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What's next after Essentials?

Most teachers and students are excited by the information they have learned in Essentials and are eager to continue to reinforce the concepts as well as to dig deeper. As a result, a common question we receive is "Where do you go once you finish Essentials?"

Here are some ideas and recommendations for homeschools and schools.

Ideas for Homeschoolers

For homeschool students, we suggest the following.

Reading: Students who used Essentials for remedial reading should continue with a reading program that is based upon real books and literature. They should read widely from fiction and nonfiction and discuss the texts. At this stage it is vital that students develop a love for books by reading widely and being introduced to books they love. Other students who have completed Essentials should also continue to read widely and extensively, both great literature and nonfiction texts in various subjects.

Spelling: Teach Essentials a second or third time, using one of the more advanced levels. Essentials 2nd Edition includes three levels of spelling lists, making it easier to repeat multiple years while challenging students with new concepts and more advanced spelling words. Level C also further strengthens students' vocabulary, comprehension, and spelling by teaching over a hundred prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots. (With the 1st Edition of Essentials, you can review a second time by substituting in more challenging words from the free Advanced Spelling Lists for each lesson, or choose a Latin and Greek roots program and continue by dictating the words, analyzing the phonograms and rules, and then adding in teaching of the roots.)

Composition: Essentials aids students in developing the tools for basic sentence-level composition. Students should continue with a program that aids them in paragraph-level composition. Two programs we suggest are Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and Write Shop. IEW is a great incremental writing program in that it begins by teaching students how to write a keyword outline and to write from a model text. This method of teaching writing is also excellent for further developing reading comprehension. Write Shop has an outstanding program for middle-school students which includes a structured approach, a wide range of genres of writing, lessons on how to use grammar as a tool for sentence variation, and the best grading rubrics we have seen.

Grammar: Students who have completed Essentials have the basic tools they need to write successfully. (If you are repeating Essentials 2nd Edition with one of the more advanced levels, you will be able to review and practice the grammar concepts using that level's more challenging spelling words in a second or third year.) Beyond that, we suggest that students in Grade 5 and below focus on reading and writing until middle school. The grammar skills taught in Essentials are best mastered by being put into practice. In Grades 6-8 we suggest that all students complete Analytical Grammar. It offers an outstanding review of the parts of speech while asking students to apply the concepts to more complex sentences. Students also learn how to diagram, which provides a deeper understanding of how complex sentences logically hold together. Analytical Grammar also teaches the remaining grammar concepts, punctuation, and usage skills.

Ideas for Schools

Schools that use Essentials are often bound by a variety of curriculum needs and requirements. Here are some guidelines for choosing programs to follow Essentials in that context.

Reading: Essentials provides students with the foundational skills for reading. Once these skills have been developed, it is vital that students read widely and have an opportunity to develop a love for reading. Students should read fiction and nonfiction. When a student expresses an interest in a book or series, they should be encouraged to pursue it. Though leveled books can be beneficial for aiding students in choosing books to read, we do not suggest limiting students to a particular level after Essentials. When students know the linguistic tools for English, they have the skills needed to decode any word in their vocabulary. In addition, morphology provides them with the skills to determine the meaning of words that may be unknown. Finally, teachers should reinforce the concepts found in Essentials by asking students to consider the phonograms, rules, and morphemes within new words. It is vital they be asked to analyze unknown words and not simply guess or to memorize sight words. By reinforcing these skills students will continue to develop fluency, accuracy, and speed.

Spelling: Teach Essentials a second or third time, using one of the more advanced levels. Essentials now includes three levels of spelling, vocabulary, and grammar instruction within each lesson enable you to review the concepts for greater mastery and dig deeper into the structure of English by teaching Essentials two or even three times over the course of several grades. These three levels make it easy to teach Essentials across multiple grades and for multiple years, as well as to differentiate instruction within a single class. We recommend teaching Essentials at least twice to allow the students to master the content and apply the concepts to more challenging words.

After students have completed Essentials using the most advanced levels of instruction, schools who use Essentials should continue spelling instruction, if desired, in a manner which reinforces the critical thinking skills for language learning. New spelling words from other course subjects can be taught through spelling analysis and analyzed for the phonograms and rules that are used.

Schools continuing to use the 1st Edition of Essentials may opt to use the free Advanced Spelling Lists from Logic of English and review the lessons in Essentials, develop a custom list each week using vocabulary words from content textbooks, use a vocabulary development program that teaches roots, or continue with another spelling program but modify instruction so that on Monday the teacher teaches the words through dictation and spelling analysis. No matter what program you use, it is vital that students NOT be left to memorize spelling lists by rote.

Composition: Essentials aids students in developing the tools for basic sentence-level composition. Students should continue with a program that aids them in paragraph-level composition and organization of thoughts. Students should be asked to write frequently and extensively.

Grammar: Students completing Essentials will have developed a solid understanding of elementary-level grammar. For students in Grades 2-5, schools may opt to reteach Essentials a second year using the Advanced Spelling Lists, and this approach will provide an opportunity to review and reinforce the linguistic and grammatical concepts as well. Dec. 2015 Update: Essentials 2nd edition also enables students to review the grammar concepts taught in Essentials while applying them to more advanced spelling words in Level B or Level C.

New to Essentials? Click here to learn about the curriculum.