Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Custom Designed High School English Credit

 It's not uncommon for people to design their own unit studies or their own electives, especially at the elementary level. At the high school level, when the pressure is on for college prep students, many home educators choose to forgo their custom created courses in favor of using text books. I have a habit of looking at a curriculum or program and thinking of all the different ways that I would modify it for my student. For ninth grade, I custom designed a non-traditional English credit for our homeschool. Today I'll talk about how I went about doing that.

During the summer before ninth grade, I took a fair assessment of my son's mastery of the English language. I was pleased to confirm that he was doing quite well in most areas, but there were a few areas that I wanted to shore up his skills. I wanted him to read more in depth - to look for details that would help him infer facts about the story, to identify the causes and effects found in stories and to begin to think about literary elements.  I also wanted him to continue reading, but I wanted to get his reflections on his reading, and I wanted to expand his vocabulary skills as a way of beginning to prepare for the SAT.  I knew he wasn't ready for in depth literary analysis yet, however. Writing, he was doing well at & I wanted to stay the course, but felt that the materials needed a bit of a change. With these things in mind, I decided what it was I wanted him to learn during the course of the year.

The course objectives that I settled on were:
  • Identify and explore the various literary genres, including the drama, the tragedy and the comedy. Identify and use literary devices and figures of speech such as: similes, metaphors, allegories, fables, parables, etc.
  • Understand theme, plot and characterization
  • Further develop writing skills by learning and applying such topics as: descriptive writing; narratives; factual writing; point of view; literary skills (such as personification and alliteration); various types of essays. 
  • Build vocabulary through reading and through studying vocabulary specific resources.
  • Enhance critical thinking, verbal reasoning, reading and writing skills.
Once I knew what I wanted to accomplish, I set out to find resources that would help me do that.  Our local homeschool store carries both new and used materials and it was a great place for me to browse. Time flies when I'm looking at curriculum - I wonder if I'm the only homeschooler who has that problem? Anyway, after several trips and a few hours, I pulled together a set of resources that would work for my son. I selected:

Movies as Literature, by Kathryn Stout and Richard Stout (both the book and the student workbook)
Write Shop I & II by Kim Kautzer and Debra Oldar

Reading Detective B1: Using Higher Order Thinking to Improve Reading Comprehension by C. Block, et. al.
Building Thinking Skills, Level 3 Verbal by Sandra Parks and Howard Black
Building Thinking Skills, Level 3 Figurative by Sandra Parks and Howard Black
Word Roots A1 & A2 by Cherie A. Plant

With this many resources, I knew that the "finish the book, finish the course" approach would not be the right thing to do, so I sat down and read through all of the resources. This helped me get a feel for the breadth and depth of the material covered in each book and to determine the level of mastery my son had over each area covered. I then chose carefully what sections would be completed and what could safely be skipped over without compromising his education. At this point, I also decided to have him select books from a reading list and complete book projects. Through research on the internet, I came up with a list of nearly 70 fiction and non-fiction books to choose from as well as a list of 25 book project ideas. I decided I would let him choose four books for both reading and a project and then use the rest of the books as a reading list to pull from to widen his horizons. After this research, I came up with the course requirements: 
  • Complete Reading Detective B1
  • Complete teacher selected assignments in Building Thinking Skills, Level 3 Verbal
  • Complete teacher selected assignments in Building Thinking Skills, Level 3 Figurative
  • Complete Word Roots, A1 and Word Roots, A2.
  • Complete teacher selected assignments in Write Shop I & II
  • Read four selections from the reading list.
  • Complete four book projects, one for each of the reading list books
  • Satisfactorily complete assignments for ten movies in Movies As Literature: Student Workbook. Your teacher will choose five and you will choose five. In the choice of movie, consideration must be given to covering as many different concepts as possible. 
  • Actively participate in a weekly meeting with your teacher. The meeting is for the purpose of direct instruction of course content as well as discussion of materials and assignments covered in this course. 
In order to facilitate the record keeping that would be required to complete a high school transcript, I wrote a full course description. I then combined the course description, course objectives, resource list, course requirements, book list and project list into a course contract. I also stated what the minimum passing grade would be.  So, you may be wondering, did she really pull all of this off?

I am pleased to say we had a great English I course for the ninth grade year. I enjoyed watching the movies (Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant View were great resources for that) and discussing them. The questions provided in Movies As Literature were very thorough and encouraged careful watching and analysis as well. The workbooks helped to shore up the weaker skills and the reading was a pleasure, as were the projects he selected to go along with them. He completed all of the requirements and successfully earned his English I credit!

If you want to try your hand at creating your own courses for your students, here are some helpful steps:
  1. Assess the students strengths & weaknesses in the area to be studied
  2. Determine the course objectives - these are the skills and knowledge that the student can expect to gain from the course you are designing
  3. Research and choose resources that will aid in meeting the course objectives
  4. Become familiar with all of the resources you selected and determine which assignments or parts of each resource would need to be completed
  5. Write the course requirements - this tells both the student and the teacher what needs to be done in order to complete the course
  6. Determine the minimum passing grade for the course
  7. Write a course description 
  8. Write a course contract - for middle and high school students
Happy planning!

Stop by Homeschooling Hearts & Minds and thank Susan for organizing the Virtual Curriculum Fair! 

As the stops on the Virtual Curriculum Fair become available this week, I'll add them to the bottom of this post so that you can browse. Don't forget to make yourself a cup of tea as you read!
Nurturing Novelists = Building Strong Writers  by Susan Anadale @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds  ~ Building Blocks of Education--Learning to Read by Kristi Kerr @ The Potter's Hand Academy ~ Finding Our Way Through Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool ~ How Does a Unit Study Teach Language Arts? by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun ~ Our Language Arts Adventure by Linda @ Homeschooling6 ~ 2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words: The Language Arts by Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road ~Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me ~ Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts by Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool ~ Writing Help in a Critical Thinking book? by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings ~ Virtual Curriculum Fair: Foreign Language Immersion in the Homeschool by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch ~ Formula for Reading by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness ~ Words and Learning by Annette @ A Net In Time ~ Virtual Curriculum Fair 2013: Still Loving Language Arts by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots ~ Word Play by Lisa @ Golden Grasses ~ Loving Language Arts by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset ~ Learning Language Arts ~ 2012-2013 School Year by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World ~ Virtual Curriculum Fair - The Language Arts Department by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory ~ Playing with Words: The Language Arts by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy: The Story of Our Life ~ Playing with Words: Language Arts by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs and Curriculum ~ What Language Arts looks like in our house - Are we doing it right? by Hillary M @ Our Homeschool Studio


Annette said...

that was a helpful post.

thanks for sharing it. :)

Annette @ A Net in Time

Leah C said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I have a child who will be a high schooler next year, and I do enjoy making my own curricula. So this is very informative.

katielhshs said...

Hi there! I'm creating a blogroll of blogs that blog (at least occasionally) about homeschooling high school. ( I came across yours today and would LOVE to add it. If you would consider this, could you email me? Thanks in advance! Blessings...


Homeschooling6 said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I have wanted to try Write Shop for Joshua.I still may next year.