More literacy resources: Writing, spelling and grammar

Favorite Handwriting Resources:

The Writing Wizard, a handwriting resource for teachers and homeschooling parents.

— My favorite online handwriting page maker is from (formerly These are very good as well: The Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker, Italic worksheets, D’Nealian worksheets, and Handwriting for Kids.

— Friendly Schoolwork Helpers’ Beginning Alphabet from Teacher’s Friend
Publications, Inc  (ISBN
  0-… ) is a delightful workbook with nice picture clues for alphabet sounds, big letters to trace through. 630 yen from Maruzen bookstore.— Workbooks: Young kids will LOVE to write with the Kumon write and wipe-off AaBbCc
cards (ISBN:4-7743-0357-7) Cost: 1,000 yen. The letters are large. And if you have seen the Kumon dot-to-star arrow system, you’ll know that it is less confusing than the arrow and number system that conventional writing workbooks use. Try out some of the gorgeous Kumon 3-D mazes (meiro) books
for improving fine motorskills prior to the handwriting books. Pen and felt eraser included.

— Good collection of online resources listed by Ann Zeis for teaching your child handwriting Look for her links to handwriting software such as StartWrite.


Writing can be integrated naturally into a child’s reading. Students of
the classical tradition have long used the method of copying. Have your
child first copy words, then sentences, then paragraphs and longer
passages from good writing from their reading books, but I emphasise GOOD
material in form and content. This is because the value of copying lies in
the fact that the child’s mind will be formed by the style, manner,
sentiment, and diction of those passages you set him to copy. Have the
child copy what you read aloud sometimes or copy to make notebooks and
journals for pleasure. Imitation of good works can progress into original
work (paragraphs, essays, poems, plays, short stories) by the child in the
style of authors he has copied and adapted. Eventually the child will
assimilate the wide varieties of styles and manners he has read and copied
into his own natural writing style and manner.

— On developing the Art of Writing see The Parker Family’s Copywork page
— Article on spelling and copywork from the Classical Homeschooling

Writing is an award winning program that is said to be the best composition writing program there is. For more info see here.

— The

Institute for Excellence in Writing is a writing package by Andrew
Pudewa that teaches the teacher how to teach writing; it is not a workbook
or curriculum to give to your child. The core of the program includes a
guide called Teaching Writing: Structure & Style, a six-videotape seminar
and a seminar workbook. Many other supplements are also available. The
units cover beginning skills that can be taught to young children through
high school. The course allows you to go at your own pace but could be
covered in a year with an older, motivated student. The philosophy is
learning to write through imitation. The topics cover note taking (making
notes of key words in outline form); writing summaries; “dress-ups” and
varied sentence openers. Items such as strong verbs, preposition openers,
and quality adjectives are included. Other units include: Summarizing
References & Writing Reports / Writing from Pictures / Advanced Dress-ups
/ Writing Reports w/ Multiple Sources / Creative Writing with Structure /
Essays / Critiques. Price:$300 (including videotapes) (but it is possible
to buy the guide alone) See Curriculum Review: Institute for Excellence in
Writing, Rod & Staff Grammar by Susan Wise Bauer at as well as here.


— Writing programs (Writers Inc, Writing Strands, Writers Express,
Wordsmith, Understanding Writing and Spelling Power) are reviewed at
Suggestions for Simple Writing Exercises for the Grammar Stage (in the
Ancient Greek Progymnasta tradition) from the Class Ed Newsletter
May-June, 2000.

— In What About Journaling? (Or, My Child Hates His Journal)“Susan Wise Bauer says although no child should be forced to do creative writing, every child should learn to form sentences properly, to construct paragraphs logically, and to build a convincing written argument (no matter how much he complains while learning). Writing, like mental spinach, strengthens the mind — even if you don’t happen to like the

— Writers Inc; School to Work A student writing handbook that includes business letters, resumes and other writing skills needed in the working world.

Wordsmith Craftsman by Janie B. Cheaney takes a student through every day writing such as note taking, letter writing, business reports as well as the essay including descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive. Includes many fundamentals and writing style tips with exercises for practicing specific writing skills in the Language Power section. Excellent program for senior high years.Peguis Publishers, 100-318 McDermott Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3A OA2,  (800…. ISBN 1-895411-87-4. Email:

The Letter Writing Program is an interesting way of motivating kids to write well. Each lesson (6 in all) features the practical exercise of writing of a letter to somebody real by using or practicing a new writing skill, eg. imagery or metaphor, etc. Detailed guide or examples are given.Strength of curriculum is in its flexibility – the user can select topics such as “The Paragraph”, ” The Essay”, “Choosing a Topic”, “Notes and Outlines”, “Descriptive Writing”, “Taking Notes”, “Persuasive Writing” and “Expository Writing”.Actual instructional material provided. The writing activities proposed cover the basics of composition and are suitable for use with any curriculum and concepts are demonstrated with clear illustrations, drawing from a variety of sources (including some Biblical texts. No answer keys mean that user must possess some confidence and skill. 124 pages $14.00.

The Language Resource Room has a good collection of links for ESL learners

Story-It has story-starters, story prompts, games and many printables and other valuable language arts resources.

Free online resources for use with the Institute of Excellence in Writing program.

The Owl at Purdue offers online handouts covering writing, research, grammar, and MLA and APA style.” “The award-winning Writing Lab at Purdue offers free writing consultations, workshops, ESL conversation groups, and other services in Purdue University’s Heavilon Hall to the Purdue campus community.”

“The Writing Lab Newsletter is a forum for exchanging ideas and information about writing centers in high schools, colleges, and universities.”

— The NY Times’ Learning Network has a good page of language arts resources (creative writing, literature, biographies, journalistic writing and media, and other other lesson units) as well as language arts themed puzzles for children.

Elements of Style by E.B.  White & William Strunk, Jr. is the favorite recommendation of most writers and editors. Suitable for high school years though the student will get it as a classic resource in college.

— Comprehensive Composition  is a thorough and methodical writing curriculum for grades K- 12.

— Find Ann Zeis’ handwritingsensory pages, writing, software resources and References For Writers

— Also useful articles for reading are Susan Wise Bauer’s Suggestions for Elementary Writing and Why Do Copywork and Dictation? from the Well Trained

— See also Christine Miller’s resources on grammar and on her Great Books reading curriculum.


The Riggs Institute lists all 28 rules for spelling.

Ann Zeis’ spelling and vocabulary resources

The Phonetic Zoo (Andrew Pudewa’s of IEW new spelling program) read about it here. Two main strengths: The first is the auditory nature of the program. Mr. Pudewa notes in the introductory video that if a child has *any* minor visual processing problems, looking at spelling words may never help him learn to spell them. Spelling is sequential and requires remembering the correct letters in the correct order. Hearing them spelled aloud presents the letters in proper order every time, re-enforcing proper spelling. Mr. Pudewa also encourages the use of headphones for the spelling drills since it helps the fidgety and easily distractible child to focus on the lesson at hand. The lessons move quickly so the program is recommended for those ages 9 and over. The second advantage of the program is that it is designed for
the child to use independently. Parents use flashcards with the spelling rules and lists on them to teach the lesson initially but includes the daily drills are done independently. The student selects the proper track
on the CD and spells the words on paper as they are dictated on the track. The following track is the correction track where each word is spelled aloud. The student writes the correct spelling in colored ink next to each word. He re-takes the same test every day until he gets all words correct two days in a row.
Review by Karen L. Koehler-Cesa (Note: this is really an intensive spelling program)
I am very sad to say that I didn’t like it enough to keep it…I was SO hoping to like it!! Here’s what I *DID* like about it:
— use of the CD’s instead of audiocassette, while expensive, is a very
smart move. EACH lesson is on a different TRACK and can be found
immediately (no more winding/rewinding and throwing up hands in
frustration over trying to find the right spot!!);
— it is VERY independent…this is WHY I wanted it to work! I needed that
extra time with my youngers to have the olders able to independently do
— the use of the animals is very engaging…my children saw the
flashcards and immediately were drawn to it; -the rule/jingle stuck in my
daughter’s head after only 2 days of listening to the CD…she heard
someone talking about “ow” and repeated verbatim the jingle.
— There are 47 rules, each to be gone over at three different levels,
increasing complexity at each level. Basically, my recommendation is this: PZoo would be, in my opinion, very useful, convenient if you don’t have “problem” spellers. If you do have “problem spellers” (spell phonetically…do ok with spelling list words but natural spelling still tends to be phonetic) PZoo isn’t “enough”. It’s based on the same idea as Spelling Power, but only contains about 1/4 (if that) of the “ways to spell each sound”. Even Andrew Pudewa of IEW admits that PZoo “isn’t complete” and that “Spelling Power would be a good adjunct”. My opinion is if it needs an adjunct, go ahead and buy the
complete “adjunct” instead!?

Article on spelling and copywork from the Classical Homeschooling
Newsletter (all areas of language arts):

— You will find very valuable, the online resources from The Well Trained Mind on reading and writing.

— See also Classical Homeschooling.Org’s scope and sequence through the stages for help in
planning your language arts curriculum.

— Some popular language texts include: Language Arts the Easy Way by Cindy Rushton / Harvey’s Grammar

Other spelling helps: is a free online program. It doesn’t go into
the details of spelling rules, etc. that this website
seems to, but it does group words according to sounds.
You can even delete words or use your own list of
words. After the kids complete the day’s work, it
gives them a token or two to play one of the REALLY
COOL games in their game room. The five-day week
progresses so: Monday: introduce the week’s list and have the kid
spell all the words. Tuesday: Hangman / Wednesday: Word Scramble / Thursday: Pop Quiz / Friday: Spelling Test. My son (10yo) really enjoys this. I always review the words with him (stating any relevant spelling rules) prior to starting the week’s words. You can get a list of the spelling rules from a number of places,
like: and
These programs are free to page through (each and
every page in the book!) online, but just doesn’t
allow you to print them out: catalog
— Here is a free online spelling program. I’ve not used
it, so I cannot comment on its effectivness:
— Here’s another program that might be worth checking

Kindergarten OCR 2000 Word List / Sight Words from Open Court / Dolch Words / Dolch and other Sight Word lists / Blending and Phonics page / Pre-Primer Dolch Words by Paducah Kentucky School District / Dolch Sight Word Books / General Sight Word Books / 30 free Reading Books online from Reading

Assigning Homework to improve literacy:

I’ve been getting questions recently about what I do at home to nurture
English literacy through daily homework. So I decided to write it all up in
pretty frightening detail at Bilingual Monkeys. The article is “Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine”

— Adam Beck

Bilingual Monkeys: Ideas and inspiration for raising bilingual kids (without
going bananas)
Twitter: @BeckMonkeys

Recommended online resources:



— Terrie Lynn Bittner’s excellent language arts resources. — Learn English Online
An article on preventing how to reduce reading difficulties by the NAP Committee
on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children see Grammar resources listed here:
Ann Zeis Homeschooling website has a resource called “Click
Learning.” Monday is Math day, Tuesday is Science day, Wednesday is
Reading & Writing, Thursday is History, Friday is Virtual Field Trips and
Saturday is Art & Music. Six days a week, features a great
site–filled with educational ideas, activities and suggestions.
— Online language arts ..alphabet games, critical reading (lit) guide, phonics worksheets, writing, spelling guides at
Montessori lesson plans for teaching grammar parts (verbs). Also see AMC’s plans and Christian Hearts Homeschool.
Writing and Understanding and Pattern Recognition and Understanding language learning articles by Lisa vanDamme
Grammar Made Fashionable: Phyllis Davenport’s “Rex Barks”
P is for Pajama Party or Paragraph?
Creating Books with Children by Valerie Bendt will help you use these
ideas and bind your child’s work into “book” with dustjacket.

For parents who are tired of managing arts in different areas, spelling/grammar/writing/reading comprehension, try an integrated approach incorporating ideas such as notebooking, journalling, copywork, dictation.

Grammar files from Eclectic English:

Other Literacy Building Resources in Japan:

CLASS (Childhood Learning Association) Bicultural Literacy Circle meets on the second and fourth Saturday every month at Prism Heguri in Ikoma-gun, Nara. 10:00 am – 12 noon. Open to bicultural families with one English speaking parent and the willingness to work with all the kids. Reading
group meets every Monday from 3:00 – 4:00 at the Mayeda/Matsumoto home. Limited to children who can currently read and write at the high first grade level (US) and the approval of all parents.

For further information, contact: Ann Mayeda Ann Mayeda Refer to our Reading Room at the Education in Japan website for details of other literacy circles — Biblioteka and Story Circle / Koala
Bunko–affiliate of ICBA /Winnie the Pooh Bunko-ICBA

4-H Labo Activities: There are are 30,000 Labo members all over Japan. Most are school children, but there are also pre-schoolers, university students, adults, and senior citizens. Each Labo member belongs to a neighborhood Labo club, called a LABO PARTY, which is directed by a volunteer LABO TUTOR. Labo offers an integrated program of language learning, cultural exploration, and personal discovery and growth.The primary emphasis at Labo is on teaching foreign languages to children. English is the most popular, but there are also programs in Korean, Spanish, and French.

Contact: Labo International Exchange
Foundation / 8-4-5 Nishi-Shinjuku / Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0023 / TEL:
03-… / FAX: 03-3367-2433 For free info pamphlets call them toll
free (free dial) at 0120-808743 /or call them at their HO at  03-…
E-mail to them at or LaboLab’s bilingual website
See also National 4-H
Web-Labo Exchanges (info courtesy of Marlene and Senkyo)

Marlene on Labo Activities:
The past month has been a busy one for me as the Stark County International coordinator for the 4-H/LABO program. 106 Japanese youth and 4 adult chaperones and 2 college mates were hosted by families in Ohio for the past month. I recruited nine local families and our family hosted a chaperone from Takatsuki, which is halfway between Osaka and Kyoto. Three of the nine families are  homeschoolers…one with eight children but they still made room in their home and hearts for “one more”. As homeschoolers in Japan, local Labo Clubs activities would be a great experience. Labo headquarters is in Tokyo and I know there are branch offices in Osaka and Hiroshima and then there are many Labo Tutors (like 4-H leaders) that have Labo meetings all over Japan. There are quite a few English speaking
staff. Robert Sexton is mid-twenties, an American that has been working at the Labo office in Tokyo for five years.Contacts for the two other Japanese organisations that partner with 4-H: Lex and Utrek:
Lex Institute / Mr. Kenshi Suzuki, Managing Director / Ace-Shoto Building / 1-4-7, Shoto Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150 /  03-3… TEL/03-3467-8360 FAX / Take a look at Lex America website to learn more about LEX in Japan.

Senkyo: One info packet arrived and it contains: info on their activities /.info on how to be a Labor Tutor /a promotional mini CD with nursery rhymes and a storytelling session. /a postcard to fill out for more info. Another info packet on Labo group activities that includes: contact to nearest tutor /group lessons and fee /another promotional mini CD with more nursey rhymes /and storytelling session.

Library support for homeschoolers:

Christian Academy in Japan Educational Support Services: 1-2-14 Shinkawa-Cho, Higashi Kurume-Shi/Tokyo 203-0013/Tel. 0424-71-3694/FAX 0424-76-2200 / E-mail: This is a wonderful support service provided by CAJ. Christian Academy in Japan’s School Support Services
(SSS) has two options, one is for their lending library, and the other includes that as well as quarterly newsletters and age appropriate worksheets. The library books can be borrowed for a month at a time, and the list is quite impressive! You pay the shipping charges. Info submitted by Cheryl Bostrom

Editor’s Note: Check with our sidebar Book Nook links for lots of info on bookstores and booklists. There are many local libraries in Japan which do stock English children literature. I borrow English books from three local libraries, the prefectural library in the city, its branch nearest to our home (5 mins) and a prefectural research library. So do check with your shiakusho for a list of libraries.


Lets face it… English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine
in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries
in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet,
are meat. We take English for granted.
But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicks and can work slowly,
boxing rings are square, and a Guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it
a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers
don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why
isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2
meese? One index, 2 indices? Hmmm.
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? That you
comb through the annals of history but not through a single annal? And if
you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what
do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a
vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that
smell? Drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? How can a slim chance
and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites?
How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a
few are alike?
Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are
absent? For example, have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful
gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house
can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it
out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on. English was invented
by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race
(which, of course, is not a race at all). That is why, when the stars are
out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this
essay, I end it.
Author Unknown


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