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Read Aloud or Read Independently
published on 2/14/2024 by Keith A. Howe

Beginning around the 3rd grade, students in our language arts program will read between 12 and 20 novels, biographies, poetry, and other books each year. We recommend that students read these books independently. Many parents are surprised at this recommendation because other literature-based programs recommend exactly the opposite -- that parents read books aloud to students.

This difference points to a divergence in educational philosophy and a fundamental difference in what it means to be a literature-based curriculum. We want children to read books themselves because we want them to

  • develop their reading fluency and comprehension,
  • participate actively in the learning process,
  • engage in emotionally resonant activities, and
  • become independent readers.

Reading Books Out Loud Is Wonderful 

Please don't misunderstand. We love reading aloud to our kids. Until late middle school, most students' listening comprehension is greater than their reading comprehension. Parents can read books out loud at a much higher reading level than children could read by themselves. Children can be introduced to more complicated vocabulary and ideas when they are being read to by a parent.

We love read-alouds for all of the reasons mentioned above, and we do in fact recommend that students read with their parents for 30 minutes each day in addition to the reading that is done in the curriculum. This can be bedtime reading, and it can alternate between read-aloud and independent reading. The books can be on the topic of the curriculum or they can be just for fun. 

Fluency and Comprehension Requires Practice

In our curriculum, however, we have other goals for our literature beyond transmitting ideas, content, and vocabulary.  We want students to

  • improve reading fluency and comprehension,
  • participate actively in the learning and reading process,
  • learn how to write by evaluating good writers,
  • develop into independent learners, and
  • engage in activities that are emotionally resonant.

Reading books independently is an essential part of the learning process with Moving Beyond the Page. 

Literature Is a Great Tool for Teaching

Not all literature-based curriculum is the same, and it is important to understand the differences among them. With Moving Beyond the Page, students begin most language arts lessons with an independent reading. This is followed by questions to ensure that students engage with the reading on a deep level. But our use of the literature does not stop there -- we continue to use the literature in a variety of ways.

For example, when students receive a writing prompt, it may be built around the plot, characters, or conflict from the book. This has a number of benefits:

  • Good writing involves communicating about something that students care about with passion and clarity.
  • Writing about the motivations of a character that students are emotionally invested in is much more compelling than writing about something bland like their favorite ice cream flavor.
  • When students care about a topic, even reluctant writers will be more invested in producing quality work. 

Learn to Write by Reading Good Writing

To become a great writer, a student must evaluate good writing.  We choose books for our program because they exemplify story elements such as

  • character development,
  • setting,
  • plot,
  • conflict, and
  • point of view.

In most of our novel units, we ask students to track and evaluate the author's use of one or more story elements throughout the book. For example, if an author uses setting or point of view in a unique way, that is the aspect students will evaluate. If the plot is exquisitely crafted, we show students how it was put together, and through the use of well-crafted rubrics, we encourage them to write the same way. 

Wrapping Up

We recommend that students read the books in our language arts curriculum independently. By doing so, children will develop their reading fluency, participate actively in the learning process, and are better able to engage in emotionally resonant activities based on the reading. 

 

Creativity Every Day
published on 7/31/2023 by Keith A. Howe

Creativity is a way of thinking that gets better with practice.

With Moving Beyond the Page, your child will practice the elements of creativity every day. These elements include originality, flexibility, fluency, risk taking, and persistence. Today I am going to show you that creativity is more than a buzzword we use to make our curriculum sound more appealing. Creativity is a thread woven through the very fabric of our curriculum.

My Side of the Mountain

To do this, we will look at the literature unit for the book My Side of the Mountain in the Age 9-11 level. The story of friendship and survival is universally loved. I finished this book with my ten year-old daughter, Piper, just a few months ago. She loved the book so much that she asked me to read the sequel with her just for fun.

What I want to do is go through each day and point out the elements of that day that reinforce creativity. I won't be touching on every activity in the curriculum but will instead be focusing on the ones that do the most to reinforce creativity.

Lesson 1: Preparing for Adventure
  • Before reading a book about survival, students create a plot diagram for their own survival story. The diagram includes a setting, list of characters, a problem, events, climax, and a resolution.
  • Students learn about the flora and fauna of the Catskill Mountains before choosing to either draw a picture that depicts the Catskills in each of the four seasons or describing events that a tourist might participate in during each season.
Lesson 2: Learning to Survive
  • After reading about the importance of fire safety in the book, students must summarize a list of campfire rules into an attractive and effective poster, using color and graphics to highlight the important points.
  • Students create a leaf-art project that can be hung in the window.
Lesson 3: Making a Home
  • Questions about the reading develop fluency by asking students to brainstorm reasons that Sam ran away from home.
  • Students create five forced analogies between nouns related to the deciduous forest biome and surviving in the wilderness.
Lesson 4: A Baby Falcon
  • In the story, Sam is making friends with forest animals. Students select any ecosystem and make friends with an animal. After selecting an animal, students describe the type of personality that the animals has and describe the relationship.
  • Students create a natural birdfeeder.
Lesson 5: A Stranger
  • Students and parents discuss the importance of Henry David Thoreau and how his work is still relevant today.
Lesson 6: Autumn
  • Students complete a creative thinking activity called a RAFT. At the conclusion of the activity, they make a presentation or speech for their family.
Lesson 7: Newspaper Reporter
  • Students spend two days writing and revising a three-paragraph newspaper article and picture about a boy living on his own in the woods. In addition to grammar, students focus on the use of effective descriptions, transitional words, and varying sentence length. 
Final Project: Think-Tac-Toe
  •  A Think-Tac-Toe exercise is one in which students choose three projects to finish based on their interest and learning style. Five of the nine options include some sort of creative exercise like creating a game, writing a journal entry, creating a cover for a new book, or drawing a picture to represent a friendship.

Practice Creativity, Every Day

Enhancing creativity is a core principle that we incorporate into our curriculum. We want kids to learn to think creatively, and we have designed our curriculum to do just that. The lessons outlined above represent 3 weeks of language arts from a 36-week school year. With Moving Beyond the Page, your child will experience 36 weeks of creative language arts in addition to a hands-on and creative science, social studies, and math curriculum. 

Creativity is a way of thinking that gets better with practice.

Age 6-8 Reading Is Available!
published on 7/24/2023 by Keith A. Howe

Age 6-8 Reading is the second and final installment in our reading program. It is a year-long course that picks up where Age 5-7 Reading leaves off. Over the course of two years, our reading program will help you teach your young children to read. They will progress from knowing their letters and sounds to reading simple chapter books at a late 2nd grade reading level. 

For two years, your children will be learning to read. After that, they will be reading to learn.

You and your child will both enjoy our reading program. Our curriculum includes engaging activities, posters, word cards and other materials, and a pile of readers. 

Elements You Will Love

  • Engaging Readers
    Many gifted children struggle to learn to read due primarily to a lack of motivation. Books for beginning readers are often boring, uninspired, and offer little in the way of plot or conflict. Reading these Early Readers can be drudgery for a bright mind.

    To be fair, writing Early Readers is difficult. Authors start with a set of words they need to cover, and then they are told to write a story using just these words -- not an easy task.

    But we took this challenge on. We introduce likeable characters, interesting plot twists, personal challenges, engaging graphics, and occasionally a laugh-out-loud suprise.

  • Shared Reading
    Each lesson begins with a Shared Reading that you and your child will read together.  These messages will model reading to your child, expose your child to high-frequency words, and introduce new vocabulary.

  • Card Decks
    This level includes card decks for sight words that build fluency, letter cards for practicing blends and learning sounds, theme word cards to reinforce contextual learning and vocabulary building, and word building cards to facilitate word building.

  • Miscellanous Materials
    As you have come to expect from Moving Beyond the Page, our reading program also includes many of the little things you will need as you go through the year. These include posters, memory cards, a blank booklet, notecards, a laminated writing sheet, two dry-erase markers, paper plates, sidewalk chalk, wrist bands, and more. 

Prerequisites

Students who have successfully completed the Age 5-7 level should be ready to begin the Age 6-8 level. Before beginning the Age 6-8 Reading program, students should be able to:

  • Read short and long vowel spellings
  • Recognize common blends and digraphs
  • Read R-controlled vowels
  • Read and comprehend simple early readers
  • Write simple sentences independently

Table of Contents

Semester 1

  • Lesson 1: Word Families and Long Vowel Review
  • Lesson 2: Vowel Teams Review
  • Lesson 3: Complex Consonants Review
  • Lesson 4: R-Controlled Vowels Review
  • Lesson 5: More R-Controlled Vowels
  • Lesson 6: Other Vowel Sounds
  • Lesson 7: More Long Vowel Spellings
  • Lesson 8: Vowel Sounds Review
  • Lesson 9: Complex Consonants: dge vs. ge
  • Lesson 10: Complex Consonants: tch vs. ch, ck vs. k
  • Lesson 11: Final e: ce, ve, ze, se
  • Lesson 12: Homophones
  • Lesson 13: Making Plurals
  • Lesson 14: Uncommon Plurals
  • Lesson 15: Words Ending with ed and ing
  • Lesson 16: Words Ending with er and est
  • Lesson 17: Semester Review

Semester 2

  • Lesson 1: Compound Words
  • Lesson 2: Syllable Division
  • Lesson 3: Words Ending in y
  • Lesson 4: Syllables with R-Controlled Vowels
  • Lesson 5: Closed and Open Syllable Practice
  • Lesson 6: Possessives
  • Lesson 7: Contractions
  • Lesson 8: Syllables Ending in e
  • Lesson 9: Vowel Sounds
  • Lesson 10: Review of Lessons 1-9
  • Lesson 11: Three-Syllable Words
  • Lesson 12: Suffixes
  • Lesson 13: Prefixes
  • Lesson 14: Words Starting with q or a
  • Lesson 15: Semester Review
  • Final Project: Write Your Own Story
What Is Creativity?
published on 7/6/2023 by Keith A. Howe

My 10th grade Algebra 2 teacher was great. She not only taught us the math, but she also made sure to paint a picture of the history behind the math. She told us the stories behind the discoveries -- who came up with them, when, and how.

One day, while studying Polynomial Identities, I asked my teacher a question that was really bothering me. "How did someone living so long ago figure this out for the first time?"

Her response came quickly, "Well, instead of sitting around all day watching TV,  he played with numbers in his head."

Creativity Is Everywhere

What I have come to appreciate since this time is that creativity is everywhere. Even mathematics, a subject most people think of as black and white, is highly creative. Artists certainly exhibit creativity, but creativity can be expressed in so many other ways as well. Creativity has as much to do with engineering, science, and math as it does with art.

So, creativity is everywhere, but what is creativity?

Elements of Creativity

There are three main elements that are often associated with creativity. 

Originality

Originality is the ability to see beyond the ordinary, to venture into uncharted territory, and to think in unconventional ways. Originality challenges us to break free from the constraints of the way things have been done in the past and build something different.

Fluency

Fluency refers to the ability to generate a large quantity of ideas, responses, or solutions. To be fluent, a student must break free from self-imposed limitations and allow thoughts to flow freely and spontaneously.

Flexibility

Flexibility means gracefully adapting as things change. It allows us to pivot, twist, and turn our ideas, enabling them to take on unexpected shapes and forms. To be flexible, you must embrace ambiguity and step outside your comfort zones.

Other Helpful Traits

In addition to these three areas, there are many traits that creative people usually possess. These include drawing connections between unrelated topics, embracing risk, and developing unwavering persistence when things get tough. 

Bringing Creativity Into Your Homeschool

You may be thinking, "It is hard enough to teach science, social studies, language arts, and math. How could I possibly incorporate creativity into an already packed schedule?" This is where Moving Beyond the Page curriculum shines. We cover all of the core subjects in our curriculum, and we have incorporated creativity into every single day. Creativity is an integral part of how students learn with Moving Beyond the Page. 

We have designed our curriculum to reinforce elements of creativity as a part of daily activities. Look for the activities that encourage your child to

  • Assemble,
  • Construct,
  • Create,
  • Design,
  • Develop,
  • Formulate,
  • Write, or
  • Invent.

When children make something new, they are exercising their creativity. Our activities help them do this in ways that also work out their originality, fluency, and flexibility. If you are teaching with Moving Beyond the Page, you are teaching to think and act creatively. 

 

Middle School Math
published on 6/19/2023 by Keith A. Howe

When I was a middle school student in Arkansas, my grade was the first in our district to allow 8th graders to take Algebra. Despite the initial apprehensions of the Algebra teacher, who harbored doubts about the readiness of 8th graders to learn Algebra, we outshone expectations. In fact, we outperformed all but a select few ninth graders. Looking back, 8th grade math would have been a waste of time for us.

Fast forward to my son's middle school experience. He transitioned to public school in 7th grade so he could play basketball. The school tested his math ability before the year started, and he was catapulted immediately to Algebra, skipping middle school math entirely.  

Did We Miss Anything?

What is going on? Did we miss valuable content by skipping one or two years of middle school math?

In elementary math, students are introduced to many new math ideas.

  • This is volume,
  • These are decimals,
  • Here is how you add fractions,
  • Here is how you multilply fractions. 

Middle school math, on the other hand, doesn't offer lots of brand new ideas. For the most part, it provides the same ideas in more complicated formats and in different types of sceniarios. Students learn to think through more difficult math problems in new and interesting ways. Math also becomes more conceptual and less procedural. It requires a deeper understanding, and this can be a difficult transition for many middle school math students.

Here is an example: In earlier levels of math, your child studied volume and decimals separately. In Middle School math, she may start finding the volume of objects using decimals. The problem is both more complicated, and it reinforces how to apply two different skills together. Another example: Fractions, decimals, and percents are different ways to represent a similar idea. This will be reinforced in middle school math in ways that enable students to see and understand this at a deeper level. 

The exceptions to this dearth of new material generally exist within brief introductions to high school level courses. Pre-Algebra and Statistics would be good examples of new subject matter that middle school students are exposed to. 

For most students, middle school math is a very helpful time of reinforcement and preparation for high school math.  For a student truly gifted at math, however, neither the reinforcement nor the brief introductions to high school subjects are required. They are often thinking conceptually about math from a young age, and they often need the challenge of high level math.   

 Our Plans

We currently have a complete elementary math program that runs from Age 4-5 through Age 10-12. We are currently developing one additional level of math (Age 11-13) that will be released in the summer of 2024. We are covering all of the middle school math standards in Age 10-12 and Age 11-13 ( usually 6th and 7th grade respectively). We are not planning to develop an Age 12-14 math curriculum. Upon completion of the Age 11-13 level, we recommend students proceed straight to Algebra.  If your child is not strong in math, you can take more than one year to finish the final level of middle school math. 

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