Friday, July 15, 2011

5th Grade Language Arts

5th Grade Language Arts
The fifth grade school year is a very important year where language arts and vocabulary are concerned. Standards based bench marks indicate that students should be able to use grade appropriate vocabulary. From a parental and teacher point of view that statement doesn’t really help us decided what is the appropriate vocabulary. Aside from giving you a specific list of what words are considered grade appropriate for a fifth grader, it might be more helpful to let you know what kinds of words are the ones you need to concentrate on to help your child master fifth grade vocabulary. On the list of language arts skills that are necessary for your child to know at this age are the use of synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. I’ve noticed that my fifth grader was having a great deal of difficulty with synonyms and antonyms until we learned a memory jog. Synonym starts with an “S” as does the word “same”. So synonyms are words that mean the same thing. Similarly, antonyms are words that have opposite meanings, and so “A” stands for anti- or against. To add to the list of knowledge for your fifth grader consider homonyms. The memory jog, or mnemonic we used for homonym was “homo” means the same, and “nym” sounds like “name”. So homonyms are words with the same name. Then all she had to learn was that homonyms sound the same, but they have different meanings and often different spellings. Once we figured this out that mnemonics helped my daughter learn the meaning and function of words, she was able to catch on very quickly.

Once I figured out that my child worked well with mnemonics to keep the meanings of words straights I started looking for other places to use mnemonics. Prefixes and suffixes are important parts of your fifth graders language arts study. So we thought about how to remember prefixes went at the beginning of the word and suffixes went at the end of the word. My fifth grader definitely knew that PRE-school comes before regular school just like PRE-fixes come before regular words. She also knew that Seniors are finishing up school, like Suffixes are finishing up words. Of course, the mnemonics that we use may or may not be the ones that work for your child, but they are a useful device, particularly if your child is having difficulty remembering all the vocabulary devices they must remember to be on grade level. Let your child make up their own mnemonic devices. Let them put the devices to music if they wish. Anything that helps your fifth grader remember is a good thing.

Another aspect of vocabulary for fifth graders are words with Greek and Latin roots. In the curriculum we used we studied words with Greek roots in language arts at the same time we studied ancient Greece in social studies. Additionally, we were reading “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series for entertainment. All of this made the words with Greek roots more interesting. I didn’t have to hear complaints about learning root words at all because the study of them had become a multi-faceted lesson, not just a meaningless drill. Learning roots, particularly words with Latin roots, will come in handy for your child when they begin to learn foreign languages that are based on Latin, such as the Romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese. The other place these words will help your child is as they continue their studies in sciences. You might be surprised at how relating language arts to science, and social studies makes the learning easier and more natural.
Don’t expect your child to get the meaning of the root words immediately. Learning a few roots at a time, particularly if you can come up with catchy or memorable ways to remember the meaning of the roots will help your fifth grader build a wide and varied vocabulary.

Last but by no means least, try using vocabulary word games to help your child practice and cement the information your are helping them gather about the meanings of words, and the uses of the various linguistic concepts such as homophones and idioms, prefixes and suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. I will tell you that I love education that is fun and vocabulary games are certainly more fun than writing words over and over, or simply using the words in sentences. More fun can equate to more memorable. I’m not saying that writing words, repeating words, and creating sentences is a bad thing, I just think if we have to learn something, we should find a way to make it fun! Don’t be afraid to mix up subjects such as science and social studies with your language arts curriculum. Relate the subjects to each other, and watch as a web of knowledge is woven that will help your child learn faster, and retain more of what they learn.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Science, Making NASA real, part2

Science, making NASA real, part 2

In our homes, NASA has had impacts on our daily lives. When was the last time you picked up a cordless drill? Did you know that you can thank NASA and Black and Decker for the development of the rechargeable battery that powers it? They didn’t do it to help us in our daily lives, but regardless of why they did it we certainly benefit from it. The smoke detector, and home insulation are also items we benefit from that were developed by NASA.

There are several technologies developed by NASA that indirectly help you and your children when you visit the grocery story. According to the NASA site, technologies have been developed that help crop dusters hit the crops at which they are aiming, they developed a robotic mother pig that takes all the variables out of raising piglets, and a satellite that can tell when it is time to harvest potatoes. Also along the food front is the location and measurement of commercial schools of fish. Together, these things make our food supplies more reliable and harvested at the best time for maximum yield.
There are many other goods and services that were developed by NASA for the space program that have been translated into our daily lives. This “technology transfer” needs to be brought to the attention of our children, particularly at this point in their education. When kids are doing their 5th grade science, it is important to get them excited about science in all of its forms. There are many people in scientific fields today because of the influences they were exposed to with the Apollo program.

Another way to expose them to NASA and the importance of continuing the research and development that is done there is to take field trips to NASA facilities. Of course, it is not quite as easy to get into these facilities as it used to be, but any trouble you have to go through is worth it. Space Center Houston is the official visitor center for the Johnson Space Center in Texas. This is where mission control is, and is the home of the manned space flight program. There is the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where shuttle missions take off from, and often return to. Stennis Space Center, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hosts a great little museum, but their main purpose in life is to test shuttle rockets. There is a large nature preserve surrounding it also. Then there is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is in Huntsville, Alabama. Again, there is a great museum, several rides, and gift shops. These are the space centers in the southeastern U.S. but there are a number in the northeast part of the country and also in the desert southwest. Any of these space centers offer children a great field trip opportunity, hands on science, and a good dose of where we have been and where we are headed. Try to make space, and scientific technologies real for your children. The more real science is to them, the more engaged they will be.