Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Teaching English in Primary Grades

We often receive phone calls from parents who ask about teaching English to their children in grades one through three. They wonder why we teach English when it is not being taught in most schools, or at least, is not being taught to any great extent. The parents wonder why it is necessary, or are there lessons which can be skipped because the concepts are too difficult for their young children.

In the Catholic schools of the past, English was taught from first grade. The old Loyola Voyages in English series has been used for more than sixty years. Some Catholic schools today use the latest editions, though now they are very expensive and entirely secular. The series was known for its logical structured approach, and it still is.

Because the formerly excellent Loyola series is now secular, some years ago Seton began writing our own English series. Instead of a textbook and a workbook, we wrote text-workbooks, a combination which parents requested so they do not need to go from one book to the other.

We follow the same logical presentation as the Loyola series, and cover a fairly good number of English concepts, which is what the students of long ago studied. While it may seem “heavy” to some, these were the concepts which have been taught in these grade levels. Children of the past, who had less educational opportunity, were able to learn these concepts.

Nevertheless, children of the same grade level do not learn all their subjects at the same rate. Like adults, children have their own interests, strengths, and skills. At the primary level, the goal should be to introduce the concepts and to teach as much as you can.

Follow the lesson plans as best you can, starting at the beginning of the book. If there is a concept that your child does not understand, try to explain it a little differently. You might try having an older sibling try to explain it; studies have shown that sometimes children a little older can help a younger one in this way. If you look on the Internet, you might find an explanation that may help you to explain the concept a different way.

Do use the lesson plans. They will give you a variety of teaching ideas. If your little one still does not understand a concept, we have experienced counselors available. Some of our counselors have home-schooled their children, others have worked with children with special needs, and others taught in Catholic schools.

Usually children in the primary grades easily understand capital letters, punctuation, and different kinds of sentences, but when it comes to some abstract ideas such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives, they may stumble a little. If your child cannot understand a lesson, simply move on to another lesson in the book. You can come back to the difficult lesson later. Give the quarter test later after all the concepts for that quarter have been taught.

Because many of these English concepts are new for your child, it is important to have a daily review of past lessons. In fact, the daily review is more important than going on to a new lesson. If you are short of time, at least do the review. The daily review does not need to cover all previously learned concepts, but in a week’s time, they all should be reviewed. A review can mean simply going over some previous exercises.

In several of the grades, Seton has added English drill exercises on the Seton website. They are available for Grade 3. You will see the Preliminary Exercises, which means these exercises are simpler than the ones in the book. They can be used before assigning the exercises in the text-workbook, or they can be used as a review. You can print these for your student.

When you are teaching abstract concepts to young children, sometimes you need to make it more concrete. When you are teaching nouns, for instance, consider helping your child to understand that a noun stands for something concrete, usually something that can be seen or touched. Help your young child to touch a chair and to say the word “chair,” a noun because it stands for something.

Young children like activity, so give your child a noun activity by going around the house, touching things, and call its name a noun. Later, adjectives can be explained as words which describe nouns, so your young one can say “the noun is chair, the adjective is green.” In a diagram, once your child sees where the subject noun and object noun is placed, he can see the logic for an adjective to be placed under the noun it describes.

Consider making flashcards of nouns and asking your child to identify whether the word represents a person, place, or thing. Mix up flashcards with nouns, adjectives, and verbs and ask your child to identify the part of speech. You can have oral drills, such as identifying parts of speech, and later, giving sentences and identifying words in the sentences.

By second grade, we start diagramming, which helps young students to develop critical thinking skills, attention to detail, an understanding of sentence structure, and more precise vocabulary. Not all students are ready for this, but it is important to start early. You may need to go to another lesson and come back a few times to certain concepts, but eventually your student will understand.

Try not to show signs of being impatient or upset with your child, whether it is about English or any other subject. Your child will not learn as well if he sees you are upset. Try to relax, to take time, to be patient, yet to persevere. Most of all, pray to your child’s guardian angel and patron saint. They will work miracles for you and your child!

About Dr. Mary Kay Clark

Director of Seton for more than 25 years. Dr. Clark left Mater Dei Academy and began teaching her children at home at seeing firsthand the opportunities and the pitfalls of private schooling. Meet Dr. Clark | See her book
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