Michael Clay Thompson

Michael Clay Thompson

This is the language arts curriculum that's given us the best learning: Michael Clay Thompson.

Pictured is the first level, "Island." This curriculum works quite differently from our other language arts curriculum, Logic of English, and I'm finding it to be a much better fit for Wanda. MCT centers on meaty discussions about concepts; it stimulates deep thinking, and that has led to swift understanding. We read and discuss these books together while snuggled on the couch (each book has a student copy twinned with a teacher version that includes discussion prompts and some other teaching materials).

It goes like this:

Grammar Island

This first book goes through the parts of speech, and the parts of a sentence. Think Schoolhouse Rock: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections. It also starts an investigation of how these function in combination as a sentence: subjects, predicates, objects, complements, etc. It doesn’t just say what they are, it invites thinking about *why* our language has these pieces, how useful it is to be able to have names for things, to be able to tweak with modifiers, to share an idea. We read this together over two or three weeks.

Practice Island

This is a book of 100 sentences to analyze. The kid identifies the parts of speech, the parts of the sentence, phrases, clauses, and notices the different ways language gets used. I was skeptical about the value of this, and have come around in a big way. This little book has been an amazing tool, enough that I’ll probably write a separate post about it at some point. We do three sentences a week.

Sentence Island

This is the beefiest part of the program. It’s a story about a fish who wants to understand sentences better. He meets silly characters who challenge his ideas about why sentences work the way they do. It keeps the focus on the whys and hows of sharing ideas clearly. I don’t recall how long it took us to go through this one, but this is where we spent the bulk of our time on the Island level. She read it to me first (with lots of stopping to discuss and a few activities), and then I re-read it to her.

Building Language

An introduction to Latin, spending time learning about ten Latin word “stems,” for vocabulary and comprehension building. (This is where Wanda came up with her “a report is like genetics” simile that blew my mind, “re” and “port” are covered.)

Music of the Hemispheres

An introduction to poetics, learning about meter, rhyme, and how people are playful and creative with language. This sparked Wanda’s interest in Shakespeare. It was worth it purely for getting to see her bust a gut when we happened to watch the episode of Monty Python with this sketch and she recognized the poets and poems and got the jokes:

We’re just getting started with the next level, “Town,” which moves beyond sentences to paragraphs.

When I was learning about curriculum options, I saw many people raving about MCT, but I couldn’t tell from the samples and reviews whether Wanda was ready for it. I finally just bit the bullet and ordered it, figuring it was okay if it sat on a shelf for a year, and it turned out to be a good match for her so we dove right in. If you’d like to get that in-depth look I was craving, I’m happy to do a video chat with you, show you the books, and answer any questions.

Michael Clay Thompson is printed by and available for purchase from Royal Fireworks Press.

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