Today was our first homeschooling experience using the Catapult English Language series by OUP. It is designed for lower-attaining 11 to 14 year old students, and sets out to boost key skills and confidence, and to help them catch up. This is not a series used by my son’s school. I found it myself after a great deal of trawling through the internet for resources which might suit us. The presentation is very attractive, well spaced out, with good use of colour. It is bright and cheerful without being too patronising for the older student.
We looked at Book One, Unit One “First Impressions” today, but didn’t quite finish it. This unit looks at settings, and explores how an author conveys a sense of place.
The unit begins by introducing some key terms: fiction, novel, and setting. I was surprised to find that my son didn’t know the meaning of the word fiction! We then moved on to identifying the target words for the section, and some useful exercises including a useful multiple choice task where the student has to decide what impression a word gives them.
The sample text was from ‘Skellig’ by David Almond. I asked my son to read it aloud, so that I could check that he was paying attention, and hear any hesitations when there were unfamiliar words or concepts. It has been a long time since my son last read to me! He did very well, with more intonation and expression than I expected. What a fantastic extract! It certainly made me want to read the whole book.
The next section looked at alliteration. I was pleased that my son knew what the word meant, and understood the basic concept, using the same letters or sounds at the start of several word for effect.
Finally he was asked to produce a piece of written work in which he described a setting – in this case an abandoned classroom. The exercise gave him a starter, “The classroom was in darkness as I …”
Students are required to include three words from the target list and use some alliteration. He wrote an excellent paragraph for me with only a smattering of minor errors (see below).
It transpired that he didn’t realise that alliteration only exists where a special effect is achieved. He thought that “dark desk” and “radio wrapped” could be described as alliteration. We’ll need to do a bit more work on this so I’ll be looking for a list of examples. He also forgot to include the target words!
After a while I felt that he was starting to wander away from writing about the setting. I was already very pleased with what he had achieved on our first day, so I decided to stop for the day. Over all it was a very good start!