Saturday, August 15, 2015

Michael Clay Thompson, A Language Arts Review....

I've mentioned Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts program in the past, but now that we're going into our second year of use, I thought I'd share a review.  Royal Fireworks Press publishes the Language Arts Curriculum by Michael Clay Thompson.  There are currently six levels/years worth of instruction.  The program was originally designed for gifted and talented children.  Although, we're just using it as a regular old language arts curricula.   

Last year, RileyAnn completed the Town Level.  You can see the books in this level pictured above: Grammar Town, Paragraph Town, Caesar's English I, Practice Town, and Building Poems.  There is also a literature component that we did not use.  The program is a bit pricey, but I was fortunate enough to borrow the teacher's editions and literature set pictured below so I only purchased the student books.   

This year, in 6th grade, Riley will be working through the Voyage Level, which is also pictured below.  It includes: Grammar Voyage, Essay Voyage, Caesar's English II, Practice Voyage, and A World of Poetry. 

MCT is a full language arts curricula which includes grammar, composition, vocabulary, poetry, practice, and literature.  It is touted as a classical education curricula.  However, Michael Clay Thompson "understands the relationship of ideas to presentation", which makes the program a perfect fit with a Charlotte Mason education.  This article offers a wonderful description of MCT's design and appearance. 

Grammar is taught through four level analysis: (1) parts of speech, (2) parts of sentences, (3) phrases, and (4) clauses.  By breaking it down, Thompson has made grammar clear, concise, and easy to grasp.

Basic composition is taught in the first three years of MCT.  For example, Island Level 1 teaches sentence structure, Town Level 2 teaches paragraph writing, and Voyage Level 3 teaches essay composition.  The final three levels extend this knowledge to focus on higher academic writing.
The vocabulary component is based on the Latin stems and lists of Nonfiction Words made from the stems as well as lists of Advanced Words and Classic Words.  There are Caesar’s Analogies, Caesar’s Synonyms, and Caesar’s Antonyms.  And there is Caesar’s Word Search. Vocabulary is loaded into all the activities and there are new vocabulary terms added to the stem lessons: five new words in each lesson. (Quoted from website description of Caesar's English I)
The poetry books are truly beautiful and like none I've ever seen.  The writing is two color with black and white images.  Students are taught in increasing detail about the elements of poems, including patterns of sound, meter, stanza, figures of speech, poetic techniques, and meaning.  Thompson also shows how poetry is crafted.  Sample poetry is included in each level from such poets as Emily Dickinson, Robert Burns, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lewis Carroll, TS Eliot, William Blake, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robet Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Walt Whitman, Lord Byron, Robert Frost, Christina Rosetti, Edgar Allen Poe, W B Yeats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Henry Longfellow.

As noted above, we have not used the literature component of MCT.  However, you can read more about it here.

Overall, I think Michael Clay Thompson's Language Arts program is wonderful!  Riley is able to use it fairly independently and has learned a great deal.  She actually enjoys it and I see her making connections from her language arts study to other academic areas on a regular basis.  Because each language arts component has a different book, scheduling can be a bit confusing for first time users.  However, I highly recommend the Yahoo Group for support and suggested schedules as well as this slide presentation on the elementary tier (first three years) of MCT.  I do not have any experience with the upper three levels of MCT so I'm not at liberty to comment on them.


  1. Thank you for this! How do you connect with the yahoo group for MCT?

  2. You're welcome Heidi. Go to Yahoo Groups and search for MCTLA.


  3. Hi Melissa, Do you still use MCT? I am thinking of using Grammar Island this fall and am wondering what your thoughts are now after having used two levels.


  4. Hey Rebecca,

    I loved MCT Town level when we used it. Our dd used it pretty independently in 5th grade. I was planning to use the Voyage level with her in 6th grade, but at the last minute decided against it because I thought the writing made a huge leap (like more appropriate for high school). We use Charlotte Mason's methods for language arts and I didn't feel MCT was in line with what we were doing at that time. I have since put the Voyage level for sale. However, if it doesn't sell, maybe I would reconsider it now that she's older (rising 8th grader).

    Again, I think it's a wonderful program. I actually heard Michael Clay Thompson speak last year at the GHC in Ohio and I love what he's done with poetry. I have even thought about piecing it out to use parts of it.

    One thing to keep in mind is that MCT was written for gifted and talented students so you don't necessarily need to align their grade level with your child's if that makes sense. I would assign rather by maturity and skill level.

    Hope that helps,