Accelerated Language Arts
Language Arts classes at HEROES Academy focus on vocabulary, grammar, writing, and reading comprehension.
Writing can be frustrating for some students; it can be even more frustrating for students who struggle with perfectionism as the “rules” of writing are often daunting. In traditional school environments, students are often asked to complete writing tasks without truly understanding “how.” At HEROES, students take a deep dive into the English language. We answer questions such as:
- What really makes a group of words a sentence?
- How can I clearly and concisely convey my message?
- How and when do I use different punctuation marks?
- How does changing the order of words affect the way in which my message is interpreted?
Students begin analyzing sentences using five levels of analysis in Introduction to Grammar. By analyzing writing using the five levels of analysis, students are able to use logic to revise and edit their writing. This study continues throughout the student’s career at HEROES.
In the first level of analysis, students identify what part of speech each word functions as. They begin to understand that words can have different “jobs” within a sentence depending upon the way in which they’re used.
In the second level of analysis, students identify the parts of the sentence. When we study a sentence at this level, we look at how words work together to create meaning. We answer questions such as:
- Who or what is this sentence about?
- Does this sentence tell us what the sentence DOES or what it IS?
- Does the sentence act on anything? Is that action transferred to anything else?
In the third level of analysis, we study how groups of words work together to act as a single part of speech. We call these groups of words “phrases.” A group of words can act together to modify something. In this case, the words are acting as an adjective or adverb. By using these phrases, we can join sentences together to convey our message in a more concise manner. A group of words might also work together to act as a noun. By using a group of words as a noun, we can actually turn an action into the subject. For example, we can use the present participle of the verb “to learn” as the subject in the sentence “Learning is a life long journey.”
In the fourth level of analysis, we study how the parts of a sentence work together to create clauses. By understanding clauses, students are able to show the relationship between ideas beyond simply “stacking” ideas together.
The fifth level of analysis takes a look at how clauses work together to create simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. By understanding this, students are able to clearly identify and revise run-on sentences and sentence fragments. At this level, students also look at the purpose of a sentence. Is this sentence asking a question? showing excitement? making a statement? commanding someone to do something?
Students take quizzes at the conclusion of each unit. Students also take a grammar final exam. A grade of 80% or higher on this final exam is required to advance to the next level class the following year. Students have the opportunity to retake this test if necessary. In some cases, extra credit work to practice the missed concepts may be provided to make up for lost points.
At HEROES Academy, we focus on empowering students by giving them a voice in topics that really matter. Writing topics focus on self-discovery, age-appropriate social issues, and current events.
At HEROES, many students are excited to discover that writing assignments are often significantly shorter than the ones they are assigned in traditional school. We believe that “less is more.” The purpose of writing is to think deeply and to convey a message to an audience. Whether we are writing to inform, entertain, or persuade, the end goal is the same — to ensure our readers understand our message and WANT to keep reading.
Spelling and Vocabulary
In our first grade program, students focus on a different phonics concept each week. Rather than focusing on a single digraph each week, spelling units focus on unique sounds, encouraging students to differentiate between the way words sound and the way they’re spelling. For example, students study words with ay, ai, and a_e spelling patterns in the same week. Students cover 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade common core phonics standards in our 1st grade program. Students complete weekly spelling quizzes.
Students in 2nd grade and up study spelling through their vocabulary units. Students study five vocabulary words each week. Our vocabulary units go beyond memorizing spellings and definitions. Vocabulary units focus on empowering students to use their newly acquired vocabulary in their spoken and written language. Students take unit quizzes on vocabulary after every three weeks(units). Quizzes are cumulative; old vocabulary words pop back up on each quiz. This encourages students to regularly return to their old vocabulary words.
To start the year off, students are presented with similar writing samples. Each writing sample conveys the same message; however, some are shorter than others. Each writing sample contains the same number of supporting details. I ask my students, which of these would you rather read? Do you want to read a full page when that message could have easily been conveyed in two sentences? If we are going to write MORE, we also need to say MORE. Quantity is not quality. As such, we start with the basics and gradually work our way up.
At HEROES Academy, we believe that students have the right to choose their reading material. Our lending library contains a carefully curated selection of books that contain positive messages and quality reading material. Students are encouraged to choose their own books to check out each week. Teacher and peer recommendations are always available for students looking for advice on what to read or stuck in a “reading rut.” By reading high quality books, students naturally develop stronger reading skills.
In class, students complete activities to develop skills in literary analysis and research. At HEROES Academy, we believe that every moment is a learning opportunity. Rather than using texts specifically designed for reading comprehension practice, the majority of this work is based on science texts, newspaper articles, and excerpts from classic literature.