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Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review: Everything You Need to Know

Looking for a thorough and detailed Learing Language Arts Through Literature review?

There is not a lot of information out there about this all-in-one language arts curriculum, so I really wanted to share our experience and get the word out!

It is not a perfect curriculum – which you will know a perfect curriculum doesn’t exist if you read my reviews – but it is definitely the most unique and fun curriculum that we have run across! 

Keep reading to find out:

  • Why I Switched to Learning Language Arts Through Literature

  • How a Learning Language Arts Through Literature Lesson Works

  • What We Loved About the Curriculum

  • What We Didn’t Love About the Curriculum

  • FAQ

  • What You Need to Buy to Get Going with Learning Language Arts Through Literature!

Why I Switched to Learning Language Arts Through Literature

Learing Language Arts Through Literature Pin

Last year we tried BJU English with my 4th grader and really like it. I thought it was was really balanced and worked well for our homeschool. 

I purchased everything again for BJU English for this school year…and in less than a month the wheels were coming off my homeschool, you guys. 

It was just way too dry for my squirmy, high energy, creative 2nd grader. It almost felt wrong to put these sentence diagrams in front of her. She was compliant, but I could tell that there was no spark at all for learning in her when we did the lessons.

My 5th grader was also compliant, but I could tell she was getting bored with the format. 

I reached out to our homeschool evaluator and asked for advice. She said all of her girls (now grown and graduated) used Learning Language Arts Through Literature. 

I thought, “What is that?! I’ve never even heard of it.

I did my research and quickly found out about this hidden treasure and ordered my books in less than 48 hours!

Hold Up, What is Learning Language Arts Through Literature?

Learning Language Arts Through Literature (or LLATL) is an all-in-one language arts program for 1st grade – high school.

It includes grammar, phonics, handwriting, vocabulary, spelling, reading, composition, research skills, and higher order thinking. 

The books are also organized by color, which is kind of fun! For example my 5th grader uses “The Purple Book,” and my 2nd grader is using “The Red Book.”

The focus of the program is somewhat obvious: teaching language arts through high quality, classic literature.

All of the above skills are taught from books your child is reading or from portions of those books. 

How a Learning Language Arts Through Literature Lessons Works

The Red Student Book and Teacher's Book

I love to share how the lessons actually work in a real homeschool day.

I think it gives you a great snapshot of whether or not this curriculum will fit into your homeschool and if it’s going to work for your kid.

Keep in mind that you can also download sample lessons for all grade levels from the Common Sense Press Website. 

Okay, let’s dive into some lessons!

A Day In The Red Book (2nd Grade)

The Red Book Example Lesson 1

So the lesson you see above is Day 1 for Lesson (Week) 16 and we will be doing it next week. 

If you zoom in on the page you’ll see that the lesson starts with the teacher reading a story from one of the readers. I usually have my daughter read the story and then I just help her with the words she doesn’t know.

****As a side note these readers are published by Common Sense Press and they are soooo cute! My daughter loves them!

The Red Book Readers
The Red Book Readers

Section B: After the story, there are questions in the teacher’s manual to go over with your child. This is a great reading and/or listening comprehension time. The student usually first gives a summary of the story and then other questions are asked about the story.

Here are today’s questions:

  • Is it normal to be excited about something new? Have you ever gotten anything new that you were excited about?
  • Turtle and Muskrat were very honest with Beaver. What effect did that have on Beaver?
  • How did Otter explain his feelings to Beaver? What did Otter say that helped Beaver?
  • Have you ever really liked something that others didn’t like? Did they say hurtful things?
  • Do you think you should always give your opinion?

I am actually really excited to go through these questions with my daughter! Definitely an opportunity for some life lessons.

Section C: This is a short lesson about using the -ly suffix and how to add it on to words. The concept is taught using a sentence from the story that was just read.

Section D: A short review of compound words.

Section E: Using a sentence from the story, the student is now going to underline adjectives or “describing words.” She will also practice when to use commas to separate adjectives.

Section F: Your child will now read the words in the Phonics Words Box after reviewing the phonogram /igh/. Then your student will read the sentence on the following page, and fill in the blank with the appropriate word. 

The Red Book Example Lesson 2

Section G: Woohoo! Your child will now do a hands-on activity!

The story that was read today was about Beaver’s new, big shoes. Your student will draw a pair of shoes on a piece of paper and try to make their picture match the describing words from the story.

Your student will then write the describing words on the picture and separate the words with commas.

Section H: Lastly, the student will end the day by copying four spelling words from the story. 

Depending on a few factors, I would expect this lesson to be 30-40 minutes long.

****Obviously, every day is a little different. Some days are shorter, have different assignments, etc.

A Week In The Purple Book (5th Grade)

Our well loved Purple Student Activity Book and Teacher’s Book

The Purple Book is similar to the above lessons, but it is easier to give you an arc of the week, as opposed to just one day. 

Sample Lesson from the Purple Book 1

Day 1: Your child will read an excerpt from David Livingstone’s book, The Foe of Darkness, and then she will read the passage to you. You will go over any words she doesn’t know or struggles to read.

You will then dictate a portion of the passage to your student, and they will write it as best they can. When they’re done, they will check their own work for errors. 

The student then works on a spelling rule and spelling words from the passage.

Day 2: Your student will hunt for compound words in the literature passage and then do a compound word exercise matching words together.

The child will next hunt for personal pronouns in the passage and write them out and the person those pronouns refer to.

Sample Lesson from the Purple Book 2

Day 3: Today the student is asked questions about the passage. They are challenged to think it through and write out their answers.

Example question: Why does the chief want his heart to be changed? What is he trying to change?

There is also a vocabulary question where the student is asked to look up “entreaty” in the dictionary and use the definition to answer a question.

Spelling words are reviewed.

Sample Lesson from the Purple Book 3

Day 4: A map is provided for the student to fill out and track David Livingstone’s travel through Africa. This is a great review of map skills, but also a wonderful way for kids to visualize what David Livingstone accomplished in his life. 

Spelling words are reviewed again.

Sample Lesson from the Purple Book 4

Day 5: Dictation of the passage is done again, a spelling test is given, there is an optional enrichment activity, and there is a worksheet style review of compound words, pronouns, antecedents, and antonyms.

****Depending on your child’s strengths, lesson lengths will vary. For us, they tend to be 20-25 minutes.

Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review: What We Loved!

Heart

1. Learning Through Literature

This is such an obvious thing – everybody learns better when a story is involved!

Everything else we have tried before now seems so dull and dry. The stories just really bring the lessons to life and show the practical application of what I’m trying to teach to them, whether it is grammar, phonics, or vocabulary!

2. Book Studies and Book Selection

Book Study selections for The Purple Book

The book studies have been a huge highlight for us this year! I love that LLATL has my daughter reading classic literature! She loves her tween fantasy books (Percy Jackson, Keeper of the Lost Cities, etc.), so it’s been great to have her broaden her horizons a bit.

This year she is assigned to read Trumpet of the Swan, Caddie Woodlawn, Number the Stars, and Farmer Boy.

I have her read a chapter a day from the assigned book and then we do a book study review when the book is finished. That includes vocabulary checks, discussion questions to go over, and some other enrichment things. The book studies go alongside her normal lessons.

3. Guided Literature Discussion

I love that Learning Language Arts Through Literature prompts you with questions to go through with your kid. Last week, my daughter and I talked for almost 30 minutes about The Trumpet of the Swan and what it’s like to be different. 

The curriculum directed me to share with my daughter times in my life when I’ve felt different and how I handled it. It was such a good discussion!

4. Hands On Language Arts!

I love, love, love, that my 2nd grader is constantly getting out scissors and glue sticks to do her assignments! 

She has made word wheels, drawn pictures, put together little books, and she has even been asked to act out stories that she has read!

As I watching her joyfully act out one of those scenes, I knew that I had made the right decision to switch out our language arts curriculum this year.

5. Regular Review and Assessments

There is a review section at the end of every week and an assessment (aka test) every four weeks. This is less review than we were doing with our previous curriculum, but I think it’s just the right amount for us.

Too much review can be soul crushing for kids over time.

If my kid does miss something on an assessment, that just tells me that I need to review a little more with them on that topic. After years of homeschooling, I am much more relaxed and understand that grammar is taught over and over every year. They will pick it up eventually.

6. Customer Service

I have emailed Common Sense Press (the publisher of LLATL) a couple times and I have been so impressed with their prompt and personal customer service! 

One time I had lost an important paper for the curriculum, and they emailed me a new PDF right away – and they were so nice about it! You can tell it’s a small family business and they value customers. 

7. Facebook Community

I always recommend looking for a FB group for any curriculum you are teaching. There is no sense trying to reinvent the wheel when you could have a sisterhood of homeschool moms at the ready to help you and answer questions!

Blessedly, there is a Facebook group for Learning Language Arts Through Literature. 

It has been so nice to get comments and insight from people who have used the curriculum successfully for years!

What We Didn’t Love About Learning Language Arts Through Literature

woman holding hands up

1. Lessons Can Be Long

The Purple Book lessons are usually pretty reasonable, but The Red Book Lessons can get long at times.

I have been told that The Red Book is a foundational book though, and we should take our time going through it. It will prepare your child for all of the following books. 

My recommendation to parents who are struggling with the length of the lessons would be to break them up. Remember that it is an all-in-one curriculum, but you don’t have to do it all in one sitting.

For example, tell your kid that you’re just doing grammar and reading right now, and you’ll pick up spelling and handwriting after a break.

2. Lessons Focus on Multiple Things

Our old curriculum had my child focused on one thing for their lesson. For example, they only learned about adjectives one day. Or they only learned about compound predicates for another lesson. 

Learning Language Arts Through Literature has my kid doing multiple concepts in one lesson. One minute we’re talking about compound words, then we’re talking about suffixes, then we jump to reading context words. 

I wonder how that affects their ability to retain the information, but I also tend to think it helps my attention challenged 2nd grader. She gets bored easily, so I sometimes think the constant topic change helps her stay engaged.

FAQ About Learning Language Arts Through Literature

FAQ

1. How do the book studies fit into the curriculum?

This was a common question I saw in the LLATL Facebook group, so I reached out to the curriculum creators at Common Sense Press for answers. I was not surprised that they quickly and graciously responded:

“The book studies are some of my favorite lessons. While introducing students to great classic literature, they are designed to encourage the love of reading and to develop the life-long practice of using books as springboards for learning.  

In most of the course levels, the book studies are part of the 36 weekly lessons. Since students have different reading speeds, we do not normally assign how many chapters to read a day. My general advice is to divide the book into comfortable reading sections throughout the week. Since Mondays and Fridays have a few activities to do, I make those days lighter. For example, if there are 13 chapters in a book, I would have the student read two chapters on Monday, three chapters on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and two chapters on Friday. You can, of course, choose to take longer than one week to complete the book. You’ll just need to set aside a little time for reading alongside the language arts lessons.

The book studies stand alone and are not used to teach grammar, punctuation, or writing mechanics. That means you can move the studies anywhere you want in the curriculum. Also, if a student has already read a book, another book may be substituted. We have free books studies on our website to facilitate that.

Some of the confusion about the book studies is because in the Purple and Tan books they are supplemental to the course instead of being worked into the 36 weeks.  In the Purple and Tan books, the novels are read alongside the daily lessons, or they can be used during breaks for Christmas or summer reading. Again, you set the pace for completing each study.”

2. How exactly do you do dictation?

This was another common question that I saw homeschool parents asking over and over again, so I also asked the curriculum creators at Common Sense Press to shed some light:

“This is really the foundation of the program. The dictation lessons serve as examples of good writing and also help ground skills in the ‘real world.’ When I dictate, I sit next to the student so that I can be sure to pace my reading to their writing speed and also to calm things down if they start feeling stressed.  I read short sections slowly, and periodically I will tell them that I am going to repeat what I have read so that they can check what they have written and listen more carefully for punctuation clues. After dictation, you can have older students check their work, but with younger students I like to check it with them. Use this time to circle misspelled words to add to their weekly spelling list while identifying the part of the word that they had trouble with, and give any other instruction needed for correct punctuation, grammar, and writing rules.

You can find a video of a student taking dictation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e26WkPOIu5k&t=254s.”

3. I’m obsessed with our current spelling curriculum. Do I have to do the LLATL spelling too?

Nope. 

We had been happily using our spelling curriculum for years before I picked up Learning Language Arts Through Literature. I will either skip the spelling lesson completely in the Student Book, or I will just briefly go over it.

That works just fine for us and doesn’t take away from the overall lessons being taught.

If you have more questions, the FAQ page on the Learning Language Arts Through Literature page is excellent! Definitely check it out.

So, What Exactly Do You Need to Buy For This Language Arts Curriculum?

No matter what grade your child is in, you will need a Student Activity Book and a Teacher Book.

Yes, the Teacher’s Book is necessary. Don’t skip it.

You will have to buy the books separately for the book studies. Those do not come in the curriculum pack. 

The Red Book and the Blue Book have readers that go with them. Make sure that those readers are included in the bundle package when you buy your curriculum.

The Red Book and The Blue Book will also call for your to read certain picture books aloud to your child for a lesson. If you don’t want to buy the books and your library is difficult to work with because of COVID, I would recommend searching the book on Youtube. 

I was shocked to find that there are TONS of channels of people doing nothing but reading children’s books aloud. This has saved me so much time and money, while still helping us complete the lessons.

Where is the best place to buy Learning Language Arts Through Literature?

Rainbow Resource, Christianbook.com, and the Common Sense Press website are all going to give you great deals.

I would recommend that you carefully price compare across the platforms. I originally bought The Red Book Bundle on the Common Sense Press website because it was $30 cheaper than Rainbow Resource.

As I look at the prices now though, I can see that Christianbook.com now has the same bundle for $25 cheaper than what I paid. 

There are lots of deals out there, so make sure you get the best one!

And if you are willing to go looking, Common Sense Press sells old editions of the curriculum for 50% off. The stock is obviously limited, but it is definitely worth a shot to see if they have the grade-level text you’re looking for. 

If they are still available, you can also buy imperfect books for 50% off! They are the current edition, but have slight damage that keeps them from being sold at full price (bent cover, etc.).

Recap Learning Language Arts Through Literature Review

I hope you learned everything you wanted to know and more about this treasure of a curriculum!

I really love the heart behind it and the intent of the creators. You can see that they really care about kids, learning, and the love of literature. 

This attitude about learning is a huge piece of what made me want to homeschool my kids. I wanted my kids to be on fire for learning, and I wanted to have rich discussions with them. 

If that’s the kind of homeschool you want to run, then I hope you jump on board and check this curriculum out!

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2 Comments

  1. I would love to see a comparison between LLATL and another program that is titled, English Lessons Through Literature Secular Level A: Aspiring. Both programs seem to be set up in a similar style. The additional books needed for ELTL can all be found free on the internet because they are in the public domain. Since these two programs are so similar I wonder if it just comes down to personal preference and not one or other being “better”. Perhaps you could shed some light if you do a side by side comparison?

  2. What a great review! I was very curious about this curriculum.

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