Language Arts is all about communication
Language Arts is concerned with communicating: communicating with others through writing or speaking, and receiving communication from others through reading or listening. All of the various subjects studied in Language Arts, such as phonics, grammar, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, etc. are nothing more than tools for effective reading, listening, writing, and speaking. The different subjects assume their proper emphasis only when we see them for what they are: Tools that help us communicate well with others.
In grades one through six, language arts programs focus on these core areas, usually in this order:
1. Listening, Speaking, and Visual Discrimination Skills
2. Decoding and Phonics
4. Written Expression (composition)
5. Reading Comprehension
7. Grammar and Usage (basic grammar concepts, capitalization, punctuation)
8. Vocabulary Development
9. Study Skills and Information Resources
10. Appreciating Literature and Language
In junior high grades, emphasis is on these core areas:
1. Grammar and Usage
4. Vocabulary Building
5. Reference and Study Strategies
6. Refining Listening, Speaking, and Viewing Skills
7. Literature and Reading
At the high school level, language arts is concerned with the same core areas as in junior high, but each area is covered in greater depth.
Overwhelmed with Options?
If we can keep in mind that Language Arts is the art of communicating, we will never think of “grammar,” “spelling,” “penmanship,” etc., as separate subjects. Each one is a component part of a bigger picture: communicating. So, when do we teach our children to spell? When the child is reading and writing. When do we teach our children grammar? When the child is reading and writing. When is a child finished with penmanship? When you can read his handwriting (unless, of course, he wants to learn calligraphy). Each of these relates to communicating and, so, must not be approached as subjects disconnected from the larger picture of communicating.
Since reading and writing are the cornerstones of education (in other words, it’s hard to study any other subject if you can’t read or write), these subjects tend to be over‑stressed and introduced before children are physically capable of mastering them. Our recommendation is that you spend the early elementary years helping your child become an “automatic” reader and handwriter. Some basic instruction in parts of speech and capitalization and punctuation is helpful, but there is no substitute for actually reading and writing. In fact, studies have shown there is little correlation between the amount of grammar instruction a child receives and how correct his writing is. There is also little correlation in the early years between a child’s ability to spell a word on a spelling test and to spell it correctly in a composition. For those reasons, we say READ, READ, READ; WRITE, WRITE, WRITE; and TALK, TALK, TALK. A child who hears English properly used at home and consistently reads well‑written literature will automatically internalize correct grammar, word usage, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling and will also develop an extensive vocabulary.
At the upper elementary and middle school level, reading and handwriting should have become
automatic and you can begin more extensive writing assignments. High schoolers need to be perfecting research skills and essay writing and should have an in‑depth grammar course.