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First Language Lessons is a language arts curriculum published by The Well-Trained Mind Press. I’ve tried Level 1 of this curriculum for the first grade year of my two older boys, although I did end up abandoning it before the year was out. I’m not sure yet if I’ll try it with my youngest.
First Language Lessons Review
First Language Lessons is a parent-led, scripted language arts curriculum. It contains ## short lessons (should be about 15 minutes), and each lesson shows a back-and-forth conversation between parent and child about grammar topics (nouns, common nouns, proper nouns, verbs). Most of the lessons consist only of a script, but some suggest copywork or work in a picture study.
Besides the script, the other major portion of First Language Lessons is poetry memorization. Poems are introduced in lessons, with reminders to practice the poems throughout the book.
While First Language Lessons does seem to contain all of the elements of a good language arts curriculum, I found it to be awkward and clunky to use as written, for some of the following reasons:
- Students are expected to answer questions from the script in complete sentences, which I found got in the way of the conversation that I was supposed to be having with my child, and created an unnecessary complication for my young student. I quickly abandoned this expectation.
- Examples used to describe parts of speech were also unnecessarily complicated and sometimes required pre-reading from the parent in order to make it applicable to the student. For example, students are taught that nouns can be a person by going into various family relationships (talking about brothers and sisters, but also your mother’s brother’s children being your cousins, etc.). It got confusing very quickly, and got in the way of the point of the actual lesson.
- Students are not taught one thing at a time, for example that a noun can be a person. They are then given a complicated lesson on family relationships. So lessons often ended with both my child and I feeling a bit bewildered.
- I felt that poetry memorization was somewhat rushed, and ended up abandoning the suggestions in the book and going at our own pace with the poems.
To whom would I recommend First Language Lessons?
- Students that prefer the Spoken Word learning method since it’s the primary (by far) learning method used.
- Students that do well with receiving instruction One-on-One because First Language Lessons is written as a scripted conversation between parent and child.
I would NOT recommend to…
- Students that strongly prefer any learning method other than Spoken Word, if using this curriculum as written. (See my best tips below).
- Students that have a strong dislike for One-on-One learning, if using this curriculum as written. (See my best tips below).
- Students that are not yet comfortable with abstract concepts (like common noun and proper noun).
- Students that are not yet reading – may want to focus on basic language arts skills, like writing sentences, first.
My Best Tips for Using First Language Lessons
As written, I feel like First Language Lessons is appropriate for only a specific type of student – one that has a strong preference for learning methods focusing on the Spoken Word. So I would recommend using it only as a spine, meaning using its progression through parts of speech as a guide, and supplementing with worksheets and activities from Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest.
I also recommend getting these printables of the poems, laminating them, and using them for memorizing at your student’s pace. If you have a student that prefers Written Word or Visual learning methods, allow them to read the poems with you.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about First Language Lessons
Many parents may feel like they need to customize First Language Lesson heavily in order for it to be effective for their students. This could be a positive (getting an inexpensive base to a language arts curriculum that the parent can customize for their own child) or a negative (wondering if the work required to customize is worth it, or if it’s better to purchase a curriculum that more closely fits the student’s preferred learning methods and therefore requires less customization).