Language Arts & Literature courses from The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) for kindergarten through second grade have been totally rewritten with new editions for Level K, Level 1, and Level 2.
Each course provides material for about 30 weeks, with lessons on four or five days per week. These courses cover phonics, reading, spelling, writing (but not handwriting), grammar, punctuation, and literature plus art (both appreciation and activities), poetry (memorization and appreciation), and geography. Yes, that’s an unusual assortment of subject areas and it is important to keep that in mind as you add other resources. You will need other resources for math, handwriting, social studies, and science.
It is important to note that the course components reflect a hallmark of TGTB’s curriculum—an emphasis on high moral character, love of God and family, and an appreciation of beauty and good literature. The courses mention God and Jesus, and a few stories show children praying, but they don’t teach any denominational doctrines. In addition, the courses feature a high proportion of multiculturally diverse characters in both the coursebook lessons and the readers.
Previous editions of these courses used to be very advanced beyond what other courses teach at these levels. While the new courses remain advanced, they advance at a gentler pace than before. Before starting Level K, children are expected to already know both uppercase and lowercase letters and their most common sounds. These are taught in TGTB's Preschool and Kindergarten Prep programs. (Some kindergarten courses only expect children to have familiarity with the alphabet but not the sounds of the letters.) Children beginning Level 1 need to be able to read words such as many, fresh, and there.
All three courses have a course book that is used by both teacher and student, and they each have Reading Booster Cards and Reading Booster Book sets designed specifically for that level. All three components are available either as free, downloadable PDF files or for purchase as printed items. Everything is designed in full color, and the cost of color printing might be reason enough to purchase printed items.
There are also two free apps to be used with the courses. The Good and Beautiful Homeschooling app has how-to videos, instructional videos for students, video books (that show the pages and read them aloud), and games. The second app is the Good and Beautiful Letter Tiles app.
Other hands-on activities are used frequently throughout the courses, and you’ll need school supplies and household items for these activities—items such as scissors, a glue stick, crayons, a highlighter, a whiteboard, an erasable marker, watercolors, index cards, cotton swabs, and sticky notes.
How Course Components Interact
I will discuss the course book and Reading Booster components separately, but before I do, it’s important to explain how they interact. The Reading Booster components (Reading Booster Cards and Reading Booster Book sets) provide intensive phonics instruction and reading practice while the course book covers spelling, writing, grammar, literature, art, poetry, and geography, along with reinforcement and practice for what was learned with Reading Booster Cards.
You will begin each course with the first four or five Reading Booster Cards that have the heading, “Master Before Starting the Course.” The other cards can be used while working through the each course book.
The course books have Reading Booster Target Symbols that show up periodically to indicate the Reading Booster Cards that need to be mastered before moving beyond that point in the course book. It’s okay to get ahead with the Reading Booster Cards, but it doesn’t work if you get ahead in the course books. The course books explain that the primary goal of the courses is to develop reading skills, so those are prioritized over the other skills covered in the course books.
If a student needs to move at a slower pace through the Reading Booster Cards, and you are stuck at Reading Booster Target Symbol, you should set aside the course-book lessons while you focus on the cards. You can use more of the suggested activities and games, supplement with additional readers, or otherwise concentrate on reading skills for a while.
The course books begin with explanations of how the courses work and provide details about what is covered in each subject area. They are quite large with around 350 pages each. Each course is presented in 120 lessons that are divided into three units.
The course instructions recommend that you begin each lesson with five to ten minutes spent on Reading Booster Cards, then proceed to the course book lesson. In the course books, the lessons are scripted, telling you exactly what to say and do. Instructions to the parent are in a blue font, and information to be read directly to the child is in a black font.
Each day’s lesson in the course book varies greatly in both content and design. The course-book lessons frequently have reinforcement activities for phonics and reading. For example, the first lesson in Level 1 reviews long- and short-vowel sounds which were taught in the Level K course. Students will watch a video on long vowels (on TGTB’s app), practice saying both short and long sounds for each vowel, write the vowels, identify vowel sounds in words as either long or short, and divide words (that you have cut out from the page) into boxes for long-vowel and short-vowel words.
It’s important to note that many activities are presented with lovely graphics. In the example I just described, the cut-out words are printed on acorns, and squirrels stand guard over each box. (There are frequent pages, such as the acorns and squirrels page, where you will cut out sections to use for hands-on activities.)
The rest of the first lesson has children first practice tracing and writing both uppercase and lowercase forms for the letters p and t. Then they will fill in either p or t to complete four words. The lesson, like most of the lessons, concludes by directing you to read aloud from a good book for ten minutes or more. The courses recommend using read-aloud books above the child’s level, and you can find a free recommended list of wholesome read-aloud books at goodandbeautifulbooklist.com.
As I mentioned, the lessons vary a great deal. For instance, the fourth lesson in Level 1 begins with some phonics and reading review, then it uses an image of a painting as the basis for the rest of the lesson. Students first study the image. The words creek, stamp, deck, sheep, tree, and grass are shown in boxes. The child is to read each word and circle it if they see it in the image. Then they color in each word box that has a word with the long e sound. Next, the child will listen to an audio narration about the painting via a weblink.
In Level K, children practice spelling more than 70 words, but actual spelling lists are not introduced until Level 1. Each unit’s spelling words are introduced with suggestions for kinesthetic, auditory, and visual activities you can implement to help them master the words. Lessons sometimes specify letter-tile activities or other types of spelling practice.
Students are given many opportunities to present oral narrations. For the narrations, the parent will often read a short story to the child, then ask the child to retell the story in his or her own words with as much detail as he or she can recall. These courses use oral narrations rather than having children write extensively since they are still acquiring handwriting skills. Nevertheless, students begin writing complete sentences in Level 1.
In other lessons, students will memorize poems, do craft or art projects, and complete geography lessons. Each unit concludes with a review and assessment. Students need only pass the reading assessments to be able to move ahead in the program.
Reading Booster Cards and Books
The Reading Booster Cards provide much of the phonics instruction, and children who are eager to learn to read can move ahead with the cards while working through course book lessons at a slower pace.
There are more than 60 cards per set with two primary card designs: words lists and pyramids. The word-list cards are for children to practice reading until they can read them fluently. Phonics rules are often included in small boxes on these cards for either initial instruction or review. Some lists teach sight words. Occasionally, a card will direct the parent to present a brief lesson on a whiteboard following the instructions on the card. The cards frequently have “Ways to Practice” at the bottom. While both the pyramid-style cards and word-list cards use the same formats over and over, the Ways to Practice offer much more interesting learning methods such as, “Put a piece of cereal on each word. Once the child reads it, he or she can eat the cereal” (Card 49, Reading Booster B Cards). Some cards direct students to play the Reading Booster games for practice on the Good and Beautiful Homeschooling app.
Pyramid cards use pyramid structures for building reading skills. Children read individual words, then phrases, then sentences that are arranged in gradually expanding pyramids that have five layers. For instance, Card 53 in set B has a pyramid with the word "Dip" on the top line. The second line expands to “Dip your toe” (with no period). More words are added to the sentence until the fifth line, which reads, “Dip your toe in the moat by the willow tree.” The pyramid-style cards also tell you which stories to read from the corresponding Reading Booster Books set.
Students are supposed to work on one to three of these cards each day. Once they have mastered a card, they can put a sticker on a circle at the bottom of the card. The last two cards in the set have the stickers. Children are periodically given mazes to complete once they have mastered a set of six cards.
The Reading Booster Books sets A, B, and C come as boxed sets of small books for A and B and as two larger books for C. The books are full of delightful, full-color illustrations. Each set has a combined total of 240 pages. These readers provide reading practice aligned with the phonetic concepts and sight words that have been taught on the cards.
The 2022 editions of Language Arts & Literature for kindergarten through second grade offer a comprehensive, multisensory program that should be easy for parents to use. You can download all of the resources for free, but I recommend purchasing at least the printed course book and the Reading Booster Cards.