Activities Build Language Arts Skills

The language arts are extremely important. Children use skills in this subject area to receive information, think logically and creatively, and express their ideas. In the school curriculum, language arts includes reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary- building, listening, speaking, handwriting, grammar and storytelling.

Parents often encourage children to read during school break to enhance their reading skills, so our suggested language arts activities focus on improving their speaking, listening, spelling, handwriting, vocabulary and grammar skills. Do keep in mind the all-important goal of making these activities family fun times.

Speak up
How well your children can speak in school influences their participation in classroom discussions and their ability to give oral reports. Confident speakers tend to get higher grades because their verbal skills impress their teachers. The more your children talk at home, the more this skill will transfer to school. Turn your dinner table into family chat time by choosing a nightly activity that is appropriate for the ages of your children. The following are some examples:

* Take turns telling what every family member did during the day.
* Play games. You might have everyone ask questions to guess the name of an object in the room or of a family friend, relative or famous person.
* Discuss books that family members are reading.
* Talk about favorite friends and foods.
* Make vacation plans that include something each member would like to do.

Listen closely

If your children are good listeners, they will find it easier to learn from their teachers and classmates. You can promote improving this skill through doing new things with your children this summer. For example, find a docent-led tour of a museum that would be fun for your children to visit, such as a toy, car or science museum. Or visit a shop, art gallery or museum where you follow instructions to complete a craft project. Another possibility is joining your children at a cooking school or lesson. Everyone will have to listen carefully so the food will taste like it should.

Spell it out

Some people say that being able to spell is not as important as it used to be since you can always use a computer to check spelling. However, most classroom work is still done with paper and pencil. In the future, your children may need to write an SAT essay as well as application essays for admission to college, so it really helps for them to have good spelling skills.

Playing games, such as Hangman, Boggle and Scrabble, require your children to use and expand their spelling skills. Also, give your children sidewalk chalk and encourage them to write words, letters or messages on the sidewalk. A good snack-time game is for your children to dump a box of alphabet cereal or crackers on the table. Then everyone can eat only the words they make from the letters within a time limit.

Write carefully

Poor handwriting is bound to influence teachers’ reactions to your children’s papers. Prepare your young children to write by working on their small motor skills. You can have them string beads, move small objects with tweezers, and put pennies into a piggy bank. They also can improve these skills by playing the game Operation. While handwriting drills can be boring, calligraphy may be more fun.

Build vocabulary

A good vocabulary quite often means good grades in the language arts. You can turn even ordinary family outings into vocabulary-building exercises. For example, at the grocery store, young children can learn the names of such food items as asparagus, squash, avocado and melon. Excursions to places like railroad museums teach them new words such as caboose, locomotive and diesel. At ethnic restaurants they’ll acquire a vocabulary that includes words like fettuccine, guacamole or hors d’oeuvre. In addition, children in elementary school can learn a great deal about the interesting ways words can be used if you read and discuss their usage in Amelia Bedelia books.

Play with grammar

Believe it or not, children can have fun improving their grammar skills. Divide your family into two teams to play “Verb Charades.” Use easy words such as kick, run and jump and more difficult ones like think, move and raise. Remind children that the names of all the people, places and things that they see are called nouns. Then have them name all the people, places or things that they see in a restaurant or during a car drive.

Parents can send questions to Dear Teacher, P.O. Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395.