A Day in the Life of PAL-Primary Arts of Language

Here’s a glimpse into a daily lesson with the Primary Arts of Language program by Institute for Excellence in Writing:

Reading and Writing Part I Lesson 6 for Tiger and Bee

We began our time by reading the poem September again.  (This poem is used for the first 10 lessons.  By lesson 6, both kids were ready to move on to a new poem.  It did get monotonous to read the same poem.  And by marking a few words in the poem each day, our poem page was a mess and difficult to read.)

As instructed in the guide, I mentioned homophones that are found in the poem, such as the words blue and road.  I then wrote those words on a white board and also wrote the homophones.  I had them help me come up with sentences using those words. (However, I’m fairly certain the concept of homophones was fairly lost on them.)
Next, we underlined the phonogram helpers “oa” and “ew” as found in those words.  I explained the sounds that they made. 

I did not do the class journal time with Tiger or Bee.  During this time, the student is to give you one sentence (or more) about his/her day.  The parent can then write the sentence in a journal.  If the student is writing, then the student can write the sentence in the journal for handwriting practice.  (I didn’t feel that Tiger or Bee would benefit from this activity and I knew it would be too time consuming for them to come up with sentences and watch me write them out.  I needed to keep the lessons moving for them.)

For our letters, we learned the “p” and “t” and discussed the letter stories for those letters.  I already had the Mugs and Parking Lot Letter Games ready so I pulled out those 2 letters and added them.  We spent a few minutes playing the game together to reinforce the letters and letter sounds that they had learned.

Next, I introduced the sight words for the day-“orange” and “purple.”  The lesson plans instructed me to focus on the phonograms “or” and “ur” and to know that the soft “g” sound and the consonant “le” rule would be taught later.  (They why are we using words with those sounds in them now???)
I made flash cards with our two color words on them and added them to our review box.  We then went through the color words. (Even after 6 lessons, the only word the kids could consistently recognize was green.)

I also introduced the concept of syllables (for the word purple) and had the kids practice counting them as instructed.  (This was the only introduction to syllables at this point and there were no other words listed for practice or reinforcement.)  So, I spent extra time using other words to reinforce this new concept.  (One short intro and one word is not enough to teach a concept with my kids.)

I pulled out the Color Palette game and added the words “orange” and “purple.”  Then we played the game for a few minutes together. Tiger was able to recognize yellow and green by the end of the game.  We played a few of the other games as well.

Next, we added a new poster to our collection.  A poster is just a print out that includes rules or helpful information to remember.  We keep them in our notebook rather than on our wall.
Today’s poster was the homophone poster.  We wrote our homophones on the socks on the poster.  Then we tried to think up other homophones to add to our list.  Tiger and Bee were lost.  I put the poster aside for another time.

Then it was time for the Phonetic Farm.  We added the “or” and “ur” stickers to the farm and reviewed previous stickers.  The guide also instructed to add the “oa” and “ew” stickers even though they were only briefly mentioned in the poetry section.  So, in one day we learned 4 difficult phonograms with one word to practice each one.  As we added the stickers, it was clear that Tiger and Bee did not remember the sounds of each even though I had taught them in our lesson.  We spent some time working through the stickers we had placed on our farm.

We moved on to worksheet time and I gave them a page with the colors yellow, orange, and purple.  They cut and pasted the words next to the pictures.  While this time should be independent, neither of my kids were able to work without direct supervision.  I sat with them while they colored their pictures and struggled to determine which color word should be next to which picture.  I got out our box of flash card words to help them recognize the color words.  This still did not help.  In the end, I showed them where to glue each word on their worksheet page.

For the last few activities, I printed out the vowel ladder which listed all the vowels.  We reviewed the short vowel sounds of each.
The manual also listed other activities such as reading through our flash cards again or reviewing the phonetic farm stickers.  We opted not to do either of these.
There was a reading practice page for this lesson which included some of the words learned so far.  I tried using that with Tiger but he was unable to recognize the words by sight.
I quizzed the kids on the letters and sounds learned so far.  They did well on the single letters but were unable to keep the many phonograms straight.  I decided to take a break and move on to our writing lesson instead of continuing to review.

For our printing lesson, we worked on the letters p and t.  We practiced our letters on the white board while reviewing the letter stories and sounds for these two leters.

The manual also explained sounds that are voiced and not voiced.  We reviewed “b,” “p,” “t,” and “d.”  I explained the difference between the voiced and not voiced sounds of these letters.

Next we read our story for the day.  The story for this lesson was an Aesop fable about a milk-woman and her pail.  We summarized the story and discussed characters, plot, and setting.  Our story discussions were one of Tiger and Bee’s favorite parts of our lesson.

At the end of our lesson, we reviewed the single letters and letter formations that we had learned so far.  We practiced them on our white boards.

Then Tiger and Bee were free!  Lesson 6 was done!

Reading Lesson 8 and Writing Part II Lesson 8 for Curly

Curly and I began by reading the September poem.  Per the manual, I pointed out the “a” saying the “aw” sound in fall.  Then I attempted to explain that “a” can say “aw” when followed by “l,” “t,” “u,” and “w” and sometimes before a “w.”  The explanation in the manual had me confused and Curly clearly was too.  So, we moved past our poetry study and the sound “aw” for that day.

We had our journal time next.  I helped Curly print the date at the top of the page and she wrote one short sentence about her day.  I helped her with spelling.

We added the letters “y” and “f” for our letter sounds.  We spent a few minutes playing the Mugs and Parking Lot games and making sure she could distinguish between vowels and consonants.

Next, we moved on to the sight words.  The words for this lesson were “draw,” “Kitty,” and “Hen.”  I wrote these words on cards for her and we practiced marking them.  I was very unclear as to why the words “draw” and “hen” were taught as sight words as they are easy to sound out phonetically.  I showed Curly how to sound out each word carefully and then we put our cards in our file box.

We played a new game called Match It where we matched words or pictures.  The words are based off sight words from previous lessons.  We also played a few games from previous lessons.

We looked that phonetic farm and noted the place where the “au/aw” lambs went and also where to place the third sound of “a” sticker.

Curly did not do the worksheet for the lesson which had simple instructions like “Draw a yellow sun.” or “Draw 2 black cats.”

We also skipped the reading practice page where she was supposed to color pictures to match the sentence.

For the last part of the lesson we moved into the writing book.  We reviewed nouns and I asked questions about places that she answered.  All the answers to my questions were words that are nouns.  We discussed how names of places are nouns.

I looked over the copy work sentences for the day “She likes to help.” and “She will help Kitty.” and decided to substitute a short Bible verse instead.  While the sentences are meant to reinforce the reading of the sight words introduced in the lesson, Curly does not need extra reading practice of simple sentences.

We read a short fable from one of our fairy tale books and discussed the characters, plot, and setting.  Then Curly summarized the story.

Once we were done with the writing portion, it was time to practice our spelling lessons with All About Spelling which was my favorite part of our time.  I introduced words using “sh,” “ch,” and “th.”  Then we practiced spelling with letter tiles and on the white board.  At the end of the lesson, we went through several of the words on the flash cards and I had Curly spell them to me orally.

Curly was done with her language arts for the day!!

As you can see, using the program with more than one child can be quite time consuming and requires quite a bit of parental involvement.  

My overall assessment of the program was that it did not contain enough decoding practice for my children to adequately learn to read.  The sight words were introduced in an order that did not make sense to my children and teaching them through repetition of flash cards was not enough reinforcement for my kids to remember the words.  My kids also struggled with the phonograms, the explanations of the sounds of the phonograms, and the order in which the phonograms were introduced.  For us, a systematic program that teaches decoding of words, beginning with short-vowel sound words and progressing through more difficult words containing phonograms seems to work best.  I felt the program jumped between single letter sounds, phonograms, and sight words (that had sounds not yet introduced).  Using poetry for the introduction of new sounds and phonograms is an excellent idea; however, seeing the phonogram only in a few words in that poem with no other added words for practice was not enough for my children.  

I did enjoy the writing instruction toward the end of the writing guide.  We also enjoyed the spelling program and Curly needed the systematic teaching and review provided by the program. 

For a more detailed review of the program, please see my review as posted here on my blog.

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