English Grammar

Ahh, English. You know, I read the other day that English is pretty remarkable in the language world for its longevity. And it is pretty cool that we can read Shakespeare that was written 400 years ago and still understand it (especially with a little practice). With that in mind, it's no wonder that the study of English can be daunting.

But I keep telling my kids, they already know this language and use it very well, we're just defining how we use it. And the reason why we study English? Because our need to communicate becomes much more complicated as we grow up. Babies don't need words, because their needs can be communicated with a cry. Toddlers start to need words, because they may want a cookie not a cracker. And then kids want chocolate chip cookies, and grown ups (like me) want a white chocolate, dried cranberry, macadamia nut cookie with a white chocolate mocha on the side. We need more language to communicate these needs/wants.

Our English study is broken down into sections: vocabulary/spelling, grammar, and writing/speaking.

Vocabulary & Spelling

We need words to communicate our ideas, needs, wants, etc. So we learn words in order to communicate best. Our vocabulary study is fairly easy. We're reading Adam of the Road for our literature study this year. We read one chapter per week, usually on Wednesday. They will each then pick out 5-15 words that they don't know. Throughout the rest of the week, they write these words in their vocabulary notebooks and find the definitions in the dictionary to copy down as well. When we come together for our co-op meeting, the kids talk about which words they loved.

I've taught the kids the phonograms using the Spalding method, and love it. My problem was the long list of spelling words. I'm the type that wants to check off the list, not master a small bit. So we studied the words, but didn't always learn them. This year, I bought the Natural Speller. It gives a doable list for each grade level, so I'm not trying to get through all the lists each year. (Or starting at the beginning again every year.)

This year, I picked out 24 spelling rules to learn, one for each week. Then each week, I pick out the words from the Natural Speller that follow that rule. Sometimes there aren't enough words, so then I'll pick out some words that explain the phonograms clearly.

For example, last week the rule we studied was that s, l, and f can be doubled at the end of one syllable words. So Eowyn's words were: staff, stuff, bluff, sell, cell, possess, success, congress, business, wilderness, kindness, savage, village, kitten, mitten, idea, violet, repetition, invention, heart, hearty, hearth, bridge, ridge. I check off the words we've used each week so that I don't reuse them.

On Wednesday, I read the words to the kids, and make sure they learn to pronounce and spell them correctly. Then Thursday and Friday, they study the words. Monday, we "test" by adding the spelling words to the kids' vocabulary notebooks. I read the words, without any extra help, and they write the words in. Pretty simple, and it means I don't have anything to do with spelling on Thursdays and Fridays. (Tuesday is our community day, so Wednesday is our first day of the new week, and Monday is our last day and also our preparation day.) Natural Speller has a list for each grade, so Gideon's list is different than Eowyn's.


For Grammar study, I'm writing our new program. I'm practicing with it this year, and hopefully will be able to iron out most of the kinks in order to offer it next year. And so far it's going well. (Thankfully, we only have have 3 students in our afternoon Grammar class, and two of them are mine. Perfect to practice on!) Ideally, I would break this study down into two classes. One of third and fourth graders, and one of fifth and sixth graders. But we only have two third graders and one fifth grader. We may grow in the next year though, and the kids that are younger will certainly be able to do this.

Our class time on Tuesdays has been wonderful. I teach English grammar the same way grammar is taught in the foreign language texts to make it easier to switch language study. I'm planning on this program to last for 4 years of study. The work within the program will become more difficult as the years pass. Each week, our lessons have memory work, understanding work, and practice work for at home. Right now, the homework portion is very versatile. We can use worksheets or we could just use literature. I like using both, since worksheets offer exacting practice that you can't always find in literature. But literature offers more variety. Our class time is spent in trying to understand the memory work. Week 4 was all about the objective case or declension in English, direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of preposition. (I love the objects.)

I'm using the worksheets from Easy Grammar for Gideon, and the practice problems from Our Mother Tongue for Eowyn. (This is another way to make it more in depth. Eowyn's language practice uses more sophisticated language, and Gideon's is more simple.)

You can download Lesson 4: Using Nouns Objective Case here, in case you'd like to see what I'm talking about.

Writing & Speaking

This is the easiest to use, because we use Writing & Rhetoric. I really can't say enough good things about these books. We love them, and they encompass writing and speaking.

We are using them in our co-op, and at first I was worried about how to cover the different ages, but it turns out it's pretty simple. Each week, the kids are given narration exercises and rhetoric practice. So that's what we do in class. The kids read/speak their papers from the week before, and then narrate their new lessons for the current week. It sounds more confusing than it is. Let me explain.

On Monday, we begin the new lesson. I read the introduction and the story. Tuesday, in class, the kids narrate the story from Monday, and read their paper from the week before. Wednesday, we work through the questions, Thursday we do the copy work exercises, and Friday we write the new paper. 

It's working very well, but we do only have 3 students this year. If we grow, it may be that we'll have to limit the students to either narrating or reading their paper instead of doing both each week. I would divide it up too though so that some read their papers, and some narrate each week. We also have discussions about the narrations and papers. But it's good practice for them to do each in front of their classmates. And the narrations naturally flows into conversations about the stories and writings.


I love getting the kids to understand English grammar. It's really fun to see them go from confusion to enlightenment as they encounter the memory work and then see the memory work in simple sentences. And the kids love it too. Eowyn came running over to me the other day and exclaimed that she had just written a prepositional phrase. She recognized it after she had written it, so it excited her that she already knows and uses the grammar that she's learning.

And who doesn't love getting excited over prepositional phrases? Those really are so fun.


  1. WOW! I love your lesson. Straightforward and helpful. The idea of approaching it as a foreign language to help students understand those terms is great. Honestly, that is why I find it hard to use older Latin texts - they assume grammar I don't know. Will you teach the parts in the order they are often memorized in latin (N,G,D,Acc, Abl.) - just wondering. This looks fabulous. Your examples are so helpful and clear. I wish I could find a co-op to do CAP's writing program together. That is honestly my only quibble with Artios - I prefer a more classical approach to writing. How do you start your week on Wednesday? I totally get the concept and need to try a similar thing around here but I am having trouble wrapping my mind around how to do it. Do you use your weekends or try to take them off? Do you have specific things for review on Monday before they go to coop on Tuesday? Thanks for sharing more about what you are doing - it is always helpful to see what others are doing.

    1. I'm just now seeing this, but thanks! I'm so glad you think it's cool. It is a little confusing, starting our week on Wednesday, but we've gotten the hang of it, and I much prefer having co-op day on Tuesday and not having to get ready for it on Sunday. We start the week on Wednesday by giving out spelling words. W&R is started on Mondays, so that we can do the second exercises, which is narration, in class on Tuesday, so Wednesday is the talk about section, Thursday is the write about it section, and Friday is the final paper. Tuesday in class they can either do their narration or read the paper they wrote (or both, if time allows). It works perfectly.

  2. Having students rewrite the rules in their own words is a great idea that I had never thought of. I will definitely give it a try!'

    teaching challenge