Tuesday 1 October 2013

Teaching Compostion {Language Arts}

Teaching writing seems to be one of the catch phrases amongst home school families and one of the most discussed topics within home school co-ops and support groups and is evidenced by the quantity of writing curriculum's available today on the market.

Writing structure and style is not something that comes with ease to us and the reason for this is because it was not something that was taught to us.  Most adults I've consulted with have memories of topics and word counts but no formal knowledge on tackling the written paper.

Composition com·po·si·tion (kmp-zshn) n.
  1. a. The combining of distinct parts or elements to form a whole. 
    b. The manner in which such parts are combined or related. 
    c. General makeup: the changing composition of the electorate.
    d. The result or product of composing; a mixture or compound. 
  2. 2. Arrangement of artistic parts so as to form a unified whole. 
  3. a. The art or act of composing a musical or literary work.
    b. A work of music, literature, or art, or its structure or organisation.
  4.  A short essay, especially one written as an academic exercise.

Charlotte Mason says "The earliest practise in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription, slow and beautiful work... Transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory." v1 p239

In the Charlotte Mason philosophy composition starts with the art of Narration.  Once a child can narrate with ease he is then ready for written narration (composition).

"...Composition is not an adjunct but an integral part of their education in every subject "Charlotte Mason ~Vol. 6, p.192

  1. Spelling - without a good grounding in spelling a student will struggle in formal written work.
  2. Writing - A student needs to be comfortable with letter formation and do so with ease before starting the formal written assignments. Copy work is a two edged sword: it serves to learn letter formation and correcting spelling.
  3. Vocabulary - Without a sufficient vocabulary it is difficult to express oneself. Vocabulary is easily acquired via listening to excellent literature read out loud and reading quality books to oneself.
  4. Narration - helps the student to organise their thoughts with ease.
The first years of school are the foundational years of these four tools in the life of a student without these tools the student is severely handicapped in their journey to writing well. Teaching writing starts by practising the art verbally {narration}.  We do not want to over whelm our students with formal written composition while they are still developing the formal mechanical ability to write. This frees up the student to learn the art of ordering their thoughts in preparation for when they formally start written compositions.  

The art of written composition is started at around the age of ten after the student has a sufficient efficiency with the mechanical necessities of writing and a good grounding in the servant spelling.  There is very little point in overwhelming a student by expecting too many things all at once.  It is to our benefit to equip our students with excellent vocabulary via great literature read out loud and to themselves. Teach them to spell well and practise organising their thoughts via narration. 

At this point introduce the lessons from the Student Writing Intensive. This program is a good transition into formal compositions as the student does not have to compose any written work simply from imagination. IEW teach the student how to take good notes from supplied stories and re-tell the story in their own words on paper. Once this step is complete the students are then equipped with how to improve their written work and formulate excellent presentable work with no stress. 


For Further Reading

What is your favourite resource for teaching children writing ?


This post is part of the Homeschool Help series brought to you by a group of home school Mom's from around the globe.  Do not forget to visit and read their inspirational insight.

This week

1 comment:

  1. We've started writing with Chloe - 8. Essentially it's really just a type of narration. First I have her do some reading on her topic. Then I guide her along with questions about the topic from a basic outline, and she narrates for me to put it down on paper. The next day she does a piece of copywork with it. Early days yet, so the beautifulness hasn't really appeared. I'm not sure if it's because she's left handed, rushing, doesn't care, or hasn't had enough penmanship practice. I suspect probably all of the above, but I figure it'll all come together eventually though.


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