Are you looking to revitalize your homeschool with free literacy curriculum for middle school, without spending much money? Here are some fun (but truly educational) tools that I have been using recently, that have perked up my students and brought ease to my life. Most of them have apps, so that your children can use them anywhere!
This week, I will share with you tools for finding (almost) free books and tools for non-fiction writing. Next week, I will take you on a tour of my favorite story writing apps and tools.
What are the basics of a literacy program?
–Books: Clearly. Do you have any idea how many free books are available on line? Totally free books. Scroll down to the “Free Books” section.
–Vocab, spelling and grammar instruction: While some kids pick up vocab, spelling and grammar from reading, many kids also need direct instruction and practice. It couldn’t be easier.
–Composition instruction: What is a topic sentence? How do I write a research report? Kids will need some lessons in how to organize their ideas.
–Story and Journal Writing: We will explore these next week.
Where are these resources available for free?
How can we get all of this for free (or at the very most, less than $5.00)? That is what this post is about:
This development both pains and thrills me. The world of free online books is truly astonishing. While I admit to not particularly liking the experience of reading on a tablet, it is undeniably the way of the future. Thousands of books, right there for the reading, absolutely free. No trips to the library. No ordering on Amazon. Just follow these links and you will find plenty to keep a middle school kid gobbling up the words.
Vocab development is so important. Yes, the path to a truly strong vocabulary continues to be through reading and conversation. However, plenty can be learned by games and practice.
I have mentioned Free Rice before, and I will mention it again, because it is that great. Free Rice is a not-for-profit website owned by the United Nations World Food Program. Through the clever use of advertising funds, the organization has generated a method to allow learners to “earn” grains of rice by correctly answering questions. The game uses an algorithm which offers questions that are neither too easy nor too hard for learners and it remembers questions that the learner got wrong and asks it again, later. This gives the students many chances to learn and master new words. The site also allows teachers to create classes, so that students can work together and challenge each other to earn more rice. You can earn a lot of rice whatever level you are at. It also has a great mobile app, so when your kids are waiting in the doctor’s office, they can get some learning done!
Even in the era of spell check, it is worth having the basics mastered.
Vocabulary Spelling City is a nifty site that allows you to create or find your own spelling list, and then lets your kids explore and practice the words with a myriad of games and activities. The free version is fine for the needs of most homeschoolers, though there is a paid version if you want all of the bells and whistles (as well as access to the Vocab section of the site.)
Grammar, which traditionally has been such a boring subject, really benefits from some technological embellishments.
Mad Libs is a classic! What kid doesn’t love to fill in the blanks and see what comes up!
-FreeRice.com: FreeRice has a game for learning grammar that is every bit as effective (and free) as its game for learning vocab.
Grammar Pop is a catchy little app from the creator of Grammar Girl. It is “A fun word game for adults and a great way for kids to learn parts of speech. Match words with parts-of-speech to pop clouds and progress from nouns and verbs to gerunds and participles.”
Free Composition Tools
While I want children to feel “free” to write creatively and without feeling constrained by those pesky rules of organization, occasionally imposition from above is necessary. Sometimes, you’ve just got to sit a kid down and explain to him what a topic sentence or a thesis is. It is not always fun, it need not be painful, but it has to happen. Over the last several years, I have looked high and low for tools to help me help my students organize their thoughts. Here are some of the best:
Read Write Think has a number of interactive tools that have truly transformed struggling writers into organized writers, in particular around organizing thoughts for the five paragraph essay. The right graphic organizer can make a huge difference in the thinking of a child. My personal favorite tool is an interactive essay map.
Time4Writing offers a whole series of writing resources for parents and teachers. There is a section of “Fun writing games, instructional videos, printable writing worksheets and other writing tools” for writing sentences, paragraphs and essays, and for studying skills and grammars. There are even great resources to help you be a more effective teacher.
Of course, kids also need comrades and role-models
That is where the WizIQ Virtual Classroom platform for teachers and learners comes in. You can get a teaching account, and then guide your child and her friends through a few great books. It is so easy.
Next Week– Tools and Apps for Writing stories!
Oh you will love these! There are so many fun alternatives to paper and pencil, these days!