A Review of First Language Lessons Level 2

I posted a review a couple of years ago on First Language Lessons Level 1; this post is a follow-up to that review and covers First Language Lessons Level 2, which Rose finished up a couple of months ago.

First of all, as I mentioned in my review of FLL Level 1, my copy of FLL is a combined edition of the first two levels. However, I believe the content is basically the same as the newer, separate editions.

                                          

It is suggested that you do at least one lesson per week of Level 2 over summer break to improve retention, but we didn’t do that. Rose did forget things over the summer, but she was able to pick them up again fairly easily, and since I only do grammar for exposure at this age, it didn’t bother me much that she didn’t retain everything. We did grammar 3-4 times a week, about 10-15 minutes each day, and easily completed the book in less than a year. We started out doing one lesson per day, but towards the end of the year we doubled up on some lessons in order to finish more quickly. Rose is my child that likes to finish things when she sees that she’s near the end.

The structure of this book is basically the same as Level 1. The scripted lessons continue, and the lessons provide a good variety based around a few major themes…

Grammar: The grammar in FLL 2 starts out with a review of nouns, then covers state of being verbs, pronouns, linking verbs, commas, capitalization, contractions, adjectives (including predicate adjectives), conjunctions, direct and indirect quotations, adverbs, types of sentences, prepositions, and interjections.

As in FLL 1, the lessons are short, gentle, and often interactive. Instead of just rattling off a list of pronouns, you help the child slowly memorize them over several days and they get to make up sentences using pronouns. When we learned about linking verbs, we made a little paper chain of three different colors: one for the noun, one for the linking verb, and one for the adjective. The state of being verbs were learned by chanting and clapping them. Prepositions were reinforced by setting the table! She put the plate on the table, the fork beside the plate, the glass above the knife, etc. There are just enough activities to make the book fun but not overwhelming, and none of them require much prep time. This is a huge win in my book.

Poem Memorization: As in Level 1, Rose memorized several poems. We were reminded throughout Level 2 to review poems memorized in Level 1, and one of the final lessons in the book was a cumulative poem review where she was asked to recite all of the poems she had learned over the two levels. She wasn’t sure she could do it, but she did great!

Story Narration: Story narrations continue in this level with slightly longer stories. As in Level 1, I had her do oral narrations, occasionally typing them out for her. Some of the stories were read again in subsequent lessons and used for a parts of speech hunt. For example, we read “The Quarrel” one day, then the next day we read the same story to look for contractions.

Picture Narrations: As in Level 1, this level contains several picture narrations, which were a nice change of pace. These are often used to reinforce another lesson. For example, in one picture narration Rose was asked questions involving prepositions, like: What do you see on the bed? What is beside the lamp?

Copywork/Dictation: Some of the lessons end with a short copywork or dictation exercise. We skipped most of these because we also use Writing with Ease. But, because the exercises often related to the lesson (such as copying sentences containing adverbs), I did read them aloud to her.

Optional Enrichment: Many of the lessons end with an optional activity, which we usually skipped. These include things like making a “My Week” booklet, or drawing pictures of various things related to the lesson. Others we chose to do, such as making a crown for the King of the Stuffed Animals ( a fun lesson in the preposition section).

Writing: This level included some writing activities, but since we were also working through Writing with Ease Level 2 and Writing Strands Level 2, Rose did not complete all of these. She wrote postcards and learned how to address envelopes, but we skipped some of the composition lessons because they were very similar to things she had already done in Writing Strands. We also skipped a few lessons at the end that were designed to review dictation, since we cover dictation with Writing with Ease.

Like Level 1, we both really enjoyed First Language Lessons Level 2. Rose didn’t often complain about doing it, which is a huge plus in my book. The only thing she didn’t really enjoy were the days she was asked to hunt for nouns, verbs, etc. in a story. She got a bit frustrated by that, but other than that this was a nice, light continuation of Level 1, and I plan to begin First Language Lessons Level 3 with her this fall.

A Review of Junior Analytical Grammar

James has been using Junior Analytical Grammar for a few months now. We have just a few lessons left before finishing the book, which means it’s time for a little review. I am not sure if I will meet my goal of reviewing all of the curriculum we are using this year, but I am sure going to try!

Junior Analytical Grammar (JAG) is intended to be used by children who aren’t quite ready for Analytical Grammar, in about 4th to 5th grade. James (10) is using it in his fifth grade year.

I currently have two older students working through Analytical Grammar: more about that here. There are 11 units in JAG, covering all the basic parts of speech, plus conjunctions and compound situations. The book is intended to take 11 weeks, covering 1 unit per week, after which you can move on to JAG Mechanics. For us, it is going to take quite a bit more than 11 weeks – probably more like 18 weeks when all is said and done. My kid is pretty poky about getting his work done, though (he would say he likes to take his time).  We also don’t tend to get to grammar every day, though that is my goal.

What You Need

There is a teacher’s book and a student’s manual. You need both, unless you are super confident in your grammar abilities (I am not). The teacher’s manual contains all of the notes, exercises, and tests, plus it has tips on how to teach the units, and most importantly – it has the answers. The student book contains the notes, exercises, tests, and a Playing With Words section for each unit, which is not found in the teacher’s book.

How the book is set up and how we do it

Each of the 11 units contains:

  • Notes
  • 3 Exercises
  • 1 Playing With Words section
  • A unit end Test

First up are the lecture notes. There is the same text in both the teacher’s and student’s edition, so I read aloud while he follows along. The notes include plenty of examples and often require the student to respond orally, which keeps James from falling asleep while I talk (usually).  It takes us 5-10 minutes to go over the notes.

After the notes, there are 3 Exercises, consisting of five sentences to label and diagram, a short fill-in-the-blank section, and a section on identifying word jobs. My aim is to do one exercise per day, but we rarely meet that goal. For Exercise 1, I talk James through the labeling and diagramming of the first two or three sentences.  I encourage him to find the nouns first, followed by the modifiers, prepositions, verbs, and finally the subject.  Unit 9 includes a process chart with clear steps that take the child from labeling the nouns in the sentence to finishing their diagram. He keeps that chart out while he works, and it has been very helpful to him to go about the work in an organized manner.

All of the exercises start by labeling sentences; students are expected to label only the parts of speech they have learned so far. So, in the first lesson on nouns, they are only expected to label nouns. By the time you reach Unit 4  (Prepositions), simple diagrams are introduced. Students work up to diagramming whole sentences, and eventually compound sentences. There isn’t much room for diagramming in the workbook, so James uses a separate sheet of paper. We file the completed diagrams in his language arts binder.

After we go through the first few sentences, he completes the exercise on his own.  I stay available to help him, and to remind him that staring off into space is probably not conducive to getting it done! After the labeling and diagramming the rest of the lesson goes quickly, ending with a short section on identifying word jobs. I let him abbreviate these.

Then, I correct his work and we go over any errors. I get the easy job; I have all the answers!

Every unit includes a Playing With Words section, where the student is asked to apply their knowledge. They might be asked to make up a sentence using certain parts of speech, or to write a paragraph using as many prepositional phrases as possible. He likes to get a bit silly with these, and often injects some “boy humor”.

After he finishes, there is a  “How Did I do?” section, which he uses to score his own work.

To wrap up each unit there is a Test,  usually consisting of five sentences to parse and diagram, followed by a few fill-in-the blanks. The teacher’s manual tells exactly how to grade each test. I don’t normally grade anything, but I have been grading these, just so the kids can get used to receiving grades once in awhile.

So, to sum up – I really, really like Junior Analytical Grammar – it is a solid, easy to use program that gets the job done. I will not go so far as to say that James looks forward to grammar, or is disappointed if we don’t get to it!  But I am not sure there is a grammar program out there that would cause that kind of reaction in my children, so I’m good with this one. When he is done with this book, we will move on to JAG Mechanics, which I’ll review separately later in the year.