First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind

Book cover: 'First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind'
Jessie Wise
Peace Hill Press
Number of pages: 
422 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 

Intended for use in first and second grades, the 200 completely-scripted lessons in this textbook are a complete guide in "How to Teach English to Young Children". The non-consumable book is actually a textbook for the teacher rather than the student. Lessons are completely secular and include portions of classic poems, stories and rhymes. Also included are original poems and stories as well as a few selections that have been adapted for young children. Pictures are black-and-white line drawings rather than photographs or color reproductions.

Each day's lesson is taught to the student, interactively, utilizing no workbooks or photocopied worksheets. The teacher is an integral part of this course, which combines direct instruction with regular drill and review. First grade lessons are almost completely oral with a Montessori-feel to them. Montessori classrooms use a repetition technique that has been applied to the lesson scripts when a new concept is introduced to the child. The course begins with very simple, very short lessons and builds into longer lessons with very short copywork assignments by the end of the year. Second grade lessons incorporate more pencil-and-paper writing, with some written copywork each day. Composition exercises are oral throughout, focusing on narration from short stories, poetry, and pictures. Poetry memorization selections are short and rhyming, which should make it enjoyable for most students. In addition, many lessons include enrichment suggestions for students who find their lessons comfortably easy. A variety of activities keeps the student engaged from the beginning to the end of each day's lesson and from week to week throughout the course.

In the introduction, Mrs. Wise writes, "I believe we underestimate what young children are capable of learning. We can grow children who exceed the average by exposing them to above-average content-----as long as that content is taught patiently, frequently, and consistently, and is reviewed often." There are educators who think that formal grammar and language study is more suited to later elementary school, but Mrs. Wise shows us how to make English class both productive and enjoyable in the earliest years. An excellent, early foundation in English can provide the necessary background for deeper study in following years as well as foreign language study in elementary school. This book gives the teaching parent everything (s)he needs to provide that foundation.

The very first lesson in first grade is completely oral and introduces the concept of a noun; it takes less than 10 minutes to complete. The early lessons in second grade include an oral teaching part, a written copywork part, drill and review, and poetry memorization. There is a distinct change from the beginning of the book to the end. Some lessons focus completely on picture study (oral composition), and others are just poetry study.

The lessons include both picture study and narration. I didn't find the pictures especially inspiring, but they are "family-type", "everyday-situation-type" of drawings set in current times. I thought the most valuable part of First Language Lessons was that it teaches the mother HOW to get the most out of a picture study by providing a lengthy list of guiding questions. It should be easier for a mother new to this idea to branch out to other pictures after gaining some experience and confidence.

Review Date: 
Reviewed by: