Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Language Smarts from The Critical Thinking Co. {Homeschool Crew Review}

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

Over the years, a few companies have earned repeated spots on our curriculum shelves. One of those companies is The Critical Thinking Co.™. Our first purchases were workbooks that focused solely on thinking skills, but over the years I've grown to love their subject-matter workbooks even more than their critical thinking options.

Lauren has used their Mathematical Reasoning book in the past, and it is part of her daily assignments this year. We recently added Language Smarts™ Level E (grade 4) to her schedule.

Language Smarts™ can be used as either a complete curriculum or as a supplemental resource. It certainly covers enough topics to count as a complete curriculum in my book. It covers parts of speech, punctuation, reading skills, spelling, vocabulary, and more. Each activity has a brief teaching section and then a page or two devoted to a practice activity.

I found that these practice activities required Lauren to think through the concepts, not just fly through the material without understanding it. For instance, a page on prefixes required her to combine one of six prefixes with one of twelve root words to fit the meaning of the sentence. "The supervisor told his employees that it is irresponsible to be late for meetings." The activities dealing with similes and metaphors required her to rewrite the sentence to include a simile or to match a literal sentence with a figurative one that contained a metaphor.

The Language Smarts™ workbook has 363 pages of student activities. Currently, Lauren is working on two activities per day. She does one activity from the Word Parts section at the beginning of the book and another from the Reading section. The Word Parts lessons are building a strong vocabulary foundation by studying prefixes, suffixes, etc. She will then move on to Word Relationships to cover topics like synonyms, antonyms, analogies, and even palindromes (fun!). After those two sections, I will likely have her start working through the lessons on parts of speech. The Reading and Writing section started with lessons on using context clues and has moved on to cover similes, metaphors, idioms, and more. There are also several Reading Comprehension activities scattered through this section of the book. These contain a reading passage (at least a page long) and a series of questions. Not only will Lauren have to answer the questions, but she will also have to identify which specific sentence or sentences helped her draw that conclusion. All of the sections are labeled so that we could easily skip around once she finishes the sections she is working on.

Lauren gives Language Smarts™ a favorable review, but she says it's a bit too difficult for her. Today she struggled with a written part of the assignment where she was supposed to explain what a particular quotation meant. She said she understood it, but she couldn't articulate it in her own words. (Note: I choose to use these materials because Lauren needs more practice with critical thinking skills, other students may not find it as difficult as she does.) At least part of her problem is that she often attempts these assignments while we are in the car on the way to an appointment and I am not necessarily available to help. I need to decide if I want to start helping her more with this material or if I should get her an easier version of it. The Level D (grade 3) would still cover language arts skills and would still require her to think about the material, but it might be less frustrating.

Language Smarts™ Level E costs $42.99 and comes in levels appropriate for grades first through fourth. We also love Mathematical Reasoning™ which comes in levels appropriate for preschool through junior high (Algebra 1 and Geometry). In addition to using their elementary materials, we are also using U.S. History Detective as the spine for Brennan's High School American History course.

In addition to reviewing this amazing language arts workbook, other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed several software options for preschoolers that are part of the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ bundle from The Critical Thinking Co.™.

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

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