How English is taught in America’s elementary schools?


How is English taught in America’s elementary schools?  I can only talk about how it is taught to my son and in his school.  However, I cannot speak of how it is taught to third-graders and beyond since my son just turned into a second grader this fall. 


The approach of the teaching I observed is as follows:

1.  Phonics -> Reading

2.  Reading -> Spelling

3.  Spelling -> Writing

4.  Writing -> Grammar Rules


Students learn to read and write English through the Phonics method, through which the essential pre-literacy skills are fostered.  Phonics associates sounds with letters of the alphabet.  Through phonemic awareness, students acquire reading and spelling skills.  Phonemic awareness is an understanding of spoken language which teaches listeners to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes and to understand that words are made up of sounds assemblable in different combinations to create different words.  The skill of listening is then acquired through recognizing sounds in words.  Requesting students to read poems and rhyming words are ways the school implements to improve students’ listening skills.  Students are taught to sound out a word by saying the sound (phonemes) of each letter and then blending the individual sounds.  Students then learn to spell the words by sounding out the words. 


As early as in preschool or kindergarten, children learn to read using phonics.  Kids in kindergarten are encouraged to start practicing writing and keeping a journal. 



In first grade, in their Language Arts class, students learn nouns, verbs, adjectives, statements, questions, present tense verb, past tense verb and plural nouns.  These are examples of grammar taught in first grade.




A noun is a word that names a person, place or thing.    




Complete each sentence with the correct noun.


Fireman,  dog

1.  The  ___ is barking at the burning house. 

2.  The  ___ puts off the fire. 




A verb is an action word.  A verb tells what someone or something does.




Circle the verb in each sentence.


1.  The baby sleeps. 

2.  The dog wags its tail.


In second grade, in their Language Arts class, students learn parts of speech (nouns, proper nouns, singular and plural nouns, pronouns, action verbs, singular verbs, helping verbs, present tense verbs, past tense verbs, irregular verbs and adjective), sentence structures and mechanics.  These are examples of grammar taught in second grade. 



A noun is a word that names a person, place or thing.  A proper noun is a word that names a special person, place or thing.  A proper noun begins with a capital letter.




Find the proper nouns in the box below.  Write the proper nouns on the lines.


New York City, city, Minnesota, state, princess, John Smith


1.  ___________  2.  ______________  3.  _____________ 



A sentence is a group of words that tells or asks something.  It gives a complete thought.  Every sentence begins with a capital letter.  Every sentence ends with a punctuation mark.




Write yes if the group of words is a sentence.  Write no if the group of words is not a sentence.


_______   1.   In a minute.

_______   2.  The dog barks at the stranger.

_______   3.  Jordan fell from the tree.

_______   4.  Too wet to play.

_______   5.  The fireman.



More structured and comprehensive grammar rules are introduced in third grade. 


This is all I can say for now about the teaching of the English language.  I will add more to it whenever my son completes his current curriculum and enters the next grade level in elementary school. 


So, what is the purpose of this article?  Do I always need to have a purpose when I write something?  I do, for the majority of the time.  This time, I want to share with you how English is taught in the US to young students like my son and hope that in returns, it will enlighten the educators in Taiwan to come up with a better teaching approach for the students to acquire the English language. 


Over the years, I have seen extremists in Taiwan arguing over whether grammar is important or not.  The argument shouldn’t be focused on the importance of grammar; rather it should be on how grammar should be taught.  To me, it is undeniable that grammar is important as it is the foundation of a sentence, and the knowledge of grammar unquestionably helps people become better writers as well as better readers and better communicators since a grammatically incorrect sentence or a speech filled with grammar errors may confuse the readers or the listeners to the extent that it is incomprehensible. 


The argument here should be the method for teaching grammar in Taiwan.  I do not think that grammar should be taught using formulas and with rules so rigid that it is unbendable.  There are exceptions to the rules and there are grammar rules that you might not have totally grasped or aware of.  There are different ways that you can diagram a sentence.  To drill it down to the nth degree is insane.  Language is not math.  Language is live and will evolve.   


In the US, grammar is taught in close connection with students’ writing, as spelling, writing and grammar are interrelated components of the language arts.  Through writing, students learn to spell and the use of grammar, usage, and mechanics.  Writing plays an important role in developing phonemic awareness and letter-sound associations and is highly related to learning to read.  The worst approach to teaching English is to segregate writing, spelling, grammar, listening and reading into independent components without concurrently involving all aspects of the language. 


Note:  This is a good site to learn phonics. 


Written By Elisa English, 版權所

 On 10/08/10 in Minneapolis



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