Language Smarts

Language Smarts

Critical Thinking Co.™ has published Language Smarts, a language arts series for the elementary grades with Levels B, C, and D available thus far for grades 1 through 3. One large worktext (over 340 pages) for each level provides student activity pages with an answer key at the back. Each volume can serve as your core curricula or as a supplemental resource.

These colorful worktexts feature many more illustrations than you see in most language arts books. Lessons are presented in a variety of formats with a heavy dose of critical thinking skills incorporated from time to time.

Brief instruction at the beginning of the pertinent lessons is followed by practice pages—generally more than one practice page for each topic. The font size gradually decreases from Level B to Level D and the amount of print per page increases to about twice as much in Level D in comparison to Level B.

Many lessons are more innovative than those found in other texts. The publisher has aimed at simplifying grammar and punctuation concepts so they are easier to grasp. Also, the visually-rich practice pages are likely to make practicing those concepts more appealing to students.

Many exercises are similar to what you find in other courses—e.g., underlining words that belong to word families, circling the verb in each sentence, and joining sentence fragments to create one complete sentence. But there are also puzzles, pictograms, Editor in Chief® editing exercises, and a few Mind Benders® deductive reasoning grid puzzles. Some exercises require students to unscramble letters to spell words. It's important to be aware that unscrambling exercises are sometimes confusing for children who are still forming mental images of what words look like when they are properly spelled.

In contrast to most language arts programs that serve as core curricula, these worktexts arrange lessons by topic. So Level B for first grade begins with letters, short and long vowels, vowel digraphs and dipthongs, consonant blends, and other phonetic elements of words from pages 1 to 57. Later, there are lessons on nouns, verbs, subjects and predicates from pages 116 through 155. Other topics covered in this book are the articles a and an, syllables, word families, rhymes, contractions, compound words, high-frequency words, verb tenses, sentences, usage (e.g., was and were, me and I), comparative adjectives and adverbs, singular and plural, antonyms, synonyms, homophones, homographs, categorizing, sequencing, deductive reasoning, capitalization and punctuation, reading skills (context clues, facts and inferences, predictions, characters, setting, topic and main ideas, and cause and effect), poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and descriptive writing.

Level C for second grade reviews and expands upon concepts taught in Level B then adds prefixes, suffixes, roots, paragraphs, Writing Detective® activities, alliteration, folktales, writing and following directions, the parts of a book, using the dictionary, writing friendly letters, and other writing activities such as alternative story endings and problem/solution paragraphs.

Level D for third grade again expands upon earlier concepts and adds alphabetizing, simple and compound sentences, conjunctions, common and proper nouns, adjectives, irregular verbs, similes, metaphors, the use of story maps, writing numbers with words, using reference materials, and the library. This level concludes by having students write a one page “research paper.”

Curiously, the graphic design style changes from Levels B and C to Level D, with Level D falling short of the others. In Level D, page borders are colored, rectangular frames while they were more-interesting colored, wavy frames in the earlier books. Gone also is the background shading on pages within the frames. Illustrations in all of the books are a mix of styles, but there seems to be a jarring mix of clip art styles in Level D. In addition, the content also seems less creative and less oriented toward critical thinking—many of the activities seem much like those in traditional language arts workbooks but with more color.

In summary, some of the Language Smarts activities are likely to be a bit more fun for students than the fairly predictable activities in most traditional language arts workbooks.

(Note that Editor in Chief, Mind Benders, and Writing Detective are the trademarked names of particular styles of activities created by The Critical Thinking Co. and used in other resources they publish.)

Pricing Information

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List Price $42.99 per level

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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: low
  • Learning Environment: independent study plus discussion
  • Religious Perspective: secular
  • Grade Level: grades 1-3
  • Educational Approaches: eclectic, traditional
  • Educational Methods: creative, critical thinking

Publisher's Info

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