Inside: The main challenge for eclectic homeschoolers is to balance all the bits and pieces and create a functional curriculum, but language arts always seems to be the hardest to piece together because so many pieces overlap. Keep reading to find out how we pieced together our 4th grade language arts curriculum.
Choosing our curriculum every year is an important (and sometimes daunting) task. As eclectic homeschoolers, it’s not only essential that we pick a great curriculum but also make sure it fits together with our other choices.
I always take some time to think about what worked well and what didn’t in the previous year. I like to go through our options subject by subject, and I always find that making decisions about language arts is the most challenging part. It’s about finding the right mix of reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary that works together smoothly since I like bunching things together from various publishers.
Choosing the right secular language arts curriculum for 4th grade this year felt like an even bigger decision. After wrapping up with Logic of English, which set a high bar, I dived into the homeschooling community’s recommendations and discovered some gems.
Here’s the lowdown on our secular curriculum language arts picks for the year, complete with the hows and whys behind each choice.
I also posted our complete list of 4th grade secular curriculum for eclectic homeschoolers.
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Secular Language Arts Curriculum for 4th grade- Overview
For language arts, my goal was to create a balanced and effective program by mixing and matching various components. Here’s a quick overview of what I kept in mind as I was choosing materials for each area:
- Grammar: a resource that makes grammar engaging and understandable, laying a solid foundation for effective communication.
- Writing: a program that encourages creative expression and strengthens writing skills, suitable for various types of writing assignments.
- Vocabulary: a tool or method that introduces new words in a fun way, helping expand language use and understanding through practice.
- Reading: a range of books that not only interest and challenge but also improve comprehension and analytical thinking.
Each piece needs to fit together with the others – which I find the hardest to balance since some of the curricula available for each tend to overlap – so here’s what I ended up with.
– Fix it Grammar The Noose Tree (book 1) from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).
– Beowulf’s Grammar by Guest Hollow – because it’s amazingly well laid out and funny!
I always knew I wanted to do writing from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) because they have amazing writing programs, highly recommended by multiple veteran homeschoolers who swear their kids (reluctant writers or well-versed writers) have grown leaps and bounds by using this program.
NOTE: Their best writing program is called Structure and Style for Students and we tried to do level 1A in 4th grade (but Marc wasn’t ready). So we postponed it to next year (5th grade) instead. If your kids love writing and are already avid writers, 4th grade is a perfect time to introduce Structure and Style for Students.
What we ended up doing for writing was a mix of Theme-Based Writing suitable for lower grades and some Evan Moor Nonfiction Writing.
- VOCABULARY + EXTRA PRACTICE:
(affiliate links to Amazon)
– 240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know Grade 4
– Funny Fairy Tale Grammar Grades 3-4
– Funny Fairy Tale Proofreading Grades 3-4
– Daily Language Review Grade 4 by Evan Moor
- READING: books + book reports
(affiliate links to Amazon- click on the images to get to the books)
This is what we chose for our reading in 4th grade, but if you want more options, there are plenty of 4th grade chapter books that you can choose instead.
Grammar Curriculum Options
When it comes to selecting a grammar curriculum for 4th graders, we face a unique set of challenges.
I find that 4th grade is a special transitional grade that demands a program that strengthens kids’ understanding of grammar and engages their growing curiosity and capacity for complex thought.
Engaging and Practical Application
Fourth graders are developing their voices in writing, making it the perfect time to introduce a grammar curriculum that focuses on the practical application of rules, like Fix It! Grammar. Avoid programs that rely solely on rote memorization. Instead, opt for those that incorporate engaging activities, such as sentence-building games or storytelling exercises, to show how grammar rules enhance communication.
Seamless Integration with Other Language Arts Areas
Grammar doesn’t exist in a vacuum. A curriculum that integrates grammar with writing, reading, and vocabulary offers a more holistic approach to language arts. This integration helps kids see the relevance of grammar in real-world communication and, later on, literary analysis. Fix It! Grammar ticks all these boxes because their program is all about applied grammar.
A Fun Approach
To cater to the diverse learning styles of 4th graders, a grammar curriculum should include a wide range of resources and activities. Interactive or hands-on projects and varied practice exercises can keep kids engaged and accommodate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. This variety ensures that grammar lessons remain fresh and interesting, capturing the attention of young learners. One such program that is both fun, hands-on, and rigorous is Beouwulf’s Grammar from Guest Hollow.
So I found the two perfect grammar curricula for applied and hands-on grammar.
1. Fix it Grammar – The Noose Tree Book 1
When we finished Logic of English (LoE) last year, I felt like nothing I chose would match it. Marc actually cried when we finished the last lesson of Essentials. Despite the rigorous nature of the program and the fact that Bridgeway asked us to finish a full level in a year, Logic of English remains high on the exclusive list of curricula I will always recommend. It set up such solid bases in Marc for both reading and spelling. He is an excellent speller!
But, despite the loss of LoE we found an equally good company, the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) to take us further, and I see us using their products well into the high school years!
While Marc is saying he finds the first book of Fix It! Grammar is easy (because Logic of English was already teaching him how to analyze phrases and he loves grammar) I feel Fix It! Grammar is the perfect, logical continuation of LoE.
What I love the most about this grammar is how different it is from regular grammar programs! It treats the language wholly, including vocabulary words and teaching applied grammar and text editing and proofing.
The whole book is structured like a story.
Kids have to proofread the story, which is broken down into short sentences (one sentence per day- 15 minutes of work- in a 4-day school week).
They not only look for parts of speech but also punctuation marks, paragraphs, upper and lower case, and homophones.
Then they have to rewrite their “fixed” sentences in their notebooks.
Here is Marc hard at work, analyzing sentences, fixing mistakes, finding parts of speech and writing his weekly vocabulary in a separate section of his notebook.
At the end of the year, kids will have a complete story written in their notebook. Along the way, they would have learned to proofread texts, be mindful of proofreading their text, recognize the parts of speech, and try to decode the meaning of words from context.
They will also have a pretty solid writing exercise. Look how much Marc is practicing his cursive writing skills!
And speaking of cursive, if you’re interested in the method I’ve used to teach him cursive, check out my Amazon-published European Cursive Workbook. That’s exactly the method I used when he was six to teach him how to write cursive.
Pacing, Dictation and Grading
Fix It! Grammar should take about 15 minutes per day if you follow their suggested schedule. Kids will analize only one sentence per day, then write down.
Since we are following a one subject per day schedule for 4th grade, we approach it a bit differently: instead of 15 minutes per day, we do a week’s worth of Fix It! Grammar in a day.
And instead of copying the corrected sentences, I dictate them to him. I found early on that dictation is great not only for spelling purposes but also makes it easier for Marc to focus on his writing, letter formation, and spelling so we use it at every chance.
For testing, I correct his dictation, and “corrected” sentences (with their marked parts of speech) and I am making a vocabulary worksheet for each week on my Super Teacher Worksheets account, combining Fix It! Grammar words with 240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know.
2. Beowulf’s Grammar from Guest Hollow
This is a later addition to our 4th grade language arts curriculum and I must admit I fell in love with the approach.
Beowulf is a charismatic and humorous dog who has a passion for grammar, and is teaching it to kids through a series of fun, engaging, and hands-on activities.
But what’s truly amazing about this curriculum is how well explained the grammar is!
A Unique Approach to Learning
Beowulf’s Grammar takes a refreshingly different approach to teaching grammar. Beowulf, the friendly and comical dog, introduces kids to grammar concepts through a mix of fun activities, engaging stories, and hands-on learning. This method turns what could be a dry subject into an adventure that kids look forward to each day.
Why It Stands Out
What sets Beowulf’s Grammar apart, according to other reviews and our own experience, is the clarity of its grammar explanations. Concepts are broken down in a way that’s easy to understand, making it accessible for young learners and ensuring that they grasp the material fully. This clear explanation of grammar rules, combined with the engaging delivery, sparks a genuine interest in the subject.
From the moment I finished printing and binding the materials, Marc was hooked. He eagerly dived into his “late-night grammar” sessions, chuckling through the exercises and showing an enthusiasm for learning that’s every educator’s dream. His writing has shown remarkable improvement, a testament to how much he’s enjoying and absorbing from Beowulf’s Grammar. The immediate and visible impact on his understanding and application of grammar concepts is truly impressive.
4th Grade Language Arts – Writing Curriculum
Our journey so far has been filled with its share of trials and triumphs, especially when it comes to writing.
Marc, like many children, has not been too fond of writing, in fact, he is a reluctant writer and hates writing compositions. The early years of homeschooling with boxed curricula introduced him to the demands of writing but fell short in offering the explanations and support he needed. This approach turned writing compositions into a daunting task rather than an enjoyable learning experience.
Understanding that writing has been Marc’s biggest hurdle, I embarked on a mission to find a writing program tailored to his needs.
It became clear that the traditional methods, particularly those relying heavily on writing prompts, were not effective for him. Marc needed a program that provided more than just assignments; he needed guidance, structure, and a step-by-step approach to learning the art of writing.
The search for the ideal curriculum led me to prioritize programs that offer:
- Structured Learning: A curriculum that breaks down the writing process into understandable segments, making it less overwhelming.
- Guided Instruction: Detailed explanations and hands-on guidance throughout the learning process to build confidence and skill.
- Logical Progression: A step-by-step method that logically progresses through the basics and mechanics of writing, ensuring a solid foundation.
Compositions are difficult, especially for kids like Marc who prefer a logical approach to everything.
It’s an activity that demands not only creativity but also the simultaneous application of multiple skills such as spelling, reading, grammar, and even the physical act of writing itself. Recognizing this complexity was crucial in understanding why Marc found writing compositions so daunting.
3. IEW’s Writing Programs
My search has led me to IEW’s writing programs as they seemed to be the best suited for Marc’s style of learning and I fell in love with IEW from the first sample I had the pleasure to try.
We started doing SWI (Student Writing Intensive), their old writing program, but I soon realized that Marc wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of work it requires, so we chose to work on their Theme Based Writing, notably All Things Fun and Fascinating.
Part of our inability to finish SWI was that the second part is much more fast paced. But this is something they fixed in their new program, Structure and Style for Students, which we will be using next year.
I recommend Structure and Style for Students 1A to any 4th graders that love writing and don’t find writing a tedious task. They will do great with the program.
Here are some samples of our trials with SWI for semester 1. You will notice that unlike our other notebooks, this is written in pen not pencil. It’s one of the things Mr. Andrew Pudewa of IEW is suggesting and I found it brilliant.
When writing compositions kids sometimes rush, they forget words and ideas, they make mistakes. If they delete everything they think is wrong but at a later date decided they needed something from the previous idea, it’s very hard to get it back.
Making mistakes is ok and kids should learn the proper ways of correcting them: by crossing them out. I love whis phylosophy and I we both like how Mr. Pudewa explains writing to kids.
4. Evan Moor’s Nonfiction Writing
Complementing IEW’s structured approach to creative and composition writing, Evan Moor’s Nonfiction Writing resources offered Marc a different angle on writing.
Evan Moor’s workbooks offered a lighter, more digestible workload that was perfectly suited to Marc during our second semester of 4th grade.What made Evan Moor stand out for us was its practical approach to teaching important nonfiction writing skills without the pressure that often comes with more intensive programs.
From learning how to write a well-structured summary to exploring the steps in crafting a descriptive essay, and even venturing into the realms of persuasive and narrative writing, Evan Moor is covering it all.
I recommend Evan Moor’s books on writing to any young or reluctant writers until they are ready for IEW’s writing programs.
5. Vocabulary and Beyond
In the world of language arts, a strong vocabulary is the foundation upon which all other skills are built. Vocabulary helps kids deepen their comprehension, enhance their communication, and enrich their creative writing.
That’s why vocabulary will always be on our language arts curriculum list.
But it’s not only vocabulary that’s important, I also want Marc to have the skills of editing and proofreading as well as seeing how these apply to various texts and situations.
Here are some of the things we love about this approach:
- Incorporate Fun with Learning: We love resources that turn vocabulary lessons into an adventure. Workbooks like Funny Fairy Tale Grammar and Funny Fairy Tale Proofreading by Scholastic use humor and creativity to teach grammar and vocabulary, making learning irresistible to children.
- Blend Vocabulary with Reading and Writing: We love using vocabulary-focused resources, such as 240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know, to naturally integrate new words into reading and writing activities.
Funny Fairy Tale Grammar
Funny Fairy Tale Grammar from Scholastic is an awesome little workbook that we just use because Marc requested it.
It has one-page sections that explain each concept and then it has funny exercises based on well-known fairytales, but with a twist.
Marc had a blast working through it independently. He loved re-writing the tale of “The Three Microscopic Pigs” it was right up his alley with his obsession on microorganisms.
These workbooks are full of such funny exercises that kids can use to review what they know and even learn new things.
Funny Fairy Tale Proofreading
I chose this for him because it teaches them the correct notation of each correction. It also makes him pay attention when looking for mistakes in a text.
It’s as funny as the Grammar book above, and they go together, so I chose to bind them together since they are pretty thin at some 50+ pages each.
240 Words Kids Need to Know
240 Vocabulary Words Kids Need to Know from Scholastic is another workbook I chose for Marc because I felt the need to add extra vocabulary practice.
I didn’t want to overdo the vocabulary part since he reads a lot already and he is doing great in the vocabulary department.
This workbook introduces new words but also covers synonyms, antonyms, compound words, homophones, homographs and much more.
The exercises aren’t endless or repetitive, they are short and sweet and I really like the examples they use and how they chose to explain each word.
6. Reading Comprehension with Book Reviews
I found that incorporating book reports into our 4th-grade language arts curriculum significantly enhanced Marc’s reading comprehension and writing skills.
Book reports are a practical way for him to engage with the books he reads, allowing him to analyze text, develop his ideas, and improve his ability to communicate through writing.
For reading this year, we will just use chapter books. We need to submit 4 book reports to our school Bridgeway Academy and we chose these:
- Around the world in 80 Days
- Lincoln and his boys
- Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH
- Charlotte’s Web
Why Book Reports?
I feel that book reports help kids understand and reflect on their reading in a structured way. They encourage them to read actively and pay attention to details and to the book as a whole in ways that mere comprehension questions don’t.
So here’s how you can ensure success with book reports:
- Choose the Right Books: Select books that are both challenging and interesting to your kids. The right book will naturally motivate them to engage more deeply with the material.
- Vary the Type of Book Reports: Keep the task interesting by introducing different types of book reports. Beyond traditional written reports, there are cereal box reports or even creative reports where they might design a new book cover or write a letter to a character.
- Discuss the Books Together: Before your kids start writing, have a discussion about the book. This can help them organize their thoughts and provide a clearer direction for their report.
- Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer positive feedback and constructive criticism on their reports. Highlight what they did well and suggest areas for improvement in a supportive manner.
- Use Templates: Especially for beginners, a book report template can guide your child through the process of writing a report. It can help organize their thoughts and ensure they cover all necessary parts of a book report.
I’m offering a free printable book report template for elementary-aged children to our subscribers, which you might find useful:
Types of Book Reports
Book reports don’t even have to be the traditional, boring type written on paper. Here are some more creative types to encourage kids to think about the books they read:
1. Cereal Box Book Report
For this project, ask kids to decorate a cereal box to represent the book they’ve read. The front of the box might feature the book’s title and author, along with an illustration. The back can contain a summary of the story, while the sides are perfect for listing ingredients (characters, setting, plot points) and nutritional information (lessons learned). Inside the box, kids can include small items related to the story or characters.
2. Character Puppet Show
Kids create puppets of the main characters in the book and use them to perform key scenes from the story. This type of report is great for understanding character development and practicing narrative retelling.
3. Book Jacket Redesign
Kids design a new book jacket for their book. This includes creating a new cover, writing a blurb that summarizes the book without giving away the ending, and including reviews or endorsements on the back cover. They can also create an “About the Author” section.
A diorama book report involves creating a three-dimensional scene from the book inside a shoebox or similar container. This project helps kids focus on setting, atmosphere, and critical moments in the story.
5. News Report
Kids pretend they are news reporters providing coverage on a significant event from the book. They can write a news article or script and even record a video report. This encourages them to identify key plot points and present them in an informative way.
6. Comic Strip
For this type of book report, kids create a comic strip that retells the story or a part of it. This format is particularly good for summarizing and for kids who are visual thinkers or enjoy drawing.
7. Letter to a Character
Kids write a letter to one of the characters in the book, offering advice, asking questions, or expressing their thoughts and feelings about the character’s actions. This helps kids engage with the characters on a personal level.
8. Story Map
Kids create a visual map of the story’s plot, including the setting, main characters, problem, major events, and resolution. This can be done on poster board or digitally and helps with understanding story structure.
Bringing It All Together
Balancing the many aspects of a 4th grade language arts curriculum is no small feat, but with careful selection and a bit of creativity, we’ve managed to create a program that’s both comprehensive and enjoyable for Marc. By combining resources from various publishers and including both structured and creative learning opportunities, I feel that I managed to tailor a curriculum that supports Marc’s growth as a reader, writer, and thinker.
For fellow homeschooling families navigating the vast sea of curriculum options, remember that the goal is to create an environment that resonates with your kid’s interests, strengths, and challenges.
Are you an eclectic homeschooler? Let me know in the comments what your biggest challenge is when it comes to choosing a language arts curriculum.
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