The Good and the Beautiful is in the process of rewriting their language arts curriculum. I review courses for younger students separately because the emphasis in the early grades is primarily on reading. This review will eventually cover Level 3 through Level 5 of the third editions of the Language Arts & Literature courses, but Level 3 is not yet available. (I will add it when it becomes available.)
These courses teach reading skills, spelling, writing, grammar, punctuation, usage, literature, vocabulary, geography, art skills, and art appreciation. Coursework in all of these areas is often integrated around themes for more effective learning. In these third editions, the layout is streamlined so that students and parents can easily follow the flow of the lesson plans. This is especially important because of the integration of activities from so many subject areas.
The course components for Level 4 are the Level 4 Course Book, Level 4 World Biographies Reader, Level 4 Personal Reader, and the Level 4 Spelling & Writing Workshops book.
For Level 5, the spelling and writing workshops have been incorporated into the course book, and watercolor art lessons are taught from a separate book. The components for this level are the Level 5 Course Book, a set of Geography & Grammar Cards, the Level 5 Book Set that includes four chapter books for reading, and the Watercolor Around the World set (instruction book and 12 pages of templates).
The two course books, Level 4 Spelling & Writing Workshops, and Watercolor Around the World instruction book are in full color and include lovely artwork, photos, and other illustrations. Students write directly in the course books and the Spelling & Writing Workshops book. The readers are black and white with blackline drawings.
How The Courses Work
The 270-page course book for Level 4 and the 400-page course book for Level 5 present one lesson per day for four days each week. They have very brief instructions for the parent at the beginning of each lesson, sometimes with sentences to dictate. Otherwise, the lessons are written directly to students so they can work independently. They just follow along in order.
Instructional material in the course books covers grammar, usage, punctuation, vocabulary, geography, and art, and it is accompanied by exercises, sentence diagramming, map work, art images, art-activity instructions, space for writing summaries of stories from the readers, and occasional recipes (e.g., making Scottish Shortbread when Level 4 students learn about Scotland). The course books also let students know when they are to complete reading assignments in the readers, the lessons in their Spelling & Writing Workshops book (for Level 4), and the activities with Watercolor Around the World and Geography & Grammar Card (for Level 5).
In many language arts programs, the instruction on grammar, usage, and punctuation has the potential to become redundant. To avoid needless grammar practice, Level 4 has three section reviews that test students in these areas. Then students are assigned additional practice on only the concepts they haven't mastered. This is a brilliant idea! Level 5 has grammar, usage, and punctuation instruction in the course book, and students practice with the Geography & Grammar Cards. When each card has been mastered it is set aside to concentrate on only the cards that have not been mastered. These strategies don't eliminate all redundancy, but they help. Many other activities are included for teaching grammar, usage, and punctuation, including sentence diagrams.
For Level 4, the Spelling & Writing Workshops lessons correlate with the course book to concentrate on spelling and composition skills. The much larger Level 5: Course Book has these workshops built into the lessons. In both courses, students will do a spelling workshop one day and a writing workshop the next day, continually alternating between them.
The spelling lessons have students work with rules, spelling patterns, base words, suffixes, prefixes, contractions, and challenging words. In Level 4, a chart of Challenging Spelling Words in the appendix—with words such as wrist, tongue, nephew, and scissors—is the source for some of the words the student will study. Students are initially quizzed on those words to identify the words they need to work on. An additional list with harder words is available for students who need more of a challenge. Level 5 has students work with an initial list of words as well as many others each week to develop spelling skills. The spelling activities are very creative, varying from lesson to lesson. For instance, page 27 in Level 4 Course Book has an image with 17 trees spread out over the page. Students are to draw roads between the trees, then write their words on the roads. The lessons include a few traditional exercises, but most activities are unique and are designed to suit various learning styles. There are no traditional spelling tests. This entire approach to spelling is very innovative.
Composition instruction is very well developed in both courses. Many different strategies are used as children learn to write paragraphs, poems, letters, and informative essays in Level 4. That level also teaches how to rewrite research information for reports (to avoid plagiarism) and introduces proofreading. Level 5 teaches various types of essays, story writing, and other formats such as letter writing, book reviews, and poetry. Both courses sometimes have students work with excerpts written by well-known authors.
The integration of subject areas around themes occurs in a number of ways. For instance, when students learn about the artist Carl Frederik Aagaard in the Level 4 Course Book, they have a related art-appreciation activity that is used to inspire students to write a poem. In another instance, students read a story related to Italy. The course book has lovely artwork showing Italian landscapes that are tied in with an art activity as well as with Italy-related sentences for diagramming. This is followed immediately by a geography lesson about Venice, Italy. The integration often flows in this meandering fashion.
Children will do a good deal of independent reading using the World Biographies Reader and the Personal Reader for Level 4 and the four chapter books for Level 5 Captured Words, Chico of the Andes, Marjorie, and The Clockmaker’s Son. The Level 4 readers both include a large percentage of stories about people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and the Level 5 readers are all set in different time periods or cultures Reading comprehension and skill activities related to the readers are in the course books. In addition to the assignments in the readers, children are supposed to read for about 20 minutes a day from other literature on their level. Both reading and vocabulary skills are developed through many other activities in these courses.
For art, children learn about artists such as Carl Frederik Aagaard, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh in Level 4 and Edward Fanshawe, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Giotto, and Raphael in Level 5. Level 4 students will learn to work with pastels, so they will need a set of chalk pastels, art tape, a spray ﬁxative, and watercolor or pastel paper. Watercolor Around the World teaches Level 5 students advanced skills with watercolors through specific projects, so they will need a set of watercolors with at least 24 colors.
Geography instruction teaches some basic concepts such as cardinal directions, map reading, and types of maps. The courses also focus on particular countries or geographic features such as Belgium, Brazil, the Amazon River, Mt. Everest, the Bahamas, the Mediterranean, and Washington D.C.
TGTB recommends adding both handwriting and typing courses to Level 4.
Lessons should take about 30 minutes per day, four days per week, and direct teaching time should take from two to seven minutes per day. (Occasionally there are longer articles that the parent will read aloud to the child from the course book.) Adding in the independent reading time, the total lesson and reading time should run about an hour most days. That’s a surprisingly brief time to cover so many subject areas.
As with the other language arts courses for grades one through five from TGTB, PDF files for all course components are free! Also, free PDF answer keys are available on the publisher's website. You need to print only the pages on which children need to write, so printing is practical. However, printed books are also available for purchase. (Language Arts for kindergarten through eighth grade will be available as free downloads beginning June 1, 2022.)
The streamlined layout of these courses is a big improvement from the previous editions. Their integration of subjects and innovative approaches offer promising alternatives that should work for many types of learners. It's hard to believe these are still free programs when so much work has obviously been devoted to thorough rewrites for these new editions. Even if you purchase the printed version of the courses, they are a terrific value.