First Grade Language Lessons

Joely Reading

I'm a big fan of the Ruth Beechick-style of teaching. Dr. Beechick, like Charlotte Mason, espouses using real books to teach, especially in the teaching of language. (If you're interested in reading more about Dr. Beechick's philosophy, I would highly recommend her The Three R's series for K-3rd grade and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully for 4th-8th graders. Both are excellent! I'm also a member of Basically Beechick, a Yahoo Group created for the discussion of all-things-Beechick. It's been a wonderful resource for me.)

In planning for this school year, I determined that instead of purchasing a pre-packaged first grade language arts curriculum for Joely (other than Explode the Code), I would make up my own language lessons following Dr. Beechick's method. We're now in the second week of school, and I thought I'd post what we've done so far.

This is the basic method I've followed:

I choose a sentence or two from one of the books Joely and I are reading together, often one that specifically demonstrates the topic I'd like to discuss (capitalization, specific word spellings, end punctuation, a/an, quotes, etc.). Then we do the following:

  • I write the sentences as a model and put it on Joely's bulletin board.
  • On day 1, Joely copies the model sentences into her writing notebook, using good handwriting. I may also have her illustrate it, sometimes using the original storybook pictures as a guide.
  • We talk about the sentences, discussing whatever concept or concepts are appropriate in relation to the model.
  • On days 2 through 4 Joely writes the model again.
  • On day 5, Joely writes the model from dictation.


This is the model I chose for the first week of school. I chose a sentence from "In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place" by A. A. Milne.

"Oh, help!" said Pooh.

After Joely copied the model into her writing book, we discussed the following (not necessarily at one sitting):

  • capitalizing the first word of a sentence
  • capitalizing the name of a person (or a bear in this case)
  • exclamation mark
  • period at the end of a sentence
  • quotation marks
  • the spelling of oh, help, and said


This is our second week's lesson. I selected two sentences from Who Took the Farmer's Hat? by Joan L. Nodset.

Bird was in it. And an egg was in it.

We discussed the following:

  • capitalizing the first word of a sentence
  • period at the end of sentences
  • spelling of bird, egg, and was
  • the use of a and an

The main reason I chose these sentences was to discuss the use of a and an. After Joely copied the sentences and we had a chance to discuss the word an before the egg, I wrote down the names of several animals on a dry erase board, making sure I had some that began with vowels. Then Joely and I talked about when we need to use a before a word, and when we need to use an.

One of the ways I helped her remember the "a/an rule" was to say that a doesn't get along with vowels that start words, so he has to have an n go in between to keep them from fighting (you can see what I drew next the eagle).

To practice, we went down the list and Joely told me whether we'd say a or an before each of the words. When we got to a word that started with a vowel, I asked her why we needed an there, and she was able to tell me why.

First grade language lessons can be a fun time with your child especially if using a book that they are currently reading.

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  1. says

    This sounds great! I know you are doing a great job. I am using "Primary Language Lessons" which sounds somewhat similar to what you are doing (except for 2nd grade).


  2. says

    Great ideas I might have to try this with my 2nd grader. She speaks correctly on the a/an thing, but when it comes to writing, she gets confused. Great tip!


  3. U'Vonda Pulliam says

    Thank you so much for posting these GREAT ideas. I wanted to beef up the Language with my children but was not quit sure how to approach it. Please continue to post ideas. Thank you.


  4. says

    I stumbled upon your blog today looking for resources to teach my 5 yr. old the months in a year. You have some great ideas and resources–I've bookmarked lots and am sure I'll be back again soon. Thanks!


  5. Karen says

    What concepts did you cover in first grade? I want my son to know to capitalize the first word of a sentence, proper names, and the word "I", the three types of end punctuation, writing dates and using a colon to write the time (maybe), and some basic usage (a/an/the)–love your idea about the "n" being the peacemaker, BTW–he/she/it, you, I/me, contractions, compound words, some synonyms/antonyms. Is this enough or too much?


    Joy Reply:

    @Karen, I honestly can't remember exactly what we covered in first grade. What you listed is definitely not too much to cover in first grade. It so much depends on your child.

    Just introduce the concepts one at a time, and whenever you encounter resistance on your son's part, back off and try again later. But I'd bet that he'll soak it all up and you'll be looking for even more concepts to introduce.

    And if you look at the big picture, if your son doesn't learn any of the concepts in the first grade, he'll get to it in the second grade…or third… My point being is it's not terribly important at what age they learn things; it's that they eventually do learn them.

    So don't sweat it. Have fun and go with the flow.

    Probably not the most concise answer you were looking for :)


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