Total Language Plus is an innovative language arts curriculum focused on critical thinking and communication skills.

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How it Works

How does the program work?

As students read, they complete worksheets on comprehension, spelling and vocabulary. They also choose from numerous enrichment ideas (including field trip suggestions and hands-on activities) and writing topics relating to the reading assignment. For example, when reading My Side of the Mountain, children are encouraged to make a willow whistle following Sam’s instructions; in The Trumpeter of Krakow, touring the fire department and researching different architectural styles are suggested.

Writing topics, based on events in the story, promote participatory, active reading and reflective writing. Students are sometimes reluctant writers, not because they do not possess the skills to write, but because they have nothing to say about the assigned topics. Basing writing topics on the reading assignment stimulates imagination and creativity.

Vocabulary/spelling words are taken from the unit’s reading with a variety of activities (at least four exercises for each unit) stressing mastery of the words. Context clues are always used to introduce new vocabulary words. The introduction of new spelling words involves not only the rules and syllabication, but visualization strategies as well. Drilling new and review words is accomplished through games and puzzles.

Short dictations reinforce Bible truths (that relate to the story) and provide opportunities to improve listening and memorization skills, practice good penmanship and discover weaknesses in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Review of words and concepts is consistent throughout the novel studies, allowing mastery of the lessons rather than short term memorization. Because study areas are integrated and presented in “bite-sized” portions, self-esteem is improved and success patterns developed.

How complete is the program?

The program contains in-depth comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary lessons for all levels. We take an application approach to grammar beginning in 5th grade; therefore, if your student cannot identify the parts of speech, or understand how to write a sentence, you will need a remedial supplement. Third and fourth grades include writing and grammar instruction. For most students, TLP is all they need for a comprehensive language arts program.

How much teacher preparation is involved?

Depending on the enrichment activities chosen, limited preparation time is necessary. Lessons are designed for students to complete a majority of the work on their own and lesson planning is simplified by using the “planning grid” included with each novel study. Can you hand your children their worksheets and check back with them at completion? NO!!! Or rather we should say, please don’t. No curriculum, however well designed or planned, should take the place of the teacher as an encourager, director, and mentor. What TLP does do is free the teacher from extensive preparation so more time can be spent actually teaching.

How many novel studies should be completed in a year?

We recommend using one study per quarter–a total of three to five per year with short breaks between. The speed with which the novel studies are completed depends on your particular situation. Doing language arts four days a week, one hour each day allows us to complete one unit per week–some of the time. It has been our experience that generally, a six-unit study will take nine weeks to complete; a seven-unit study will take ten weeks and so on. A typical approach is to begin a novel study near the beginning of the school year, break during the Thanksgiving – Christmas holiday season, then complete another novel study after the holidays and a third one after the spring break. Some choose to do a study during the summer.

What supplemental materials are required?

Besides a reading book and study guide for each student, we suggest providing flash cards (make your own or purchase colored index cards), colored markers (for use with the flash cards), lined notebook paper, and access to a dictionary and thesaurus.

Depending on the skills of your students, you may wish to supplement with a grammar program. Our grammar approach bridges the gap between knowing grammar and applying it; if basic grammar skills are lacking, supplementing will be necessary. The same idea applies to our writing approach. TLP does not instruct how to write a sentence or organize a paragraph. Most students will have had such instruction by this level in their education. There comes a time when writing skills are most effectively improved simply by writing! TLP offers numerous writing opportunities.

Will the program work with multi-level settings?

Absolutely! It was designed in a multi-grade level setting. Minimum adjustments may be required such as reducing or increasing the number of writing assignments completed each week, or lengthening or shortening the time it takes to complete a unit.

How are the titles chosen?

The novel studies are based on books that have met rigid requirements. All are award-winning books, are frequently checked from libraries and are listed in books recommending quality literature for children. They are of interest to both male and female readers and contain enough depth to justify spending several weeks using them as texts. We do not agree with all the philosophies presented in the books. For example, The Call of the Wild promoted evolution–a theory we strongly oppose. We read the book with excitement, however, as a tool for teaching discernment.

Are the novels Christian or secular?

Some of the books are not written by Christian authors and contain controversial elements. Regardless of the author’s viewpoint, every novel study takes a Christian perspective. We believe that all the books offered are valuable for Christian study, but realize that there are differing opinions and recommend that if you are in doubt about any book, read it yourself first. Every book on our list has been challenged by someone! Some of our titles are more appropriate for independent study containing elements that would not be desirable in a mixed classroom.

Why does it take so long to complete a novel study?

Our program is designed to develop thinking, communicating students. That takes time. We do not dissect every passage, but we do insist that students stop and think about what has been read, thereby helping them develop character and a biblical world view. There is nothing desirable in breezing through book after book, when little has been learned along the way. Simply put, thinking takes time.

What if we have already read the books?

Good for you! Since we offer high quality titles, it means you understand the importance of good literature and have done a remarkable job exposing your children to quality books. We often recommend that a child’s first study guide be on a book he has already read. Total Language Plus will be a new system for them, and reading a familiar book can limit possible frustration as he or she adjusts to the new system. Remember that recreational reading is not the same as education, so re-reading a book can actually be to your child’s advantage, especially if the book was read to them or read a few years ago. Will your child watch a movie he has already seen? Will they play a game they have already played? Will they put a puzzle together again or rebuild a Lego pattern? Sometimes the second time is better! Re-reading a book is not a problem.

How do I choose the right novel study?

Consider reading, development, and maturity levels when choosing a novel study. Some books deal with mature topics that reading level alone does not indicate. Also be aware that young student’s eyesight may not be fully developed and the small print can prove frustrating. A third consideration is the student’s ability to think abstractly. Abstract thinking requires a degree of development rarely found in students below 5th grade. Choose books based on your child’s development, not simply reading level. If in doubt, begin either right at or a step below what you believe his development level is. Then, the next study should be a step higher and so on.

What do students need besides a study guide and novel?

Each student will need flashcards (either make your own or purchase index cards), colored markers (for use with the flashcards), lined notebook paper and a dictionary. Older students will benefit from a thesaurus and a grammar handbook. A compact Teacher’s Manual for the 3rd -8th grade level breaks down the how’s and why’s of each subject, provides a sample lesson plan, and offers more suggestions for teaching language arts. It also includes a short section on writing helps and spelling rules. The answer keys are in the back of each study guide, so the purpose of this manual is to offer supplemental teaching suggestions, explain how to effectively use TLP, and clarify why lessons are structured as they are. Regardless of how well a curriculum is written, or how accurate its philosophies, it remains mediocre at best if it is not flexible enough to be used effectively by a variety of users. Flexibility is built into this program and should be successful with minor adjustments for a wide range of students.

Does TLP work with other programs?

Fans of Konos, Charlotte Mason, a Classical approach, and Sonlight use TLP with their regular studies. It works well with each of those philosophies as numerous home schooling moms can attest. Users of quality writing programs such as Excellence in Writing and Writing Strands also find TLP a good match. We can even help you match a TLP study with your Konos character unit or Sonlight studies. Of course, TLP also works well with traditional approaches, and other programs not included in this list.

Are the materials reproducible?

The materials are protected by copyright; however, study guides may be photocopied by home-schooling parents for simultaneous use with their own children. This permission does not extend to schools, relatives, or friends. It is a violation of the copyright to reproduce in any manner any portion of a study guide and then give away or resell either the study guide or the copy. To do so is both illegal and unethical.

Shop online for our complete online catalog of novels, focus guides, study guides, and teacher manuals.