Charlotte Mason Grammar and Composition, Grades 7-9


composition charlotte mason style form III and IV making progressThere’s a lot to process (isn’t there always?), but I think the most useful information I gleaned from reading the programmes for this level is this: ‘making progress each term.’

Start where you are, and move forward. Progress may be slow, but what matters is that there is progress, improvement.

I looked over the programmes and exams we have which Charlotte Mason used for this age group, and tried to pull out assignments and applications and summarize the kind of work the students this level were doing.  Keep in mind, as we have noted before, that Mason’s approach is an integrated philosophy of education, and each year builds on the previous year- the children doing these things at this level have been doing the copywork, the reading, the studied dictation, the memory work, the parts of speech they learned in grades 4-6, the reading and narrations for previous years.

Forms III and IV are roughly equivalent to US grades 7-9, so the information I’m sharing here is a collection of work the children were doing over 3 years. They have time to practice, to improve- and to make progress each term. They are not told all at once- the assignments below, again, come from many, many terms, not just a single term.  They are also for a 3 year time span.  And the children are only writing a few narrations each week, and probably at first only one of them will be of the ‘read on Tuesday, write a narration on Wednesday’ variety.

Based on the programmes and exam questions I read for these terms, here are the sorts of grammar and writing assignments the children were doing in Forms III and IV/Grades 7-9:

  • Continuing to parse (identify parts of speech) sentences from their reading.  Whereas before the students wrote compositions on and parsed (that is, identified the part of speech which a word plays in a sentence) from prose only, now they work with identifying the parts of speech in their poetry as well.
  • They are writing more narrations (or essays), and sometimes they read the subject on Tuesday, but write a narration on Thursday.
  • They learn about meter in the poems they are reading.
  • They attempt to write some of their narrations as poems in the meter of the poems they’ve been reading.
  • They are expected to write essays (narrations), and poetic narrations from such topics as the news of the day, their literature and history readings, and nature.
  • Over the course of a term, they will also sometimes write a good precis of any lesson they choose and a descriptive essay. (more on this later). In other programmes she calls this a Résumé. We would say overview or summary today.
    • *I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something, so here are other uses of ‘résumé’ I’ve found from the general time period, illustrating its common use at the time:
      ~The Year 1918 with the American Bible Society: A Brief Résumé of Facts and Figures
      ~1908: As I settle down to write a resume of the doings last week at Atlantic City, three distinct impressions struggle in my mind for first consideration…. Metropolitan, vol. 4;
      ~1914: Carefully read a page in a book and then endeavor to write a resume of what you have read. Listen to three minutes’ conversation and then endeavor fully to write it out — completely reproduce it. Listen to a lecture for one hour … from Worry and Nervousness, or the Science of Self-Mastery
  • The younger grades (7, some 8th graders) in the form will continue to read through Meiklejohn’s A New Grammar of the English Tongue, and the older students (9th graders, some advanced 8th graders) will read Morris’s English Grammar (more on this later)
  • They have some formal instruction in prefixes and suffixes
  • They receive some formal instruction in spelling, particularly irregular verbs (beat/beaten) and in changing singular form to plural.  They probably know how to do this by now based on their previous work. In these forms, they learn about why and must explain it to you.
  • They practice imitating the style of other authors in some of their assignments.
  • They combine creative writing with narration, for instance, writing a scene for a Christmas play from Ivanhoe
  • They write or compose on more personal topics- a description of three of their favorite games, or of a favourite walk, or a recent visit to a historical site.
  • They wrote ten lines of poetry from memory
  • They wrote stories from story starters, such as “And the Prince called for three cheers for the Begam of Bhopal.”

Some Example of typical assignments:

  • Forms IV. & III. Read on Tuesdays some subject in “Literature,” or, on the news of the week, or, on some historical or allegorical subject, etc. Write on Thursdays a résumé.
  • Form IV: Verses (note metre of poems set for this term), on current events and on characters in the term’s reading, upon heroic deeds, or, on autumn and winter scenes.
  • Form III: Narrative poems on striking events.
  • All forms: Books set under Literature, History, Geography, Recitations, should afford exercises in careful reading and in composition. Poetry should be read daily.
  • Narrative poems that must scan on events that have struck you.
  • Letters to an “Australian Cousin” on general news. Christmas letters to a friend abroad on general news. (note that Miss Mason here uses, as should we, what is going on around us, real life events and situations- probably many of the students had cousins or friends abroad, and news was harder to come by.  We might give writing assignments in the form of emails, blog posts, and various forms of social media)
  • Write a scene for acting out from one of your literature books.

Some parents might also find it helpful to look over the programmes and exams themselves and sort of reverse engineer a term- if at the end of a term, students were answering these kinds of questions and doing this sort of work, how might I work my way from where we are now to that goal?

You know what I don’t see there? Instructions in *how* to write. The children are really just continuing as they have begun, adding a little here and there. They are now getting some formal instruction in spelling and sentence making, but they are not given a template for how to write a script of a scene, or to write in the voice of Dickens, or to describe a country walk. They are just told to do it.

However- there are some other tips on Composition I have found in various sources.  I will be sharing those as well as more specific information about the ground covered in the Meiklejohn and Morris textbooks for this term later this week.

See also; for the exams I looked over.

Thanks for reading!  If you have any questions or comments, I’d be glad to hear them. Anything that jumps out at you? Something that surprises you?  Feel free to share!



Series at a glance- see the linked TOC for the entire series of Grammar and Composition/Language Arts the CM way posts

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