Teacher Talk: The Language Arts

Parents: The language arts are extremely important. Your children use their skills in this subject area to receive information, think logically and creatively, and express their ideas. In the school curriculum, the language arts include reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary building, listening, speaking, handwriting, grammar, and storytelling. We know that you will be encouraging your children to read this summer to enhance their reading skills so our summer activities for you to improve their skills in this area will focus on improving their speaking, listening, spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, and grammar skills. Do keep in mind the all-important goal of making these activities family fun times.

Summer Language Arts Activity 1 – Speaking: How well your children can speak in school influences their participation in classroom discussions and their ability to give oral reports. Confident speakers tend to get higher grades because their verbal skills impress their teachers. The more your children talk at home, the more this skill will transfer to school. Turn your dinner table into family chat time through choosing a nightly activity that is appropriate for the ages of your children.

Take turns telling what every family member did during the day.
Play games. You might have everyone ask questions to guess the name of an object in the room or of a family friend, relative, or famous person.
Discuss books that family members are reading.
Talk about favorite friends and foods.
Make vacation plans that include something each member would like to do.

Summer Language Arts Activity 2 – Listening: If your children are good listeners, they will find it easier to learn from their teachers and classmates. You can promote improving this skill through doing new things with your children this summer. For example, find a docent-led tour of a museum that would be fun for your children to visit such as a toy, car, or science museum. Or you and your children could visit a shop, art gallery, or museum where you follow instructions to complete a craft project. Another possibility is joining your children at a cooking school like you see in some grocery stores. Everyone will have to listen carefully so the food item will taste like it should.

Summer Language Arts Activity 3 – Spelling: Many people, even educators, now say that being able to spell is not as important as it used to be as you can always use a computer to check spelling. However, most classroom work is still done with paper and pencil, and later on, your children may need to write an SAT essay for admission to college so it really helps for them to have good spelling skills. Playing games, such as Hangman, Boggle™ and Scrabble™ with you will require your children to use and expand their spelling skills. Also, you can give your children sidewalk chalk and encourage them to write words, letters, or messages on the sidewalk. A good snack time game is for your children to dump a box of alphabet cereal, candy, or crackers on the table. Then everyone can eat only the words that they have made from the letters within a time limit.

Summer Language Arts Activity 4 – Handwriting: Poor handwriting is bound to influence teachers’ reactions to your children’s papers. Prepare your young children to write by working on their small motor skills. You can have them string beads, move small objects with tweezers, and put pennies into a piggy bank. They can also improve these skills by playing the game, Operation™. There’s no fun in doing handwriting drills, but there is fun in introducing your children to calligraphy. Then you can encourage them to make signs to display in your home.

Summer Language Arts Activity 5 – Vocabulary: A good vocabulary quite often means good grades in the language arts. You can turn even ordinary family outings into vocabulary building exercises. For example, at the grocery store, your young children can learn the names of such food items as asparagus, squash, avocado, and melon. A visit to an office supply store can familiarize them with such supplies as binders, folders, and staples. Older children will find that excursions to places such as railroad museums will teach them a new vocabulary including caboose, locomotive, and diesel. Or you can take them to ethnic restaurants so they’ll acquire a vocabulary that includes words like fettuccine, guacamole, or hors d’oeuvre. In addition, children in elementary school can learn a great deal about the interesting ways words can be used if you read and discuss their usage in Amelia Bedelia books.

Summer Language Arts Activity 6 – Grammar: Believe it or not, your children can have fun improving their grammar skills. Divide your family into two teams to play “Verb Charades.” They can use such easy words as kick, run, and jump and more difficult ones like think, move, and raise. Remind your children that the names of all the people, places, and things that they see are called nouns. Then have them name all the people, places, or things that they see in a restaurant or during a car drive.