When we sat down to plan out how we'd be approaching our kiddo's freshman year of highschool we knew we'd be diving a bit deeper into language arts this year.
She's done a lot of free writing, tons of book reviews, and a bunch of story building over the years. It's been several years since we've used a formal language arts curriculum and I give a lot of credit to Moving Beyond the Page for helping me find my footing when we were first starting out. It helped me learn to create our own unit studies and it gave me a boost of confidence when it came to facilitating language arts study on our own (check out this curriculum highlight to see our overview of moving beyond the page).
I knew I wanted to try something new this year and of course I wanted it to be free. It had been a while since I'd really searched to see what 🆓 language arts curriculum resources are out there and after doing some digging I found Fish Tank Learning.
Fish Tank Learning was originally created for a charter school and their curriculum was definitely developed with a classroom approach in mind. But it's completely FREE, downloadable, and easily adaptable with complete units for kinder through highschool. Not only do they have language arts curriculum they have a complete math curriculum as well. They offer several comprehensive language arts units per grade and their literature choices are diverse and culturally relevant. And did I mention it's completely FREE!
After looking through the middle school and highschool units I think the units don't necessarily need to be reserved for those particular grade levels and could easily be adapted for a range of ages as You see fit. For instance there are units in the middle school level that I'd like to look into utilizing as well as units that are in the upper highschool grades that we may tackle this year as well.
The units can easily be followed as they've been set up or they can be adapted however they work best for your schedule. When it comes to any curriculum especially ones that are created for the classroom I like to use them as a reference, a jumping off point and cherry pick the assignments and resources to create a plan that works for us. Throwing in some of my own assignments, pacing it in a way that works for us, and leaving out anything we don't want to do or that I don't find necessary.
We choose to tackle the 9th Grade English Unit 2. As I mentioned above I cherry pick what elements that we focus on giving myself permission to leave anything out anything that isn't working for us and isn't sparking interest. That being said we chose to forgo reading Of Mice and Men and we focused on The Central Park Five section of the unit.
I started by downloading the full unit to my google drive. From there I opened the PDF of the unit lessons and converted it to a google doc. Having it as a google doc allows me to go through and edit, highlight, and make notes directly to the lessons. I sat down with the lessons and roughly mapped out how we would tackle the unit and what I wanted us to focus on. As You can see from the picture below I created a rough guide of what we would cover in each lesson and highlighted the corresponding information in the lesson plans that are provided by Fishtank.
From there each day I would hop onto our kiddos Notion site and input her assignment for the day (if You missed it You can read more about how I use this here). Sometimes it would be something we would tackle together like reading, analyzing and discussing the literary devices used in the poem When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving and sometimes it would be an assignment she'd tackle on her own like reading a chapter and answering a set of questions in her notes.
Since we chose not to read of Mice and Men. I looked through the lesson to see how we would could close out this unit. Using some of the prompts and questions the lesson provided I created a final project which included learning about and writing a thesis statement and an essay. Since we hadn't formally learned about thesis statements I took to google and found this great resource that she was then able to read through on her own and make notes about what a thesis statement is and how it should be formulated. This allowed her to then tackle the essay writing project to finish out our unit on The Central Park Five.
As I mentioned in the beginning we've taken a very laid back approach to language arts. She was an avid reader for years and has written dozens of book reviews. She was into writing a book for a couple years working closing with my grandma as her sounding board and editor. And she'd worked through Everything You Need to Ace English creating cute bullet journal type notes and she's also done all the grammar lessons on Khan Academy. It's worked out great for us and at the start of this school year I knew I wanted to make sure to cover some of the bigger language arts topics.
While FishTank Learning isn't "everything" it is a great free resource especially if you're looking for unit study type lessons that not only offer diverse books but also provide You with links to additional resources such as articles, poems, and videos. It can feel a little overwhelming at first if you're not used to navigating curriculum that was developed for a classroom. But if I can leave You with one bit of encouragement, no matter what curriculum or program You choose for language arts (or any subject for that matter) give yourself permission to use the things however You want and however it works best for You and your kiddos! Don't work for it make it work for You!