Language Arts

The Great Conversation.   At Carden Academy we believe that a comprehensive knowledge of Language Arts is vital to a student's academic success.  A knowledge and understanding of the Great Works also help students take their place as well-versed and literate members of society. This knowledge is developed through diligent study in spelling, reading, literature, composition, and grammar.  By including all of these subjects, Carden Academy students gain a mastery and command of the English language, which manifests itself through both the written and spoken word.  We seek to:

  • Provide each student with the tools necessary to increase their vocabulary through spelling, Carden controls, and dictionary marks
  • Foster a love of reading from a young age as well as teach comprehension of all forms of literature including poetry, classical literature, and non-fiction
  • Build a strong foundation and understanding of the rules of grammar and a confident command of the English language
  • Steady mastery of the written word through creative writing, the use of Carden composition forms, and a variety of essay formats.


Grammar/Language. Logical, clear grammar and syntax is taught at all grade levels, beginning with very basic work in Junior Primary and continuing sequentially through Eighth Grade.  A strong emphasis is placed in Language throughout all grade levels.  Miss Carden once said, “Grammar is the key to comprehension.”

Language is taught as a separate, core subject in First through Seventh Grades and typically is taught in small groups of four to five students up through Fifth Grade. This small-group approach also allows for one-on-one instruction which aids each individual student in understanding more completely the complexities of the English language.  In Sixth and Seventh Grade, Language is taught as a whole class and becomes more advanced as students relate prior knowledge to the deeper concepts presented.

Sentences are analyzed by identifying questions answered, parts of speech, and parts of the sentence. Proper punctuation, subject-verb agreement, and correct pronoun usage are stressed throughout. The unique approach of the Carden Academy Language Program gives each graduate a command of the English language that will allow the student success in high school and college.


Spelling.  Carden spelling has a magical touch that utilizes a unique system called Controls, an explanation of the dictionary marks but presented in such a way that the students are able to remember how and why a word is spelled. The controls enable them to analyze the spelling of the word which, with that added focus, brings more accuracy to their spelling. They have daily lessons that include sound drills, a vowel chart that emphasizes sounds, spelling rules (as well as their exceptions, which are organized in easily-remembered clusters), and dictionary marks.  Functional spelling is strengthened by regular dictation of sentences with familiar and unfamiliar words.


Reading. The Carden Reading Program is built on the following foundational elements: phonetic word attack skills, understanding of grammatical construction, keyword and title, vocabulary development, mental imagery, rhythm, and critical thinking. The students further develop these skills in their study of the classics.  Daily attention is given to sequence, fluency, recall, categories, and organization of thought. Phonetically, these are closely integrated with the spelling sequence and grammatically integrated with the language work.  This unity builds understanding, self-confidence, security, and success.  At every grade level the reading and literature books combine to introduce approximately 2,000 vocabulary words each year. In order to strengthen both vocabulary and comprehension, Carden Academy assigns independent reading homework daily, beginning in the Second Grade, as well as required Summer Reading in Fourth through Eighth Grade.  The Carden Reading Program emphasizes critical thinking, enjoyment, and uplifting attitudes and viewpoints.


Literature.  In order to build an awareness of the richness of our language and heritage, the Carden Method is replete with timeless classical literature.  Beginning with the earliest books, the children read and hear stories of imagination, courage, and love. Family ties and loyalties are also common themes. The classics that Miss Carden selected present enduring ideas and values, expressed in beautiful language and vivid imagery. These works of art inspire a love of reading and an excitement about the wonders of the written word.  From the first stories through the more mature books in Junior High, the ability to think and reach sound judgments is stressed. The students at all levels learn the skill of episoding, a technique which helps them focus on the sequence of thought within the story. The literature books also provide a rich source of words in the never-ending quest to develop a strong vocabulary. We encourage the selection of fine books for independent reading.  Carden-taught students grow to appreciate and enjoy literature.  Our Reading Program Booklet provides a complete list of titles by grade level.


Composition.  Clear writing is the product of clear thinking.  Keen observation, logical thinking, and the joy of self-expression are fostered throughout the composition program.  As with all programs at Carden Academy, the composition curriculum builds skills of self-expression both logically and sequentially.  Every step is based upon the steps before it; each year forms a foundation for expansion and an increasing degree of difficulty in the next year. There are no gaps or leaps, just steady progress and success.

The composition program begins with the experiencing of fine writing through the classics and the Composition Forms books. Then, under the guidance of the teacher, the students compose their own versions of patterned sentences on topics of their choice. At all grade levels students collect interesting vocabulary before writing, so that they can best paint in words the picture or concept that they have formed mentally.

In the lower grades recognition of the sequence of ideas is the basis for the upper grade work of gathering specific proof to support topic sentences. The Second Grade farmer pattern (proving an adjective) expands in Third Grade into the 5-step paragraph (five sentences which include a topic sentence, varied sentences of proof, and a concluding sentence). This new pattern forms the foundation for all advanced work, resulting in a well-supported, unified paragraph or theme which is appropriate even at the college level. In addition to analytical essays, our students write creative stories and poetry suitable for their grade level. Composition is also integrated into the other areas of the curriculum, be it Literature, History, or Science.  



Poetry.  Beginning with the earliest nursery rhymes, the students enjoy learning poems and playing with rhythm and rhyme. Poetry condenses ideas into vivid images that even the youngest can appreciate.  Poetry is an essential part of the Carden curriculum. Through memorization and recitation, students:

·       Learn a variety of poems that appeal to a sense of beauty, values, and humor

·       Acquire a growing mental storehouse of literary treasures

·       Practice proper pitch and emphasis while reinforcing comprehension and fluent expression

·       Gain confidence by performing poems for assemblies and special programs

·       Learn many poetry forms including cinquain, haiku, irony, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and allusion.



Manuscript Printing and Cursive Writing.  Handwriting is an important form of communication and self-presentation.  Miss Carden developed an organized approach to manuscript printing. When the Junior Primary students begin to construct numbers and letters, they learn to make a set of guide dots for each one. These dots are accompanied by a language technique -- a step-by-step verbalization which builds stylish letters and virtually eliminates sloppiness and/or reversed letters. Emphasis is also placed on correct posture, pencil grip, and arm-paper relationship.

Cursive writing instruction begins just after the Winter break in First Grade. Presentation of the subject is carefully organized and presented to ensure success. Quality as opposed to mere quantity is emphasized as students learn to write in an attractive, stylish way. In the latter part of the second semester the students complete the transition and begin to work exclusively in cursive writing. The major challenge in all subsequent grades is keeping the writing stylish while meeting the increasing demands for speed. Cursive writing is taught daily through Fifth Grade and is noted and approached from a problem-solving basis thereafter.















Carden Academy
24741 Chrisanta Drive
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
phone: 949.458.1776