Take 5! for Language Arts

Take 5! for Language Arts

Caught Ya!, a creative approach for practicing and reviewing grammar and writing skills, caught my attention years ago. So I was interested when the same publisher came out with Take 5! for Language Arts. Even though Take 5! is by a different author, Kaye Hagler, these books follow in the same light-hearted vein as Caught Ya!

There are two Take 5! for Language Arts books available. Take 5! for Language Arts: Writing that builds critical thinking skills, is labeled for kindergarten through second grade, although I view it as more appropriate for grades one through four. Similarly, Take 5! for Language Arts: 180 bell-ringers that build critical-thinking skills, is supposed to be for grades three through nine. However, I would recommend it for grades five through twelve.

Take 5! books are supplements rather than core programs. Take 5! was designed to be used at the start of each class session, to give students an interesting task related to language arts that also challenges students’ critical thinking skills. Tasks are supposed to take about five minutes each. However, tasks are tagged for individual, pair, and group (collaborative) work. While most pair and group activities will work just fine for an individual, they will take longer than five minutes. Even some individual activities could easily take more than five minutes. A parent or teacher can also decide to extend some activities into lengthier writing assignments from time to time.

A few examples will give you an idea of what Take 5! is all about. On page 64 of the younger level book, students get to write about an imaginary bird they have just "discovered." The are provided with lines to write the bird's name, a description, it's habitat, what food it eats, and how it moves. There is space at the bottom for them to draw an illustration of their bird. On page 86, they have been selected for the "Kid-in-Space Program" and must report in on what's happening. In the older level book on page 67, “Going Purple” reminds students of the meaning of “going green.” for this assignment it says, “Now, however, a new trend is taking place: ‘Going Purple.’ What is the message behind ‘Going Purple,’ and what can people do to help support this cause?” In another example from the older level book, a collaboration task on page 96, “Mind Your Manners,” discusses manners and etiquette briefly then suggests that manners in our present day society might be quite different from those for “cavemen, desert nomads, cannibals, or knights in armor.” It continues, “In today’s task, each team will select a particular group of people and then create three rules of etiquette for them. Instead of writing the rule down, however, each group will create a brief skit demonstrating the use of this rule.” (While a single student can come up with manners for other cultures or groups, you would have to then decide whether the student would pantomime or act out the manners on his or her own or just write them down.)

Students completing activities in the younger level book need to have a journal in which they can write. "Let's Explore More" suggestions for that level sometimes describe extension activities. Most frequently, they list recommended books related to the lesson theme that might be read. Among forms and graphic organizers at the back of the book you will find journal writing rubric forms and a graphic organizer for creating a paragraph with a main idea supported by three details or reasons and a concluding sentence.

The younger level book assumes that students are able to spell and write words, construct sentences, and write paragraphs. While coloring and drawing activities for some lessons are easily manageable for kindergartners, many of the writing activities assume skills that many students do not acquire before first and second grade. In addition, a number of lessons have students work with parts of speech such as verbs and prepositions. While verbs and nouns are often introduced in first grade, prepositions are generally taught later. A system of from one to four dots is used to identify "depth of knowledge" required for each activity. Those with younger students should generally select activities with fewer dots. On the other hand, even most "one-dot" activities are great for students up through third and fourth grade.

In the upper level book, many activities include teacher tips with extension activities that expand the activity into further research, writing, art work, or other activities that build upon the original concept. You could easily use some of these for regular course work in language arts. However, these activities should generally be used for motivation and mental stimulation rather than as regular course material. Many of them stretch student creativity more than language arts skills. However, an evaluation rubric at the front of the book might be used occasionally to stress conformity to the rules of grammar and the structures of compositions. A student self-assessment form seems less helpful as it deals more with how a student feels about the tasks and their own performance.

Homeschoolers might not relate to some activities in the upper level book about a school mascot and dealing with bullies at school, but with 180 activities from which to choose, skipping a few is just fine. Note that some activities in this book build on one another; students complete one activity, then the next one uses the previous day’s activity as the jumping off point. In these instances, lessons are labeled as I and II so it is obvious. I spotted only one instance where three activities were related to one another.

These are secular resources. This is most evident with the upper level book.  It includes references to well-known literary works such as Animal Farm and Slaughterhouse-Five along with sports, popular culture, fantasy, mythology, and other topics. Generally, these references help provide context for the activities. Occasionally, they require that students be familiar with the subject. For example, “Movie Editor” on p. 103, has students select a scene from a popular movie that they would edit out of the movie. Then they explain how that would have changed the outcome of the movie.

With both books, you can easily have students from various grade levels work on tasks together. You can use a book for an entire school year, or use it occasionally over a few years. Take 5! might be a great resource to use in the winter and spring months when school sometimes seems to drag. While average and bright students might well appreciate the opportunities to be creative and have some fun, you might also find these activities a helpful stimulus for the unmotivated student.

Take 5! books are available in both print and downloadable PDF editions. Capstone also offers the upper level book in sections "a la carte," a great way to try it out.

Pricing Information

When comparison prices appear, please keep in mind that they are subject to change. Click on links where available to verify price accuracy.

Younger level book: print edition - $23.95, ebook - $19.95
Upper level book: print edition - $23.95, ebook - $21.95, a la carte - $2.95 per section

Take Five! for Language Arts: 180 bell-ringers that build critical-thinking skills (Maupin House)

Take Five! for Language Arts: 180 bell-ringers that build critical-thinking skills (Maupin House)

Take 5! for Language Arts: Writing that builds critical-thinking skills (K-2) (Capstone Professional: Maupin House)

Take 5! for Language Arts: Writing that builds critical-thinking skills (K-2) (Capstone Professional: Maupin House)
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Instant Key

  • Need For Parent or Teacher Instruction: low
  • Learning Environment: all situations
  • Grade Level: grades 1-12
  • Educational Methods: lots of variety, interactive, critical thinking, creative activities, research
  • Technology: PDF
  • Educational Approaches: eclectic

Publisher's Info

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