includes reading, grammar, spelling, writing mechanics, handwriting, spelling, and composition. The entire purpose of learning language arts skills is so students are effective in communicating through reading, writing, and speaking. Most basal programs isolate each subtopic of the study. For example, the spelling words do not relate to the writing mechanics, grammar, or composition activities. Research clearly indicates students who learn grammar in this isolated manner are not necessarily good writers.

By integrating all the language arts into one lesson, students have a context for learning language arts skills. This not only increases understanding of the skills but adds meaning to the activities. This effective method has turned a dreaded subject into an enjoyable one for many students. If students enjoy their work, they are more likely to put effort into it and retain the knowledge they gain.


 
CBD: How do you respond to critics who claim that the integrated approach to teaching language arts doesn’t provide students with a strong enough foundation in individual skills-spelling and grammar, for example?

SS: The purpose of language arts instruction is to produce thinkers who can communicate effectively through reading and writing. The integrated approach gives students that opportunity in a unique and practical manner. Students learn the purpose of the skills and then immediately put them to use, thus achieving more learning in less time. If a student needs extra attention in a specific area, that needs to be addressed. Common Sense Press publishes a spelling program and grammar review program for those students who need more practice.


 
CBD: There are different types of learners; some are more concrete than others. Learning language arts often involves abstract thinking. Can you suggest some hands-on activities for the early grades that might promote language arts acquisition?

SS: No matter what types of learners your students are, they all need to be exposed to different types of learning experiences. We know that developmentally, the younger child works best with manipulatives and oral communication. That is why in our first and second grade programs we implement many hands-on activities in the form of puppet shows, games to review, and much more. We also use Charlotte Mason’s narrative approach in both programs. In our third and fourth grade programs, we implement a few activities using manipulatives for learning specific skills.


 
CBD: As a veteran home educator and co-founder of Homeschooling Today® magazine, can you offer any teaching tips that you found helpful in a subject other than language arts?

SS: In the study of math, I have used Math Folders with each of my children. This is a manila folder with various information, depending on their math level. For example, a younger student may have a 100 Chart in a Math Folder and older students may have a multiplication chart that they have completed. The students are allowed to use their folders for any math work or tests. Some teachers may disagree that folders are helpful in the learning process and argue that students could become dependent on the folders. However, the Math Folders are instructive in themselves and students will desire to learn the information in them quickly so the folder is no longer needed.


 

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The World of Plants Great Science Adventures
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Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 1, Teacher, Blue
Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 1, Teacher, Blue


Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 2, Activity Red
Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 2, Activity Red


Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 4, Activity Orange
Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 4, Activity Orange


Learning Language Arts Through Literature Student Activity Book: The Purple Book (Grade 5)
Learning Language Arts Through Literature Student Activity Book: The Purple Book (Grade 5)



 

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