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.

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