There are pages upon pages of advice and resources on how to teach English in Schools. Schools with all their resources, trained staff and designated curriculum. There is much less advice and help out there for teaching English in a home school setting. So we have prepared these 18 Easy ideas on how to teach your children English at home.
- Ideas to Make English fun
- Using music and other media
- Being creative
- Where to find resources
- How to choose what to teach
- Working with others
- Playing games
- and more
Teaching English can be challenging, no matter what the environment might be. However, teaching in homeschool can be even more challenging because there are often fewer “authentic” opportunities to learn. The more students present, the easier it seems to teach English at times. Nevertheless, nothing could be further from the truth. English can easily be taught in a variety of environments. The following suggestions are only a few ideas that may be used in a typical classroom, but when used in the homeschool environment, parents and homeschool educators have more freedom to incorporate things that the traditional classrooms cannot.
1. Picking a reading time at home
Make sure there is a routine set for homeschooling. It doesn’t have to be the factory style bells of a traditional school but learning English is a skill and skills need practice to master. Teaching little and often is going to be better for skill acquisition than spread out marathon sessions. Be aware of your childrens developmental stage and don’t overload them.
If you are teaching younger children a 20 or so minute sessions will work better than full length lessons. Make sure you have fun as well as effective materials and resources to keep them interested. We have Free and premium resources on this site you can check out if you need to top up your resource library.
2. How to Set Reading Rules at home
Children must learn grammar rules like subject-verb agreement. However, it is not strictly necessary that they learn the name of the rule. The most important part is that they learn how to apply the rule. It is more important to understand what singular and plural nouns and verbs are. You are not trying to drill rules into their heads. After all, how many times in the “real world” have you been asked about the name of a grammar rule? Probably never (unless you are an English teacher). Your children will not be asked these things in real-world applications, either.
Nonetheless, if they do not understand how to avoid errors, they may be judged for their poor English usage. The rule will not matter. The application will be everything.
Keep it fun and interesting and aim the language at their interests and the majority of those rules will fall into place. The ones that don’t, well then you know where gaps in knowledge may be and can just address those rather than waste time blanketing them all.
3. How to make Reading Fun.
Children learn better when playing games, or enjoying their activities. We all do! A selection of English games and activities and even giving them a say in how they tackle their learning that session, or the next session will give them ownership of their learning and massively increase their participation. We have our own games on the site to download for free and try if you need. However, there are games like taboo, Pictionary, mad libs, scrabble, TRUGS, which all aim to get students speaking reading and writing and are lots of fun as well!
4. Authentic Writing Is Better Than Worksheets
Homework or independent work is designed for added practice. The problem is that worksheets exist in a perfect world. They tell you that there are mistakes on the worksheet, and you are purposely looking for them. On the other hand, when you allow children to work with things they have written, there may or may not be errors. They will be looking through their own writing. This will help them learn to think about their word choice when creating a document. It also changes the instruction from passive, teacher led, to students led and motivationally will always be more productive. It also allows for you to check areas that need to be addressed in their work ( and not all at the same time) for later. We have a few writing prompts that aim to motivate children with topics they have a greater interest in. We have 50 Blank animal prompts and Dinosaur (nearly every child loves dinosaurs!!) Writing prompts here. They have been split into sections to help children categorize the information they write.
5.Using Drama to teach Reading
There may not be an entire class with them but it doesn’t stop children being able to take part in role play. There are plenty of scenes from movies, plays and books where you can find 2 of three characters interacting. Even better is to, with practice have the students write and perform their own! You can take a supporting role with these as well of course! This helps students learn and practice intonation, reading, speech and of course expression!
6.Don’t Underestimate Story time.
It is not always about children producing work for days on end. It is about creating memories. Spending the time to read to you children and letting them enjoy the language emotionally is great for both the parent and children. It shows them your love of reading and allows them to get excited, scared, happy and sad through the safety of a story. These will create longer, happier and more useful memories than just another dictation drill. We have some reading resources on the site with questions that may help, though for story time it is worth looking at classics like Roald Dahl or Julia Donaldson books.
7.Work with Themes
You do not have to make everything a major production and dog and pony show, but using themes can help children build interest in what you are trying to teach. Many of the classics took place when language, grammar, and usage were very different. Shakespearean England, Gothic and Victorian Periods, The Jim Crow Era South, The Renaissance, and other periods are great teachers of language and how a language develops over time.
Shakespeare created many of the words and phrases we use today, but the Olde English grammar was challenging. Utilizing themes will help you look at the literature and the time and importance of cultural implications. You do not have to focus on the literature as much as connect it to a larger picture. This connection will allow children to explore the English language through more than subjects, predicates, verbs, appositives, and literature. The culture of the language would become more important.
It has famously been said there are only 7 plots in every book, movie or play. Of course there are more, but the themes from these can be used and introduced rather than the exact piece of literature
Yes, the classics, grammar, structure, and other aspects of English/ Language Arts may be essential to the curriculum, but does it really need to be prescribed? Let your children choose between texts to study the ones that make them happiest. If they are not interested in specific genres, let them choose the genres they like and incorporate them into lessons. In life, we have choices to make. We have to learn how to make those choices and understand the consequences and benefits for each of them.
Sometimes, the consequences are positive. At other times, they are not. However, your child needs to understand how their choices will impact their educational pursuits. One of the huge advantages of homeschooling is being able to tailor lessons to the individual child. Schools simply don’t have the resources, human or otherwise, to do this as well. So let your child choose, guided of course, some of the materials, books especially, that they are interested in. If the children are actively engaged with the materials it helps their learning almost exponentially.
9.Using Songs or Rhymes to teach Reading.
For some younger learners these songs can help explain difficult English rules really well, and can form part of the lesson. They can sing the song and then be introduced to tasks that practice what they have learnt. I personally use the phonics song, magic E, and vowels songs which I have found to be really effective in phonics instruction. I even found a phonics rap! Another great resource is Go noodle, which actually cover loads of subjects but has English songs and dances as well! they are excellent.
10.Let Them Get Creative
Creativity in the classroom and the home can help solidify the lessons you are teaching. Suppose you are working on an author study, book study, or grammar, and usage lesson. In that case, you can always offer your children the opportunity to be creative in their assessment.
Keep in mind that formative and summative assessments do not have to be pen and paper tests or essays. Yes, essays will help students demonstrate their grasp on the current grammar and usage trends, but they will not always show you what your child can do.
Poetry lessons that end with the creation of their own poem are great. Allowing your artistically inclined child to illustrate a poem can show how they view the speaker or theme of the poem. It also address higher order skills and critical reading strategies. Let your child use his or her strengths: Dances, musicals, response poems or essays, and creative endeavors encourage problem-solving, social, and literary skills simultaneously.
11. Incorporate Life Skills
Literature, reading, writing, and other “English” class activities should include practical application. The problem is that parents and educators sometimes struggle with how to apply literature to the real world. After all, most jobs do not require essays on the last book that you read. However, it is vital to learn the skills necessary to understand what you are reading and the arguments made by advertisements and articles you may read.
Students do not automatically know how to make those arguments or understand what is coming at them. So, instead of reading Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, or even Percy Jackson & The Olympians and digging through the themes and word choices, teach them to argue against the point of view of the main characters, or to write what they would do in those situations. These type of tasks and activities develop beyond just the factual questioning approach and develop thinking and cognitive skills
Convince Jane not to leave Mr. Rochester, Dr. Frankenstein, to heed the monster’s wishes, or Percy to take someone besides Annabeth on his first journey. Rather than even arguing this, ask them to write a different ending. These activities will help them learn to consider why things happen—the consequences of actions. They can also help them develop problem-solving skills. The beauty of teaching from home is that these lessons can be interwoven into more subjects than just English. Consider the historical context, scientific applications, or geographical terrain when creating their second ending.
12. If your children are being creative so can you!
As a homeschooling parent, you are at an advantage over traditional schools. In traditional school programs, materials have to meet a specific criterion. On the other hand, as a homeschool parent, you can use any materials that make you and your children happy. For teaching about advertisements, you can use brochures or pamphlets found in doctor’s offices. In addition, YouTube videos, television commercials, and radio advertisements can demonstrate logical fallacies and rhetorical devices.
Also, in a traditional classroom, some of those resources can be off-limits except for with parents’ explicit permission. Since you are the parent, you are free to use whatever materials that you want.
Besides offering different types of resources, you can also offer audiobooks, digital copies, or hard copies of books. Children do not always respond to things the same way. Offering them a variety of resources should also include a variety of forms. For children struggling with reading fluency or comprehension, offering digital and audio copies can help them hear and see the words simultaneously.
13. How to use Games to teach Reading.
Yes, games can be a part of a strong curriculum. Not only will word games strengthen vocabularies, but they will also help children think about words and phrases more fully. They will consider spellings, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and even homonyms. We can provide children with a list of these relationships for words, but with no real use for them, some of this will be forgotten. Children will learn to build their vocabulary to use the same concepts in different circles. Speech is like clothing—there are times some outfits are appropriate, and others are out of place. This is more than just Ebonics versus Standard English Dialect. Sometimes formal forms of words are more appropriate, and other times, a simpler word will make more sense. For example, I could say, in an article directed at professors, that “students need to use peer-reviewed resources in their essays.”
On the other hand, in an article directed at students, I might say that “students should use credible sources.” Neither word is better than the other. However, students probably already understand credibility.
When searching for those resources, educators could discuss peer review. Word games will teach children these words and phrases. Crosswords, word associations, word scrambles, and a variety of seemingly innocuous games can be invaluable for student retention and learning.
14. Explore the Community
Use your local communities to explore the literature, language, and words that make up the environment. Are there billboards, famous authors, or mythical places close by? If so, how do they influence readers, writers, and communication? English language studies do not have to take place in a formal classroom. You are homeschoolers, after all. Break out of the home classroom and into the greater community.
Students need to be able to see the practical applications we have discussed and note how language influences the environment. Are the billboards different depending on the neighborhood, part of town, or neighboring towns? This is not just a study of what is being advertised, but are the words being used differently? How the community, at large, responds to words, is also a good thing for students to examine. If we want a real-world application, we also need to understand real-world implications.
15. Work with Other Families
One benefit of homeschooling is that students can work together from around the room, town, or world. When you are homeschooling and teaching English, try to work with students outside of your own area or community. There are many resources that will allow parents or students being homeschooled to connect and communicate through common websites or forums. You can ask another family to describe the local writing or reading communities and exchange local authors’ work. Not only will this expose children to regional work from other areas, but it will also get the local authors extended exposure. Students will be able to see how the culture and dialect changes from around the world, region, or country.
If you know of homeschooling groups in your local area it will also address one of the drawbacks of learning at home. Students don’t always have access to peer groups like they would in traditional schools. You could arrange to have classes in small numbers with other families in the area. This gives the interaction and group work aspects that otherwise might be lacking in a homeschol environment.
16. Teach Notetaking
Teach your children how to take notes. Define words and phrases as you come to difficult passages and not later when discussing them in a teacher/ student setting. You should also highlight, write notes, and underline as you think, notice, or question. One great way to define terms is to use the Frayer model or a similar concept. If you are not familiar with this model, the word goes in the middle of an index card with four boxes around it. Each box is for a different “definition” or concept. These include examples, non-examples (antonyms or opposites), pictures, dictionary definitions, sentences, or other written representations.
Asking students to take notes is useless unless they know how to do this. Use graphic organizers, note-taking templates, or annotations that you teach them to learn this skill. It is more about learning than the skill, though. Students need to be able to interact with texts as they read and associate reading and writing with one another.
17. Publish Your Children’s work
Whether you have your child create a book of poetry, short stories, or recipes, teach your children about editing, proofreading, and publishing as well as the language itself. Learning English means that you learn to read and write proficiently, but editing, proofreading, and designing documents is also essential.
By working with your child to publish a small book, webpage, poster or similar you can also teach them about careers in English, problem-solving skills, and connections to revision and the writing process. It can also be used as portfolio material for later school or college applications if needed.
18. How to Teach the Reading Comprehension Strategies
The higher order comprehension strategies are difficult to teach in large classes. We try, in my school I run guided reading sessions to try to introduce these strategies to my students, but the chances to do so are few. This is a shame as learning these strategies leads students to be excellent readers, and to be able to read not because a teacher or parent gives them a book but to do so by choice. If you want to know more about these reading strategies check out this article on reading strategies and the following ones we are writing which offer ideas for lessons and activities as well.
There are thousands of things you can do to teach your child English from home. The most important thing to remember is that all things must be working towards an aim. Cross curriculum work is better as it shows how different subject work together, but make sure that subjects are being given the weight they need. If in doubt always ask advice where needed.
English teaching does not need to be boring and analytical all of the time. Students should enjoy the interaction. Many English teachers argue that any non-reader simply has not found the thing to capture their attention. Let your children explore and find that book, series, or subject that will let them move from literate to reader. Learning a language can be rewarding and enjoyable. It is important to remember that children learn at different speeds, don’t worry or compare if your child is ahead or behind other in their year group. If you keep teaching them it will come. You have the biggest advantage of all by homeschooling, you can decide the pace and content of your lessons. You can tailor your materials for your chidren and judge if they are ready to move on to the next level or if they need a little more support. These are things teachers, despite the best will in the world, with their 30 other students in class just will not have as much time for.
If you need resources, especially phonics and reading materials we have them for free and premium on out site feel free to browse through and take anything that will help you and your children.
Good luck in your journey! Its an exciting one!
About the Author
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!