Monday, September 5, 2011

Total Language Plus in a Co-op

This year my local group is venturing into a co-op so as you might expect I’ll be teaching!  For years I’ve sold many Total Language Plus guides to families who use them for co-ops so I thought I’d take some time to address just how that might work for those of you who are considering using TLP in a co-op.

First of all for most co-ops I would recommend using our regular student guides just like we sell at homeschool conventions.  TLP does have a “private school” version that large co-ops who run the same classes year after year may benefit from but since I’ve found most homeschool co-ops are smaller and change classes frequently I’ll focus on using the regular guides in this discussion.

Also, let me note that there is no right or wrong way to use it in a co-op.  The suggestions here are just what I believe works best from my experience and conversations over the years with others teaching in co-ops.
For my class I’m choosing to focus on the discussion and writing assignments.  Most of the spelling, vocabulary and dictation exercises are done at home with the parent.  Let’s face it, when you’re at home it’s hard to have “discussion” with only one or two students doing the same book but when you have 5-6 or 8-10 in a co-op you can really get some amazing thoughts and ideas going. 

The questions we discuss come primarily from the Personal Thinking Questions given in the TLP guides.  There may be occasions when we mix in some of the comprehension questions or something we’re not planning to cover from the projects or pen and papers in writing.

Once we’re done discussing most of the time we will then focus on writing a personal thinking paragraph or PTP.  Students are able to write better paragraphs after lots of discussion and interaction with the subject matter.  For younger classes we may choice one question to work on and together come up with the topic sentence then have each student work on their own to complete the paragraph.  Older student classes will usually be given a choice of 2-3 questions from which to write their paragraph.  While they are writing I do what I call “over the shoulder” evaluations.

As each student is writing I go around and read and make suggestions, coaching as needed.  If we finish these is class I mark each with a check.  I’m not grading or looking for grammar and spelling errors on these as much as the form and creativity of the paragraph as well as the presentation of their thoughts and ideas.  If we are short on time they begin these in class and finish at home.

The last 10 minutes or so of some classes we will play games with the spelling and vocabulary words.  You can do the games (like concentration) as recommended in the younger guides in pairs or do things like hangman on the board in teams.  The games you play will depend on how many students you have and how much prep time you have.  If you have some time you can develop “jeopardy” type questions with the answers being the vocabulary words or their synonyms etc…

During each semester typically I’ll focus on one project and one pen and paper.  This will vary depending on the book we’re doing.  For instance with the Hobbit this fall we’re doing the Pen and Paper which asks to student to choose who they would take on an adventure and explain why they chose those particular people.  I love to see how they come up with reasons and really have to think through their choices.  For the project the students will have a choice of writing a report on mining, wolves, forest fires or spiders (all suggestions in the TLP guide.) 

For both of these assignments we will take time in class to talk about ideas, go over how I’m expecting them to be written and so on.

To get a closer look at how this breaks out you might be interested in taking a look at the actual syllabi's.  Here are the ones for the 9 week co-op I’m doing this fall, The Hobbit, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

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